It used to be children’s dirty, sandy, stained clothing, along with her husband’s clothing, with a few of her housedresses thrown in. She’d wake up at 5 in the morning, fill the tub and separate the whites from the colors and darks. While water for her coffee boiled, she would put the first load to wash, filling the tub for rinsing. Coffee followed: two scoops of instant, plus some condensed milk to sweeten. While she drank, she nibbled on a slice of white bread, untoasted.
Now her routine included a mug of tea, sweetened with honey. Coffee became a distant memory when the pain intensified, and the number of pills increased. She no longer nibbled on white bread, choosing whole wheat instead. Smeared with a little butter and some peanut butter, it was all she needed for the entire morning.
The laundry spun in the little compartment, shaking the entire front of the house. The floorboards were dangerously wobbly in some areas, and it was a wonder that the washer didn’t just fall through to the ground. She knew which areas to step on, and which to avoid. When hanging the clothes, that became a nearly acrobatic feat. Despite the pain, she still carried on with her morning. Back then, she would be washing till 7 or sometimes 8. Now she was done by 6.
Now she took that morning time to sit before the television, marveling at the many shows available to her. She loved the game shows, so she spent a long time watching, guessing the answers, and generally being very quiet. Soon she lost concentration on the TV, her mind refusing to let go of her past.
During the school days, she would come in breathlessly from the porch where clothes swayed in the breeze. Sometimes her older son would be up already, mixing up his coffee and pouring himself some cereal. He was easier to take care of in the morning, but her husband expected a hot breakfast every morning before heading to work construction with his brother’s company. The only problem: she loathed cooking. Yet, she persevered, and did what she had to.
When the other children all got up and got dressed for school, they would eat around the small table. Sometimes, cold cereal and milk worked just fine for them. After they had left, she would make everyone’s bed, sweep, wash dishes, and start preparing for lunch, another dreaded task. This routine went on for so many years…all through high school and almost before she could breathe, started right back up with the grandchildren. Her house had never been empty, always one child or another, in and out of the home depending on the relationship between father and mother.
It was her heartbreak to see her children’s lives so scattered. She longed for her children to find happiness, to find someone who wanted to genuinely share a lifetime with them. She knew of heartache within her own marriage, but she also kept such things secret, hoping that her own children would never find out. Instead, there was the daughter whose first marriage failed, and the one son who spent most of his life confused about what gender he preferred. There was the other son who took to drinking far too early in life, and hadn’t stopped since. He put on a brave front at work, but his life was slowly crumbling around him, and his infant son.
But there was always the one exception. She had one son, her oldest, who had found happiness. She felt a surge of pride when she thought of him, and the way he accomplished so many things in his life. Things that she could never have given him, he worked hard for himself. In the same breath, she felt the sharp pain of grief that she had no grandchild from him. Despite her objections to having children afoot, she was a grandmother at heart, and children brought her joy.
The pain became insistent, sharpening its claws against her insides, and she woke up from her trance with a gasp. Alone in her home, she doubled over, silently bearing the pain until it eventually subsided. She took to her bed, closing the doors and pulling the curtains closed. With only her creaky fan blowing in her face, she lay down and closed her eyes against the hurt within. Sometime during the day, her breath grew shallow, and one by one, her organs ceased to function. Her face, wreathed in wrinkles, slowly smoothed out into a small smile. In death, she seemed to find the peace that eluded her throughout most of her life. She had no more memories to carry…
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