The Woman in the Room (Inspired by Stephen King)

“You want to remember that while you’re judging the book, the book is also judging you.”
Stephen King, Night Shift

She sleeps a mere ten feet away from me, in a rehabilitation center set atop a little bluff in a busy college town. The walls of our room are painted a celery green. They’re not unpleasant looking, but they don’t wow me much either. The color of the walls are muted, but the drapes are another story. Though washed in earth tones, the design ‘pops’. Little circles of brown connect large dots of sage and spinach. I can’t say I’d have them hanging in my house but I’m sure the designer was going for neutrality and comfort when they designed the place.

I lie in bed, my foot propped up on a cushion. I’ll be this way for at least twelve weeks, then with a little luck and a lot of prayers, I’ll go back to a semi-normal life, though I may never run or dance again. That’s a story for another day though. Today it’s about her, my roommate. An elderly woman, hard of hearing and dealing with dementia.

While I recover, I keep reverting to the short story by Stephen King, The Woman in the Room. It’s an agonizing story about a mother with terminal cancer and the son that takes care of her. The decisions that she and her son come to throughout will make you question your morals and ethics. I surmise that it’s because I’m the youngest person here, single and due to a serious injury unable to care of myself completely yet.

Thick white hair adorns her head and covers her shoulders. She has a smile that must have charmed a few men when she was in her prime. Her hands are gnarled, yet dainty.

“Hi there,” I called out brightly from my adjustable bed, our first morning together.

“Hey,” she yelled. “I’m E, and I broke my back.”

“Oh my Dear, I broke my ankle and had it reconstructed,”  I announced.

This little woman yelled back, loud enough to drone out the throbbing sound of a diesel truck, “I’m hard of hearing and I can’t hear a word you say!”

With effort and my walker I hopped over to her and repeated what I said. She smiled and shook her head, but I know she still didn’t comprehend one word. Right before me she transformed into my Grandmas N, H, G and B. Four fine women that were more than wives, mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers. They were women once. The kind that charmed. The kind that felt fear. The kind that felt everything we women have felt throughout our lives. Sexy, desirable, exhausted, even dead inside.

My Grandmas all battled growing older, while I battled my emotions watching them deteriorate and eventually surrender. They died at different stages in my life. A young adolescent girl, a teenager, a young wife and mother, and a wife and mother of teenage children. Each of their deaths effected me differently. At my youngest, it was barely a blip on my radar, at my oldest, gut wrenching.

Miss Cotton Hair had to be assisted with all aspects of self-care. Teeth brushing, toileting, washing, and dressing. Those are things we take for granted, and here I am doing them on one leg. The staff here are sweet but not too sugary. They do their job with tender loving care. We shared breakfast on that first day. I tried to chat, but she could not hear for shit. We communicated with smiles, and she ate everything on her plate.

Throughout the day she carried on conversations with herself. Sometimes with her children who weren’t there. She moaned and cried out because of her injury. She did physical therapy like a trooper, yet after she had her clothes changed she was convinced her son was coming to pick her up. To take her home. He wasn’t. He did come and visit that evening.  His conversation skimmed the surface. He didn’t ask much about her care. Or how she felt. It unnerved me. That woman bore him, the least he could do is ask her how she was being treated.

Don’t get me wrong, not all humans should be parents. There are some kids that have had enough, dealing with the neuroses and self-destruction of their parents. They must preserve their own hearts and sanity. They must put up barriers to protect themselves. I don’t believe that’s the case with sweet and confused Miss Cotton Hair. I’m guessing that the son only sees her in one role, that of mother.

He read her the paper. Talked about his life. The kids and wife. She’d respond, but he didn’t acknowledge the weight of her replies. Didn’t ask her about any of her life stories that will die when she does. Stories of how she danced all night and drank champagne with a young soldier on New Years Eve. The first time she fell in love. What her 13th summer was like. How it felt to kiss her husband at their wedding. What it was like the first time she had sex. What her biggest fear is.

Inside the shell of the old woman beats the heart of a girl. One that used to giggle and flirt. Or sipped soda from a straw in a small town soda fountain. That collected lightning bugs in jars and danced in the grass on a sultry summer night amid sheets still damp from the humidity.

Remember, we will all be there one day. We’ll be old. If we get lucky that is. Stay strong and healthy but have fun. Share your stories with your kids whether they want to hear them or not. Listen to your parent’s stories too. LISTEN! Even if they’ve never left their home town, they have lived. We need to know more. We need to know that they are a man or woman. That they are a dignified, passionate, strong and weak human.

Advertisements

The Booker Award

The Booker Award Nomination

I feel like such a shit because it took me so damn long to acknowledge Magnolia Beginnings for this lovely nomination. It wasn’t hard for me to come up with five favorite books. I’m kind of a book whore. It was extremely hard to whittle it down to only 5 but here it goes.

Along with being nominated, the nominee is to list their top 5 favorite books.  I hate to play favorites, but I think I can manage to list 5 books that have had a significant impact on me.

  1. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells : This is probably the first book that got me interested in the post-apocalyptic genre. There was something so intriguing to me about the world coming to an end and then being re-invented. The protagonist must then travel back in time to try and save the future. What a great read.
  2. The Stand: Unabdridged by Stephen King: I read this book every damn summer. It goes with me to the beach, pool or the back porch. I have read it so many times I can recite the dialogue. There is something about Larry, who is my favorite character that I can identify with. Probably because he’s all kinds of fucked up but he’s a good man at heart. Read it. You won’t be sorry. 
  3. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson: This is by far the saddest love story I have ever read. The story of a former porn star that is severely burned and then is visited by a woman that says they were lovers many lifetimes ago. For me the most heart wrenching part was the story of the young child who’s lungs are so severely burned by a reaction to a medication that  she will never recover. With all of her strength she walks to the bed of our unnamed narrator, crawls into his bed, holds his hand, prays for him and then they both fall asleep. He wakes to find that she is still holding his hand but she is no longer breathing. It took all of her strength and breath just to die in his arms.
  4. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg: Idgie Threadgood is one of my all time heroes. I love her spunk, her ability to drink, and to tell it like it is. She didn’t take shit. Even when she stood trial for murder.
  5. Rage by Richard Bachman (Stephen King): This book is no longer in print because the subject matter is all too familiar to us in these trying times. It is about a young man with a gun that holds captive a roomful of students and a teacher. King said that after Columbine, he couldn’t bring himself to re-print it. Fortunately, I have a collector’s copy. It contains three of my favorite Bachman Books. Rage, The Long Walk, and The Running Man. All three stories are kick ass!

As I said it’s hard to play favorites.  There are loads more I could list, but these I felt were the most impactful—at least at the present.

Participation in the Booker Award means adhering to the following rules:

  1. Nominate 5-10 bloggers and let your recipients know.
  2. Post The Booker Award picture.
  3. Share your top 5 books of all time.

So I’ll now include my nominees:

http://boomiebol.wordpress.com/
http://youjivinmeturkey.com/
http://kylemew.com/
http://birdmartin.wordpress.com
http://www.theeyeoffaith.com

Congratulations to my nominees. I’ll be looking forward to reading what 5 books you post as your favorites.