The day they donít want you
All this was inevitable after Ed died.
When youíre a young woman, you donít think about what happens if you happen to out live your husband.
Maybe I counted on my kids too much.
Iím old enough to remember days when the extended family helped out in situations like this, where brothers and sons, sisters and daughter picked up the pieces of our lives when disasters such as Edís struck.
But you were already in California with problems of your own, and your sister was over seas doing God knows what for the government.
This left the whole weight on little Billyís shoulders, who was never the most responsible member of our family, my son or not.
Oh, I admit, he tried.
Which is more than I can say for most sons these days.
He didnít want to, but he took me in, something his new wife was dead set against.
Iím not blaming her either.
She isnít family, and the burden of an aging soul like mine isnít easy for someone trying to start her own family.
She could have been more gracious by hiding her contempt for me a little. She could have tried to understand growing old wasnít my fault.
But I also saw she feared me, seeing herself growing old like me and falling into my position.
Perhaps thatís why she insisted on putting my son on a diet and insisting he get regular physicals.
As it was, I tried to keep out of the way, avoiding the stereotypical interfering mother-in-law. I asked to help only when it was needed and wanted.
I am not an invalid, though to hear my son lately, you would think differently.
Yet it was not my house, and even young Billy seemed a strange to me, the way grown sons often our to their parents, coming and going from work, talking very little to his family and less to me.
If things had gone on like that I might well have faded into the woodwork, and seen the resistance calm down.
Thatís when I fell down the basement steps and broke a hip.
While it was not so serious as it could have been Ė the doctor telling us that the bone would mend despite my age Ė the injury would require me to spend time immobile, and that meant someone would have to look after me, waiting on me hand and foot.
Since my son was off to work most of the day commuting between home and distant Manhattan, this mean this new wife had to help me, an unbearable situation for her Ė as well as for me.
The moment I came home from the hospital I knew it would never work, and my life would become a living hell if I did not so something.
My son still did not understand the dynamics of the situation and was shocked when I asked him to find me a home, some form of care center where I could relieve myself of the guilt and anger at being a burden.
He insisted I was no burden.
But overnight and after a belonged conversation with his wife, his opinion changed, and he agreed to find me a place.
Which he did.
Of course, I hated it, as I knew I would.
The place proved far worse than my imagination had painted it.
Billy kept saying ďItís not an old age homeĒ† where the old are dumped to spend their final days sitting around staring at each other, smoking cigarettes while waiting to die.
The attendants werenít brutes, doing what needed to be done to keep us clean, fed and medicated Ė all according to schedule. Some workers even smiled through the process trying to make us feel at home.
But it was not home, and they were no more family than my wife and wife were, and the lack of love and real tenderness was the worst part.
After years with Ed, and even sometimes with Billy when he was younger, I felt blessed with love.
Now, I felt only emptiness.
Yes, Billy visits, once a week, but he grows more and more distant with each visit, saying the same perfunctory things about how 3well I look and south, though the truth shows in his eyes as if I am already dead and he is simply waiting for someone to come and close the grave.
Over time, I have grown sleepy as much like the others now as I could ever become, as if all of us are part of the same extended family, stumbling from one moment to the next, a haze over me protecting me from the pain the way a scab forms over a sound, keeping me from feeling anything at all.
Pain would be welcome.
It would remind me from time to time that I am still alive.
As it is, I swim in this sea of smoke, waiting for it to end.
Sometimes, all I want to do is go to sleep and not wake up.
Most of all I miss Ed.