she closed her eyes maybe the sounds could clear. Still one would imagine the bubbles above their heads with words in them, and she couldn’t depend on those designs entertaining her as the melodramatic daughter emoted loudly, like her husband had, always on the verge of manic-panic. How could she die in the midst of the repressed hysteria tightening around her? How could she leave when she was needed?
No one had known. Stoic, and proud of herself for that, even as she saw the life she’d had as the Doctor’s wife, parties, country clubs, new cars, family photos . . . drain into an abyss of disappointment. There had been so much hope. He’d been a good man until the end, but no one in his family would help when she’d asked, each one turning away. In those days there were no ”twelve steps,” no support groups, just the elephant squatting in the living room. She needed to spare her kids the truth, save them from what no one was strong enough to bear—no one but herself. Yet without grieving, she never really recovered her own ebullience and life lost its luster.
But she’d stood up tall and raised those children, watching every penny. She’d put them through college, into cars and marriages—until she could sell everything and move to Florida, travel the world on her own . . . Eventually the lies she told them about their father’s death took hold and stuck. The picture she painted could have hung in the hall next to his own self-portrait. A few martinis and Johnny Carson made all the facts go away.
Wasn’t it bed time now? Why wouldn’t they undress her? She tore at buttons, rustled material through her fingers . . . why did they snap her back up? She sat rigid in her wheelchair and after a minute or two, the irritation in her brain snagged and pulled until she was back at it, all thumbs . . .
Before bed, she must check the house; it was highly probable the daughter would leave lights on, doors unlocked, windows open. She rocked the wheelchair back and forward, got it up on one wheel when her aide stood and forcefully straightened her and pinned her foot. A nursing home wouldn’t allow the much needed restraining belt that continually saved her from a fall. She thought she could buck out of the wheelchair unharmed on her own but she was too angry to be grateful. She looked around the room at them all. How could she leave the chores to others, sleep without double locking the patio doors? Would they remember to close off the porch, turn on the alarms, set the thermostat, check faucets? How to sleep, how to ever go to eternal sleep when her daughter might burn the house down?
Something is exploding in her head. Not pain but a cacophony in color as if a flower truck hit a building head-on. They surround her now, wring her arms, words of a prayer askew, skidding over the air. The girl must have laid her in bed. The priest’s finger on her forehead. Hail Mary . . . She can’t find the lines . . .something . . . something . . . and . . . “the hour of our death.” She pleats the sheets with her marbled fingers. There are tears in the daughter’s eyes. Anastasia sends forth a breath, and with effort, the smallest bud of a smile, while the rest of her, what’s left of her—tumbles—tossed like a bridal bouquet, fresh petals for them to scatter. For them to catch where they may.
18 | Psychopomp Magazine