The Seven Questions (pt. 7)

THURSDAY How much longer?

I really like her doctor. A tall guy, his wing tips are brown and his hair, also brown, keeps falling over his forehead while he deftly swats it away like a horsefly. He comes for a visit on the way home from the hospital, about dinner time. I help him off with his ‘trench coat,’ something I haven’t seen since moving to North Carolina years ago. His even has the zipped up plaid lining on the inside. He bends his lean body over Beverly and she gives him an award winning smile. I think maybe she has a crush on him. But she is so abrupt. No pleasantries.

“How much longer doctor? I hope you don’t have to pay me any more visits.”

He nods his head.

“Hope I won’t be by again either Beverly.” I’m stunned by the honesty of this pair! There it is. They have just said goodbye. No great hugs, words of missing one another. Just the acknowledgement that each is ready for Beverly to go on to the other side. I want to say, ‘Whoa, maybe you will be back, doctor,’ but I glance over to Karen and she gives me a clear negative nod of the head. Is everybody ready for Beverly to go except me?

The doctor holds Beverly’s hand a little longer while she closes her eyes, her head sinking deeply into the pillow. He pats her hands and turns, Karen and I follow him out into the living room.

“Looks like your mother is ready, Karen.” He slips on his trench coat. “Call me if you have any questions.” We both nod. I’m speechless. I’m not sure what is going on for Karen. In fact this whole season of Beverly dying has been confusing to me. She is Karen’s mother, not mine. But here I am going back over my life as she reflects on hers. This closeness is unique. Mostly I think of my own mother, who died shortly after my birth.

Karen takes my hand and I follow her outside. We go for a quick walk up the driveway and back. I don’t say a word. Karen picks up an oak leaf, then a maple, then a dogwood, feeling the texture of each, running her forefinger along the ridges, the spine, a careful caress. Braille. No words needed. I spend my energy keeping back my tears.

-- Mccabe Coolidge is a writer and poet from Virginia..

An archive of Mccabe's articles is located here.

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