Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Parent (11/16/06)
TITLE: Shingles, Rabies, Whooping Cough
By Jan Ackerson
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I know what the Bible says about worrying. I’m working on it. Just last week, I was able to not worry that Joy would come home from her sleepover covered with tattoos (by the way, she’s only eight). I also didn’t worry that my husband’s atrocious neckties would cost him a commission. This was actually a banner week for Craig—he managed to wear both the trout tie and the orange-and-pink one and still bring home a paycheck.
As I said—I’m working on the worrying. But red flags sprung up and waved madly in the breeze when my mother came by for her Saturday visit looking flushed and exhausted.
Mom’s a remarkable woman. She’s been a single parent since Dad died when I was only ten, and she raised me in such a way that I just naturally fell in love with her Lord. But she’s been alone for a long time now, and I’ve always known that eventually it would fall upon me to parent her.
“Mom, are you all right?” I eyed her reddened face and mentally reviewed the list of possible causes. Fever, infection, lupus…
“Of course, dear, I’m fine.” She plopped onto the couch and closed her eyes. “I’m just worn out, that’s all. Joy, honey, come give your grandma a kiss.” She received Joy’s smooch, then patted the couch cushion. Joy snuggled close and the two began their weekly ritual: a crossword puzzle and caramels wrapped in crinkly cellophane.
Exhaustion: anemia, mononucleosis, typhoid…
Perhaps I watch too many medical shows. Craig says they cause flare-ups of my worry warts.
I watched my mother and my daughter murmuring crossword answers to each other, their heads bent low and close. While I sipped a cup of coffee, I thought back over the events of the past several months, and realized that I couldn’t ignore the crescendo of alarms jangling in my brain.
“Have you borrowed my small casserole dish, dear?” My mother seemed bemused. “I just can’t find it anywhere, and I can’t imagine what I’ve done with it.”
Losing things: dementia, mini-stroke…
“I’m gong to a concert tomorrow night. It’s a piano concerto by…” Mom’s voice trailed off, and she squinted with the effort to think.
“By who, Mom?” I listed her favorite composers. “Brahms, Mozart, Mendelssohn…”
“Mendelssohn! That’s the fellow!” She chuckled and shook her head. “I can’t believe I forgot Mendelssohn! Where’s my thinker these days?”
Forgetfulness: depression, brain tumor…
“I can’t stay, dear, I have places to go.” Mom stopped at the mirror in the foyer and applied raspberry lipstick. Her hand was trembling.
Shakiness: Parkinson’s, malaria, mad cow disease…
Having convinced myself that Mom was horribly ill, I placed my empty mug on the end table and cleared my throat. “Joy, honey, would you go play outside for a while?”
My daughter looked up at me, obviously annoyed. “Mom! We’re not done with this puzzle!”
“You can finish it in a bit. I want to talk to Grandma.”
My mother tugged playfully on Joy’s blonde ponytail and smiled. “It’s okay, Jump-for-Joy, run along. I need to talk to your mom, too.”
We watched as she sulked to the back door, then we both started to talk at once.
I gestured for her to go ahead. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to say, anyway, and my heart was thumping alarmingly in my throat.
“Dear, I have something to tell you. I’ve been to the doctor…”
I knew it. Oh, help me, sweet Lord, she’s got encephalitis. Diphtheria. Typhoid. Leprosy.
“…and he’s put me on a diet. I want to lose twenty pounds by May. So tell Joy for me, will you? After today, no more caramels.”
My mind was still attempting to process everything after doctor.
“What--a diet? Twenty pounds by May? But…why?”
Pink spread from Mom’s neck to her hairline and she looked away from my gaze.
“Well, I haven’t really known how to tell you this, dear. You know how you worry so. I’ve been…seeing a gentleman…Howard. Howard Glover. He goes to my square dancing group. We…we’re getting married.”
I looked at her—beautiful, blushing, a girlish smile plumping her cheeks.
Flushed, exhausted, trembling, forgetful: my mother is in love!
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