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A letter came in the mail for me. From my brother, Jimmy. It’s sad when you don’t even know your brother well enough to recognize his handwriting. He wrote that he had news to tell me. That he couldn’t find my phone number or email address. All he had was my home address.
The letter said that my mother is dying.
And, apparently, I’m supposed to care.
He wrote that she didn’t even realize how far the cancer had spread. She didn’t realize that she had less than a few weeks left. He wrote that he was too afraid to tell her.
And, so, I’m supposed to do what?
She would want to die at home. But they would need help. Someone to get the estate in order, set up a hospital bed in her living room, sit with her in between Hospice nurse visits. He asked if I would come.
Why would I come? Wasn’t it too late? Had he not gotten the clue after I’d been gone for thirty years?
His phone number was printed in a careful hand at the bottom of the letter.
“Whatever you decide, give me a call,” he’d written.
I dialed his number. That turned out to be a mistake.
“Come on back, Sharon,” he’d said. “We need you.”
It took me a little over an hour to drive the seventy miles back to that house. Pulling into the drive way put a sick feeling in my stomach. The house looked the same. Just more worn down. Shingles were missing from the roof, the porch sloped, the eaves sagged. I dreaded what the inside looked like.
I was right. When I opened the door, I was smacked by a thick, dank odor. Rotten food mixed with mildew and some kind of animal smells. It hadn’t been like this when I was little. I couldn’t think would might have happened.
The first thing I did was go to the store for disinfectant. And lots of it. No one deserved to die in that kind of filth. Not even her.
Never did wanna die in no hospital. Guess I never thought about me dying anyhow. Just ain’t somethin’ you keep on your mind. But the doctor told me it won’t be long.
The next week or two an’ I’ll be dead. Makes me feel all kinds of alone. All I wanna do is go home and sit in my chair. Don’t wanna be here no more. Jimmy said he’d get me home today. I never counted on nothin’ so much in all my life.
What I ain’t happy about is who’ll be there.
“Mama,” Jimmy said. “Sharon’s at the house gettin’ things ready for ya’.”
“Now why would she do that?” I asked.
“We got a hospital bed for ya’. And she wanted to help out.”
“She ain’t gonna be there when I get home, is she?”
“Well, course she is, Mama. We all gotta take turns sittin’ with ya’.”
“You’ll take a extra turn, Jimmy. Don’t you think for a second I’m gonna sit with her alone.”
“It ain’t gonna be your way right now, Mama. This is how it’s gotta be else you ain’t goin’ home.”
“She movin’ all my stuff around? I won’t have her throwin’ my things out.”
“I don’t know. But it don’t matter.” His eyes was tired. “Let’s get you home.”
So he went to get his pick up. Makes me get to wonderin’ if me dyin’s gonna cause anybody grief. Or if they’ll be glad I’m gone. I ain’t the easiest woman to be ‘round. I knowed that my whole life.
Not that I got nothin’ to leave behind for them.