A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.
Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.
There are just certain things in this world you never expect to happen when you’re younger. Like, I never thought I’d own my own auto shop. And I never thought I’d end up with a hot wife. But I did. Of course I wanted all these things, but a high school drop out owning his own business? No one believed that would happen…except for maybe my Ma.
I’ll never forget the day I told her I left school. She grabbed my face and got only inches from my nose and said, “That dumb school never was any good for my boy. You’ll be just as great without it. I know you will.” She was crazy like that. But she never gave up hope. She helped me get my first loan and finish up school with my GED. She was even my first customer, though she did ask for quite a discount. But that’s alright. She’s my Ma, and as much as she’d do for me I’d do twice as much for her.
The day I met Sus, I couldn’t believe my eyes. She strutted into the shop in those heals and a suit, looking too clean for this place. And I told her so. She smiled, a little unsure of what I meant I think, so I told her, “hey, I just mean I think you look real nice. Hi, I’m Henry. What’s wrong with your car?” We haven’t stopped talking since that first conversation about her radiator.
Sus and I took things pretty slow for about a month. Then I asked her to move in with me. I hadn’t planned on that. I mean, she hadn’t even met my family yet, but one night she was about to leave and I couldn’t stand the idea of letting her walk out the door again. I hugged her and told her I wanted her to stay with me forever. She laughed…man, that laugh…and said, “I’ll go get my toothbrush.” The next night she moved in and on Sunday I introduced her to Ma.
Sus and Ma hit it off right away as soon as they realize they both love those dumb reality shows on t.v. Man, did that take a load off my mind. I wasn’t really sure how this was gonna go. I’m the baby of the family, and I know Ma wasn’t too thrilled when my older brother, Bobby, moved in with his girlfriend…and they’d been dating since high school! They talked all night and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. But, After dinner and desert we told Ma. Sus held my hand and did most of the talking. “Now, Mrs. George, we know it’s not the traditional thing to do…”
But Ma swept her hand around like she was swatting at flies and said, “My Henry has been nothing but non-traditional. But I still like him. Now, who wants another brownie?”
That’s my Ma.
She supported us when we decided to get married in Vegas (there’s a picture of Ma dancing with Elvis sitting on our mantle.). And she helped us move in to our first home (though there was some disagreement on where the cereal should be placed). Two years ago when things got rough, she was practically our marriage counselor. And last year when we lost the baby she wrapped us both up in her arms and carried us out of the storm.
Yep, when you’re younger there are just certain things you never expect to happen, but it’s good to have someone like Ma on your side. But that does little to comfort me now, because the last thing I expected to be doing at 5am today was searching for my Ma. She’s been missing for 15 hours.
It felt like we were on a t.v. show, except the police officers weren’t all that attractive and the suspense wasn’t the least bit entertaining. We were suffocating.
Around 8:00, Henry and I were just getting ready to head out to a movie when his brother called and asked if we could swing by and check on Helen, “I’ve been trying to get a hold of her all day and she’s not answering.”
I told Henry I had seen his mother this morning. “I found some apricot preserves at the farmer’s market and thought she’d like them. She was fine then.” That’s not exactly the reason why I went over there, but this wasn’t the time to get in to that.
When we pulled up, her door was open, but all the lights were off. The jar of apricot preserves was tipped over on her sky blue sofa. Immediately I felt ill. We searched the house, the grounds, the neighborhood. We called her sister, her best-friend, and knocked on the neighbors doors. No one had seen her since I had seen her last. We called the cops and then Henry’s brothers. And then we went home and waited.
Helen had seemed normal earlier, but then again, it wasn’t like I was looking for any abnormalities. When she opened the door she hugged me just like she had since the first day I met her; just like my own mother never had. We chatted and laughed. She even told me an old story about Henry when he was little and a teddy bear he had loved. If there was something wrong with her, she wouldn’t have remembered that, right? I was there for about an hour and then had to run. She walked me to the car. I waited til she got back inside and left. All very normal. She was fine.
So why do I feel like this is all my fault?
Normal is not the best way to describe Helen George, by the way. She was extraordinary. Through all the issues this family has faced she kept it together. She kept us together. She loved like no one, and she was honest without being hurtful. She’d help anybody with anything, but she didn’t leave until she was sure you knew how to help yourself, too. She was our lighthouse, helping us get through the dark and the fog. And now we couldn’t find her.
When the police showed up, I went over and over my visit with Helen.
Did she say anything out of the ordinary?
Was anything out of place?
Did she say what she was planning on doing with the rest of her day?
And then they asked what we talked about.
“She told me about Henry when he was little. He had a brown teddy bear that wore a red sweater and he carried it around with him everywhere they went.”
Henry, who had been talking to another officer, turned to me. “I remember that. But why did she bring that up?”
I froze for half a second, “I…don’t remember. I mean, I don’t remember what we were talking about.”
“Well did she just bring it up out of nowhere?”
“No. I mean…kind of, I guess.”
“And that didn’t seem weird to you? She just starts talking about my childhood?” He was getting so angry.
“Well it wasn’t exactly like that…”
“Sus, think! Why would she tell you that story?”
I didn’t want to do this here, now, in front of everyone. But the desperate look on Henry’s face broke my heart. I stood and took both his hand.
“Honey, she told me that story…after I told her…that I’m pregnant.”
I am tired. Not in the sense that I could recover with a nap, though a nap sounds good right about now.
My body is tired, and my heart is tired. I think my hearts been tired since the day I lost Steven. But I get up everyday and just keep on truckin’. I know God still has a plan for me. Especially now that I’m gonna be a grandma again!
When Susan told me, you could’ve knocked me over with a feather! Nothing is better than a baby, but a baby for her and Henry was the best blessing anyone could ever ask for. I had never lost a child, but it felt pretty close when they lost Michael. And then I worried I was gonna lose my son and daughter-in-law too. The sadness that stuck in the air of that house, I’m surprised they didn’t suffocate. I wouldn’t let them suffocate. And it was hard at first, but they fought and fought until they could breathe again.
I was so proud of Henry during that time. He was hurt, but he was strong for his wife. Reminded me of his father. Steven was always my rock, and when he passed, I didn’t know how I was going to go on. But I remembered his one piece of advice for everything, and I mean everything. Every fight we ever had, ever worry I ever held, every problem that came our way, he’d hold me close and say, “Good news is, this ain’t gonna last forever.” Then we’d make-up or work to find a solution. Every. Single. Time.
Damn, I miss him.
After Susan left I decided my first act as grandmother was to make my grandbaby a gift. When Henry was little, Steven had given him a brown teddy bear that wore a red sweater that he’d picked up at the flee market. Oh Henry adored it. I don’t even know why. The bear was kinda ugly, it’s fur was too long. And in no time, the sweater was tattered. But he kept that thing with him every where we went. And then when he was 8, he just kept him in bed. Around 14, I found Old Ted in the back of his closet. When he moved out, Ted disappeared. I don’t know if he threw him out or packed him up. He might be up in my attic right now. But I thought it’d be a great way to honor my son and my late husband to get Baby George his or her own brown teddy bear with a red sweater. And I could make the sweater, just needed to run to the store and get some yarn.
Getting old is not for the weak. Not only does your body get tired and your heart get tired, but you mind gets tired and will actually take a nap!
When I woke up, it took me a minute to figure out where I was. Plenty of times I had fallen asleep while knitting, but I always woke up in my Lazyboy. This time there were swings and a shiny new slide…and a path that lead to a bridge over a river. The sweater I’d been working on had fallen off my lap and onto the dirty ground. I picked it up and started gathering up the unraveled yarn.
My watch said 10:12 a.m. Though, that really couldn’t be right because Susan didn’t leave the house til almost 11. And then I went to the Yarn Barn. And then…
Down the path was a young couple, holding hands. They started running towards me and I got scared. If this old body could’ve gotten up and ran, it would have, but it just sat. The couple fell to their knees. The man was crying.
“Ma! Are you okay? What are you doing here? Are you alright?”
I pulled my sweater close to my body for protection. “I’m alright. Now get on out of here you two before I call the police!”
The couple looked at each other and then the woman said, “Helen, do you remember us? Henry and Susan?”
I did remember Henry and Susan and I told them as much. “Why? Are you friends of theirs?”
After that, things get fuzzy again. More people showed up. Someone wrapped a blanket around me. Another stranger tried to take my knitting needles, but after I yelled, that nice young man told them to leave my knitting alone. The woman helped me into a car. She said they were going to take me to get some help. I told her I didn’t need any help and to just call Steven and he would pick me up.
Oh Steven! I’m almost too embarrassed to get him involved. Once he hears this story, he’s bound to pick on me a good bit. But then I know he’ll hold my hand and say what he always says, “Good news is, this ain’t gonna last forever.” And he’s right. The only thing that lasts forever is love. Even now, I can feel my light dimming.