General Fiction posted June 21, 2014 Chapters:  ...30 31 -32- 33... 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Sarah returns to her childhood for her mother's funeral

A chapter in the book Enough to Miss Christmas

Going Back Home

by Fridayauthor

Newly married Sarah is building a close relationship with her step daughter Karen who lost her birth mother a year earlier. Now, Grandmother too has died.
            The next few days passed in a blur as I tried to deal with the sudden death of my mother. She must have died as soon as we’d left her room and I couldn’t help wondering if something I said or did hurried her demise. I knew in my heart the thought was irrational but it wouldn’t disappear. Paul cancelled his business meetings and we would return to Connecticut the next day. My husband was very kind, to both of us, as Karen grieved as much as I.
            “I’m worried,” he said as he led me to bed. “She didn’t display this much grief when her mother died.”
            “She felt very fondly for my mother,” I answered. “We were the last to see her and her death was a shock; to both of us. We were practically there at the time.”
            “Karen was there when Carol died.”
            I was surprised. While Paul never discussed his wife’s death, nor had I asked, I’d assumed she died in a hospital, slowly succumbing to her disease. “She died at home?” I asked.
            “In her bed. Karen was outside playing.”
            “The two of you never talked about it?”
            “I tried but Karen didn’t want to discuss it. She shut out the entire incident. The doctor said it was her way of dealing with death, and I went along. We all knew Carol was terminally ill so her passing wasn’t unexpected. Karen handled it well.” Then he added, “Especially since you’ve been around for her. You know she adores you in spite of not calling you mother.”
            I was pleased with my husband’s comments, but I doubted his evaluation of how well Karen coped with her mother’s death. However, at present I had heartache enough on my own plate.
            I slept little that night and I heard Karen thrashing around in her room as I roamed the hall. I knocked softly and she unlocked her door. I went in, sat on the edge of her bed, and held her hand. Karen cried quietly, unable to stop. Her overwhelming sadness tortured me as much as my mother’s passing.
            “What can I do?” she asked, still sobbing.
            “Write it all down, honey. Write just how you feel. It will be yours and yours alone. Your memories.”
            The four of us traveled to Connecticut where we joined Suzie and her family. They were returning from their shortened Cape Cod vacation. Karen lapsed into silence, responding only where politeness dictated an acknowledgment. She’d taken my advice and scribbled away in her diary. Timmy, on the other hand, asked a myriad of questions in spite of his confusion when anyone displayed grief. While he understood that this elderly woman he’d met only twice was now in heaven, he wasn’t clear on the details.
            Paul booked a suite for us with adjoining rooms in a local motel. When Suzie hesitated about having callers at our family . . . now her . . . house, Paul booked a meeting room near our suite where we could all get together. My mother had out lived most of her friends and only a handful of relatives would attend the services which were scheduled for Monday. Suzie and I made the funeral plans while my niece Maureen entertained Karen and Timmy. I bowed to Suzie’s suggestions on the details in spite of her seeking my opinion. After all, I was the come-lately daughter and she had cared for my mother for twenty years.
            Suzie’s reaction to our mother’s passing was more reserved than mine. While the suddenness shocked her, I suspect she expected death was closer than I. We said all the right things to each other but my sister’s kindness and lack of mention of my unfair absence failed to abate my feeling of guilt which covered me like a noxious cloud.
            Many of the people who attended the funeral and wake were the same guests at the wedding when I first met Paul though the number was but a fraction. At the earlier affair, I was a virtual unknown, hiding among the festivities. Now that I’d come out of the closet, so to speak, and rebuilt burnt bridges, everyone pressed forward to meet this Phoenix-risen-lady, her reputed multi-millionaire husband and his beautiful family. Only appropriate sympathies were expressed but in my mind I heard the unspoken comment, I’m so glad you finally did the right thing, but it’s a shame you were so late in doing so. The three days intensified my growing sense of anguish over my long abandonment of my family ties.
            We attended the funeral service as a family, in the same church where I’d spent a thousand Sundays in my early years. Little had changed and memories flooded back in a torrent. At the grave side ceremony Paul and Karen each held my hand as my mother was lowered into her final resting place.
            “She’s in peace," Paul said. I nodded. I hoped with all my heart that my mother was at peace. With equal conviction, I knew I was not.
            Timmy was excused from the grave side service and remained back at Suzie’s house with the other young children and a babysitter. This meant I would return to my childhood home and my old neighborhood, for the first time since fleeing to the arms of my soldier boyfriend, two decades earlier. While I’d gotten together with Suzie a number of times since returning from Alaska, our meetings were always on neutral ground or in Summerside. I dreaded seeing the old place and its myriad of memories at a time when my past was playing evil games with my mind.
            Karen, on the other hand, while still grieving over my mother’s death, was thrilled to visit the site of the family I’d so vividly described. It was the first spark of positive emotion since we’d heard the distressing news.
            “I’m sure Suzie and Mike have made a lot of changes,” I told her. “I may hardly recognize the place.” That wasn’t the case. The outside was painted a different color but entering the house was like stepping into a time warp. Even some of the old furniture remained and the front entryway was dressed in the same flowered wallpaper. I experienced a wave of mixed emotions while Suzie apologized profusely.
            “We always planned to remodel, but the money was never there. It’s such a mess compared to your house.”
            I hugged her, trying to hold back the tears. “It’s wonderful. It’s a home. The place was a castle for you and me and I know it was the same for your family.”
            “Can I see everything?” Karen asked, still holding my hand.
            “God, it’s such a trash heap up there,” Suzie wailed. I could read the embarrassment on her face but when she saw how strongly Karen wanted to tour, she shrugged and let us investigate. Suzie’s daughter Maureen, together with Jake her husband, her twins and infant daughter were staying in the house for the funeral. While the resulting clutter and chaos was understandable, Suzie never was the housekeeper our mother had been and the old house showed it. Karen asked a hundred questions as she poked in every dusty corner, examining every room. With children scuttling around us I described memories that poured forth like April rains. Even the old dining room table, the site of so many games, remained unchanged. I recognized pictures on the walls. The kitchen was as I remembered save a dishwasher and new curtains, and the pantry behind it.
            I pointed out our old shared bedroom, and the window view of our maple tree, much larger now but still showing the timbers of a tree house we’d all built together. How did I get so far from all of this? If I closed my eyes, I could see the house as it once was, clean and neat, by my mother’s hand. How did I become so selfish and traveled so far from my Milford Street sanctuary? I managed to hold back my tears and get through the rest of the day. Two hours later we were back on the road to Summerside.
            A world class depression descended on me in the days following my mother’s burial. I plodded through my chores and tried my best to maintain a pleasant disposition but everyone noticed my changed mood. The toy store suffered my absence and my erratic schedule in this, the busy summer season. The only positive effect was that Cathy Chatzky, a seventeen-year-old single mother clerk, was getting more hours and the money she so sorely needed.
            Paul was a saint to put up with me. When I apologized for my moods, he’d hear nothing of it. “My God, do you realize what you've been going through, Sarah? When they talk about the most traumatic events in life, what’s mentioned?”  He began to count them off on his fingers. “Death of a spouse, death of a parent, moving, changing jobs, getting married; they don't even bother mentioning ‘getting two new children’! And here you’ve gone five for five and you’re wondering why you’re messed up in the head!”
            “I’m not ‘messed up’; I'm just a bit . . .”
            “Messed up. And it’s my fault for racing you into this life before you had time to adapt, a step at a time.”
            I kissed him. “Believe me, if I didn’t have my family I’d be in far worse shape. I'll be fine. I just need a few days to adjust.”
            It was true about loving my life but I lied about how terrible I felt. Dreams kept me awake for hours, and I struggled through the most mundane chores. Karen too, worried me. I felt she was experiencing similar problems to mine though she kept them better hidden. She spent too much time alone in her room, and I know her nightmares returned. I heard her in the pit of the night when I too was having trouble sleeping. I calmed her, but she turned away. The second time it happened, Paul was on an overnight in New York. I insisted he go, knowing I’d already caused several interruptions to his schedule. Our camping vacation beginning the day after tomorrow would further complicate his schedule.
            Karen feigned sleep but I tugged her reluctantly to my room and cuddled in the love chair, at three o’clock in the morning.
            “Tell me what’s the matter, Karen. Talk to me.”
            She began to cry. “I told you. If you love someone, they die. You didn’t believe me.”
            “Karen, Hon, Grandma was sick a very long time. Just be thankful you got to meet her. I’m thrilled you two were so fond of one another, even for a short time. If it wasn’t for you and your Dad, I might not have even gone and seen her.”
            “But now she’s gone and I’ll never get to talk to her again.”
            I held her tightly. “Don't ever fail to love out of fear it will go away. You’ll miss a world of happiness.”
            She continued to cry. “You already told me that.”
            “I meant it then and I mean it now.”
            “Why do I always bawl wherever we're alone?”
            “Because you can, honey. And there’s no one to make fun of you or call you a crybaby or tell anyone else about it or tell you to stop. I’ll always be here for you.”
            “You’re going to leave me. My mother did.”
            “She didn’t leave you because she wanted to. I’m sure the angels dragged her kicking and screaming because she didn’t want to leave you and Timmy alone. And now she's up there looking down on you, happy in the knowledge that your father has found someone to love both of her children.”
            “That’s how much you know!” she snarled.

Earned A Seal Of Quality

Enough to Miss Christmas is a family love story, about sisters, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, parents and children. Foremost, it tells the story of a step mom and a precocious young lady and how they bond in spite of overwhelming odds.
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