John R. Cowan Sr.

Gram's Eyes

          Me and Kitty was sittin’ on Gram’s front porch. It was early morning. The sun was a big orange ball just above the trees. Everybody in the house was already awake. You wouldn’t know it though, cause even with the whole family there, it was quiet as a church. And I do mean the whole family. All the relatives that I ever heard of, that was still living, was there or on the way. Anyhow, they got us kids up early cause they said they wanted to get breakfast done early, and everything cleaned up, before Dr. Ridgelow got there. 
            After a while Daddy and Aunt Tess walked out on the porch. They’d already been out twice. Daddy looked up the road and asked no one in particular when the doctor was supposed to be there. Aunt Tess just shook her head again and said, “Between ten and noon, Teddy, just like when you asked me twenty minutes ago. You need to try and relax a little. I know this is hard, and more than a little upsetting for you, but it is for everyone else as well. You’re making everybody more tense.”
            Daddy looked at Aunt Tess for a minute then I saw his shoulders slump a little. “I’m sorry, Tessie,” Daddy said. “I’ll try to relax.” Daddy and Aunt Tess hugged and then went back inside.
            A little while later I saw the dust rising off the dirt road from the highway. After few minutes Dr. Ridgelow turned his old Ford wagon into the driveway, pulled up to the house and stopped in front.             Daddy, Uncle Randy and Randy’s oldest son Colin, were waiting with me, on the porch. We all walked out to the car to greet Dr. Ridgelow but no one seemed too happy to see him. For that matter, the doctor didn’t seem too happy to be there. Anyhow, after we all shook hands, Uncle Randy and Colin got the machine out of the car and carried it into the house. At that point it was just a bunch of stuff in a big box.
            Uncle Randy carried the box into the downstairs bedroom and set it on the floor next to a small table. Daddy had carried the table down from Gram’s bedroom and set it by her bed. They moved Gram, and her bed, to the downstairs bedroom a couple days before, so the older people in the family could spend more time with her.
            When they carried the box in, I went in Gram’s room with the adults. I sat by Gram’s bed while Dr. Ridgelow got everything ready. Gram was sleeping when we went in her room. She was in a lot of pain and she took a lot of medicine too keep from hurting too much. Whenever I talked to her, I could see the pain in her eyes.
            Kitty stuck her head in the door and said I had to come out, but I just ignored her. Kitty thought cause she was thirteen, and I was only eleven, that she was in charge of me. Daddy said that Kitty was thirteen going on twenty-five when it came to being bossy. After Momma died, Kitty was real serious all the time. Kitty didn’t understand dieing like I did. I was with Momma the night she died.
            Momma was sick for a long time after Sissy was born. Sissy is my baby sister. One night I dreamed I was lying on the bed by Momma. I was telling her how I had helped Daddy and Uncle Randy kill and butcher a hog. I was talking to her and her face was turned to me like she was listening. There was a little smile on her lips. But, while I was talking, I realized that although Momma’s eyes were open, she wasn’t looking at me with them.
            I woke up crying and sweating. I got up and went to Momma’s room. She was sleeping and her breathing was real slow and shallow. Daddy was sleeping in the big chair by Momma’s bed. I tiptoed in as quiet as I could, got up on Momma’s bed and lay down beside her.
            Momma was laying on her back with her arm stretched out to her side. I got up close and laid my head on her chest so I could hear her heart beating. As soon as I laid my head down, Momma opened her eyes, curled her arm around me and whispered, “I love you.” Then she smiled, slowly let her breath out and closed her eyes. I slept there, with Momma, the rest of the night.
            When I woke up, it was morning. Daddy was sitting on the bed stroking my hair. There were big tears coming down Daddy’s cheeks and dripping onto the sheets. He looked sadder than anyone I had ever seen. Then I looked at Momma. She still had her arm around me but it was heavy and cold. There was a little smile on her face. Her eyes were open but I could see she wasn’t looking at me with them.
            I looked at Daddy and asked, “Daddy, is Momma dead?”
            He said, “Yes, son, she is. She died sometime in the night.”
            Later, Gram and I talked about Momma dying. Gram said that dying was just the end of living in this world and the beginning of living in the next. I said that I understood but it didn’t make missing Momma any easier. Gram said yes that was true. Then we hugged each other and had a good cry.
            So, when the adults said for us kids to go out of Gram’s room, Gram said that I could stay. She said that I had an understanding of death that went far beyond my years. “Besides,” she said, “I just want him here with me.”
            I pulled a chair up to Gram’s bed and set sideways on it so I could lay my head on the bed and hold Gram’s hand. Gram reached over and laid her hand on my back at the bottom of my neck. Her hand was cool on my skin and light as a feather. When she stroked the hair at the base of my neck I could feel love flowing from her heart and spreading through my body.
            On the other side of the bed Dr, Ridgelow and Uncle Randy were preparing the contraption that the doctor had brought. It looked like an erector set made of glass and rubber tubes. There were little bottles of liquids and valves to direct their flow.
            Dr. Ridgelow put a strap around Gram’s arm and stuck her with a big needle. When he had the needle taped down he attached the tube from the machine to the needle in Gram’s arm. Then he handed a cord to Gram. The cord had a push button and was attached to the machine. Dr. Ridgelow checked everything one more time and said, “It’s ready, Nora. It is all automatic. All you have to do is push the button whenever you are ready. Of course, if you should change your mind, I can just take it all down, no harm done.”
            About that time Daddy came in. He was carrying Sissy in his right arm and holding Kitty’s hand with his left. Daddy set Sissy on the bed next to Gram. Kitty came over and stood by me. She put her hand on Gram’s. Gram let my hand go to hold Kitty’s but only for a few seconds, and then she put her hand in mine. Gram looked at Sissy and her eyes filled with tears. She said, “You look so much like your Momma. Come here child.”
            Sissy moved up the bed and laid her head on Gram’s chest. Gram kissed Sissy on the top of the head. Then Gram looked over to where me and Kitty was sitting and said, “You children always remember this. No one ever did, or ever will, love you like your Momma. I am her Momma and I love her like she loves you. And now it is time for Gram to go and be with your Momma.”  Then, after Gram kissed Sissy again, Daddy picked Sissy up, took Kitty’s hand and went out. After Daddy left, their folks brought in the other children so Gram could see them.
            When all the kids were gone, Gram looked around the room and said, “I love you all. You know why I have chosen to do this. We have talked it all out, over the last few days, and you know my mind is set. Do any of you have anything to say?”
            There was a short silence, then Great Aunt Sarah, Gram’s only living sister, said, “Well Nora, you know how I feel about this. There is no sense us going over it again. You have made your mind. Just know that I love you and I will miss you terribly, but I do understand.”
            Then, one by one, each of them went to Gram’s bed, gently hugged her and kissed her and told her how much they loved her. She smiled at them but everyone could see the pain that constantly wracked her body, reflected in her eyes.
            Dr. Ridgelow stood in the corner looking very sad. He and Gram had grown up together. They had lived in the same neighborhood and gone to school together. Dr. Ridgelow had even asked Gram to marry him, when they were much younger, but Gram already had her eye on Pa by then. Even so, Gram and the doctor had remained very good friends throughout the years.
            I sat by quietly and held Gram’s hand, but I was looking at her other hand. I saw her thumb move and just barely heard the click of the button. Almost instantly, and silently, the machine began to send the fluids flowing through the needle in Gram’s arm. I looked at Gram and saw she was looking at me, at my eyes. Gram smiled at me and I saw the pain leave her eyes.
            After a few seconds I felt Gram’s hand become limp in mine. Then, as I saw her eyes stop looking at me, for just a second, I saw the reflection of Momma in Gram’s eyes.                                                               THE END                          


Todos los derechos pertenecen a su autor. Ha sido publicado en a solicitud de John R. Cowan Sr..
Publicado en el 04.09.2007.


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