Yes, I'm aware it's not Wednesday, but I've been busy and I'm too sick to think, so Thought Provoking Thursday is out this week.
So, this is the beginning of my novel, Cheesy. Let me know what you think.
There was a time I used to wear dresses. I wore pink, and patent leather shoes, and ribbons in my hair. I used to play with dolls. That was before my mom died of the cancer. I sat there and watched her disintegrate there in her own bed. I saw her hair fall out, watched her body get weaker and more frail by the day, watched her silently slip out of consciousness. Her already labored breath would catch, and her chest would heave when it became too painful even to breathe. I was glad I was asleep when she finally died. I wouldn’t want to have watched her take her last breath.
Upon waking that morning, I went downstairs to find an odd pair of undertakers in my living room. The first undertaker was just like the ones you see in the movies. His name was George and he was very tall and pale with dark hair and a deep voice. The other’s name was George too. I know, too weird. He was the comic relief. It was almost like watching a vaudeville act instead of the men who were going to take your dead mom’s body out of your house forever.
Then there was my dad, looking dazed as the undertakers delivered their monologues and then went about their duties. He didn’t speak, he didn’t cry. The tears had run their course weeks before. He just sat, and I let him just sit, staying quiet, watching him. I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it all. Truth was, I didn’t know him very well at all. At the time, I was thirteen, and my mother had been my sole caretaker while Dad coached college football and travelled. And when he was home he worked on game plays, and watched footage, and strategized. I knew lots of his players. He’d invite them to dinner every so often and my mom would serve them meatloaf, or pasta, or pork chops while my dad told them they were playing well, or how to improve their game, or that they were being cut. That’s how it went it our house.
The undertakers rolled my mom out on a stretcher in a big black plastic bag with a zipper down the front. They handed my dad some pamphlets; he still didn’t speak, just nodded really. He didn’t even get up. I closed the door behind them and went to my mom’s room. She had her own in the last few weeks. The air was stifling and held a stale smell to it. A death smell.
Pictures still hung by thumbtacks to a corkboard, photos of us in happier times. There was one of her and me baking cookies, some from our many trips to the zoo, my parents wedding picture. I hardly remember her looking like she did that day with a head full of hair and rosy cheeks and a full body.
Her bed faced the window so she could look out over her garden, which my grandma would come and tend for her in the final days. Light was shining through the window and a stained glass ornament I made for her in third grade, the colors spreading across the gray carpet like it had spilled right out of a rainbow. Looking across the room, I could see every piece of dust filtering through the air. Swatting my hand through it to make a clear trail, I stepped toward the shelf full of books that stood right underneath the window. My mom, she loved to read. I remember her reading to me when I was little, Where the Wild Things Are, fairy tales, or poems from Shel Silverstein. I know some of those by heart. One of my favorites was called Whatif. I often thought about the Whatifs in life, so I guess this made perfect sense.
When my mother read for herself, she read stories with strong female characters: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, and the like. She taught me to be strong myself, and to always go for what I want in life, big or small.
On the wall next to the window was an entertainment center with a television, a stereo, music, and movies. My mom’s favorite movie was Fried Green Tomatoes. We watched it together a bunch of times. I admit I liked it too. It definitely wasn’t my favorite, but I like how the women stand up for what’s right, and stand by each other in the hardest of times.
My eyes took in the room one last time. Everything was just the same as it was the day before, except for her bed of course. Hospice had brought in a hospital bed for her, one of those that you can lift up the head and feet, the kind with the bars on the sides so you don’t fall out. It was stripped. No more purple sheets, no more quilt made by my grandmother’s own hands, no pillowcase. No more mom. Stripped away just like the soiled bed sheets.