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Saturday, May 23, 2009

When She Became Old

The old woman sat by the window in the rocking chair she had managed to keep over the years, that she had bought when her children were first born. Time had weathered her well as her skin was pale and wrinkled like well worn lace; her hair thin and white. She was cloaked in a worn brown blanket, as the wind blew through the cracks of the wooden window panes.

She could sense little around her but a thin fog as she rocked slowly in her chair while watching the traffic and pedestrians pass along the road at the edge of the house that wore decay like an old familiar coat. Her husband had long passed away, and her children were grown and gone and seemed to have little time for her now as they had lives, and children of their own. That's how things were done now; out with the old as the youth were the new leaders of the world.

Oh what had happened to all the time and where did her life go, she thought to herself as she pulled the blanket closer to her frail, chilled shoulders. All the time spent on others, but now no one was around her to show that same love and support she gave all those years ago.

Many of her younger years were spent moving in order to find a better life for her kids; a safer one that was free from the ever growing violence that seem to permeate society itself. But each time her family moved, they always managed to end up in a community where people considered them "outsiders", so friends seemed few to none in her immediate surroundings. But her children seemed to fair better as they had plenty to share between them.

Her husbands profession always put him in a circle of acquaintances of which he spoke often about. They always seemed so colorful and clever whenever she heard the stories he told of their visits to the store. She enjoyed them quite much since she rarely had any to tell him. Except, she could care less to hear about his old business partner who thought that she was a lazy redneck for having children at all. She thought the ex-business partner to be a bitter old hag in the making since the woman apparently had not a clue what it took to devote ones whole-self to the process of raising a family.

In all the years she tried, no one really seemed to care to get to know her well enough to refer to her as a friend. There were the parents of her childrens friends that she would occasionally speak to, hoping that one day it would evolve into mornings sharing coffee or cookouts over the summer holidays, but it never seemed to transpire. She just assumed she didn't fit in because she wasn't "one of them". Therefore, her families life became the only one she really focused on.

She remembered having dreams of becoming an artist. She had tried for many years to start several projects, but each time, the needs of her family overshadowed her desires and needs for her own identity and self-expression. She felt selfish wanting something for herself when there was a family to take care. Her husband's and her children's needs came before her own, and it was a reality that slowly overtook her till she eventually emerged completely within them. She was no longer a separate individual; she had become part of the collective in which there was no turning back. As she rocked a little faster, she could hardly remember what it was that she tried to start all those years ago.

She thought back to how her personality had changed to one that seemed less about laughing, to one that was more about worrying how to keep it all together. She wondered where she had gone. It was never about being rich, or famous, or becoming a world traveler. All she had really wanted was a life rich with laughter and adventure.

She had hoped that was what she could journey through life with with her children. Instead, she became caught up in the practicalities of life, surviving without falling through the cracks, caring more about what others thought and less about what she needed, making sure the house was clean enough instead of making it a home, and constantly playing peacemaker. She had wondered if what she had really wanted in life was just a fantasy, and that all she actually experienced was a reality she was never fully prepared for.

She felt a warm tear emerge from her eye and slowly roll down her left cheek until it splashed upon her hand.

She spent over 20 years raising her children. Each left the flock one by one, entering into college, getting married, and moving on with their lives. She remembered a gentle kiss on the cheek from each, with a little "thank you" at the end, but that was it. There was the occasional phone call on Mother's Day, and a present in the mail at Christmas, but the rest of her days after motherhood were spent diligently taking care of her husband until his death five years earlier.

After the children had left home, her dreams still never made it back to the surface for she spent her time continuing to assist her husband in making his business and his dreams a reality. Afterall, he had always been the main breadwinner so she felt a sense of obligation since he had worked so hard for so many years supporting the family. None of the children had ever showed a desire for the family business, and it didn't quite surprise her either. Nevertheless, they worked long hours in the store, and she would come home every night to prepared dinner as she always did when the children were still in the house. Their routine had changed little even though there were no little ones to take care of anymore, until he suddenly died in his sleep one evening.

After taking care of him and the children for so long, she no longer knew how to do anything else. So she did all she knew how to do from that point on; she maintained the routine of taking care of the house, making three meals a day even though there was no one to share them with anymore, and running a store for no reason other than to keep it going. The passion she once carried in her younger years had now been replaced with a mechanical and predictable routine.

Now she sat alone in her rocking chair with no one around her as she sensed her time would soon come to a close itself. All the years she had spent on others, but still in the end, she was alone. She wondered what the purpose to it all was. Was to give all and expect absolutely nothing in return a "Godly" act that would somehow guarantee her entrance into heaven? She wasn't sure. She just wondered how she could have spent all those years and all that time and still be left so alone.

Suddenly she heard her phone ring as she felt her heart take a leap and wondered if one of her children had psychically heard her thoughts while she sat and rocked. She slowly shuffled her feet across the cold floor and picked up the receiver:

"Hello", she said in her small fragile voice. "Hello!"

"Uh, I'm sorry. I must have the wrong number.", a voice apologetically replied on the other end.

Click, and they were gone.

She quietly placed the receiver back in its place and turned her gaze back to the window. Her small eyes held fast to the glow of the day ending before her. She thought it best to focus on the brightness instead of the fog that laid around her.

Suddenly she could hear the blaring of her alarm clock at her head. She quickly turned to look at the time. It was 6:45 and time to get the crew up for school. As she pulled the covers away, she noticed she was drenched in a sea of sweat. Her heart began racing upon suddenly remembering the dream from which she had just awoken from.

She raced to the mirror and look at her tired reflection looking back. She turned to look at her husband as he still laid sleeping in the early morning. She was panicking as she looked at herself and the bed from which she had just arisen from. "It has to change, it HAS to change.", she began repeating to herself.

She looked steadfast into the mirror before her as she heard the stirrings of children in the next room. She stared at the beads of perspiration on her forehead, and as she looked closer into the blacks of her eyes, she thought she saw the faint outline of a woman sitting in a rocker and looking out a window.

2 comments:

Draft Queen said...

That's a scary thought. A very vivid scary thought.

And there were wrinkles involved.

Tara R. said...

That was incredible. You have a wonderful storytellng talent.