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Estelle parked her walker, sat on the couch, and died.
That’s the story.
She was born, she lived, and she died.
Yesterday had been a little better to Estelle. Her head didn’t hurt so much, and her skin didn’t droop so low. Her voice didn’t shake and could be heard over the air conditioner.
She never liked the indoors, though inside these four, thin walls is where she spends most of her time now. Sitting, waiting, really, for whatever comes her way. Not that much comes her way these days and although she can’t complain, sometimes she catches herself drifting toward the past and farther away from the shore that is the present. Her granddaughter often shakes her head.
What a waste. Here, this old woman sits waiting to die. All she is is a bag of old, crinkled skin and bones.
Estelle wouldn’t argue with her granddaughter. On this point, they were united.
There’s not much to be said on Mondays. Everyone is grouchy, and everyone is a little less tolerant of Estelle’s ramblings. Most Mondays, Estelle tries to be quiet but sometimes she can’t help but want to talk about the days back when. And anyway, she forgets it’s Monday from time to time. No, no one likes to listen to Estelle talk on Mondays, or any other day for that matter.
“I remember me and your pa went to church over in Billings,” she says in a barely audible whisper, to her eldest daughter, Julie. But when she looks closer at Julie, the image fades and she slowly sees her granddaughter staring at her.
She sighs deeply. They both do.
Estelle is sitting on the couch now, one finger lifting the curtains out of the way so she can peer out at the street. There are little kids playing hopscotch and laughing and frolicking and she can remember when she was a girl. When she was the one the old people envied, playing out there in the street.
There had been no sense of time and of loss, then. Now, everything’s gone. She doesn’t have her health or her love anymore. She doesn’t have joy but feels the pain of too many years on this planet. Sometimes, before she looks in the mirror, she feels like the 40-year-old woman who had just begun to live. But once her reflection is staring back at her, she can’t deny what she has become. There’s nothing left in her or in this world for her.
That’s the short and long of it.
Estelle thinks about her funeral. It couldn’t be so very far away and who would be there to vouch for her life? Her children? Who had all but forgotten her? Who locked her in? Who didn’t look at her but through her? Who talked about her with Estelle right there, hearing every harsh word?
Children can be cruel and your children are no exception, she tells herself.
The clouds are closing in like sweet sleep. She thinks there must be something she has forgotten but the fog is moving at a much quicker pace than her mind. She settles in and lets the wind and the stars take her away.
She sees the past drift by. She’s the archive of some long ago time that no one cares to remember. Some long ago happiness. Some long-suffered heartache.She can hear her own voice laughing back at her. A mockery. She does not smile.
When her own mother was dying, slowly, surely, she’d tried to be patient. She’d been a teenager, barely seventeen. Her mother was dead by June, living only a few months after the diagnosis.
But I am not dying, Estelle says to herself in protest.
But she did.
And then, nothing.