Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)
TITLE: Heart of a Servant
By Janice Cartwright
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At length she deposited what she thought was the last of the plastic objects into its home and snapped the lid. A single, tiny orange unit twinkled by its lonesome, hidden in the shadow of the stairwell.
Gertrude rolled to her side and with couch as support she attempted to rise. But about half way up she froze in a kind of doubtful purgatory, trapped between earth and heaven. Panting, she succeeded at last to stand, but with great cost to knees and spine.
“Ah well,” she reasoned aloud, “they’re good kids it’s just sometimes they forget to tidy up after themselves.”
Apart from stair climbing, Gertrude rarely took thought for herself. She did however discover one way to save breath in the two-story residence. Soiled laundry came down with her each morning and a basket of fresh linens sat tactically positioned near the bottom step. Officially this was Dino and Lily’s job but rather than quarrel with her little sugars, Grandmother Gertrude consoled herself that children will be children.
As she toiled the hamper aloft one evening, tomorrow’s errands intruded into her thoughts. She had use of the car, but habitually opted instead for public transportation. Although it meant lugging heavy bags on and off the bus, she deemed this her small gift to the family. Fuel came dear nowadays.
Her daughter, Lois, left the house at dawn’s earliest and rarely returned before nightfall. Son-in-law Jim followed an equally rigorous schedule and so it seemed only right she should pitch in wherever possible.
For example Gertrude didn’t mind chauffeuring the kids to school and back; and fresh-baked cookies, crusty and fragrant from the oven, were her special offering. After a full day of classes the kiddoes appeared so bushed their grandmother had not the heart to suggest they help with dinner, and only timidly inquired after their lessons.
Aware they didn’t always tell their parents the truth about homework, Gertrude felt vaguely amiss when she failed to share this knowledge with Lois or Jim. It was okay, though. Someone had to look after the poor dears, shelter them from the harsher aspects of life. After all, what’s a grandmother for?
She recalled the necessity of shielding teen-age Lois from Jack (now passed, bless his soul) and his over-strict rules. Looking back Gertrude wondered if she spoiled her girl, but thought probably not. The adult Lois did seem a tad on the selfish side but it was only because she worked such long hours. If at times a thought did happen to spike Gertrude she might possibly be guilty of repeating history, she thrust it quickly aside. She continued to pick up after the children and pander to their individual wants.
Sometimes the little imps spoke rudely to their grandmother and she supposed she should scold them. But she disliked confrontations and anyhow figured they were probably sleep-deprived. Besides, how else could she earn their affection? Jim’s mother, with cash to burn, rushed to buy them whatever their hearts desired. How compete with that?
It hurt Gertrude that despite all her exertions on their behalf, Dino and Lily responded with more exuberance to their Nonie than to Gertrude. Deep down she sensed it was a mistake to cater to them like she did, but could not help herself.
In fact the children were efficient milkers at the udder of opportunity.
One day about mid-morning Gertrude rinsed the final glass used at breakfast and set it in the rack to dry. She spread the damp tea towel on the counter, untied her pretty apron and draped it inside the pantry. Earlier upon awakening she had felt unwell and she wanted to lie down just for a moment. Shuffling in her slippers toward the stairs she caught sight of the wash: may as well take it now as later. She began to climb with it, pulling heavily at each step. Suddenly sweat poured from her face, neck and head. She let go the basket and clutched her breast, thumping back down to the floor below.
Hours later Lois found her mother in a scatter of laundry, an arrow-straight arm outstretched toward one of the children’s Lego pieces.
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