Just Another Old Lady

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When a newborn dies, the family stops doing everything.
When a child dies, the family mourns and trudges along life slowly.
When a teenager dies, the family cries but moves on.
When a mother dies, the family is upset, but the father keeps things going.
When a father dies, the family is quiet and reserved, and life continues.

But when the elderly die, the family says it was their time.

If I had died an infant, maybe people would've felt sympathetic towards me. No chance at life, a sparkle that has faded away. But now that I am old, I am nothing but a bother, a person to waste time with on a Thursday night. A person to bring the leftover lowfat yogurt that expires in two days. A person to mock when they've left the room. A nobody.

I suppose I am a bit of a burden. At seventy-three years old, all my family is waiting for is me to wither away here in this hospital, my home for the last three months. When the grandchildren visit, they'd much rather watch TV or play video games than hug their grandmother. My son-in-law hasn't seen me in two months, and my daughter is so busy that she can only spend ten minutes a week with me. My husband is dead, has been for sixteen years. The only person who actually devotes time to me is Dr. Keegan, and that's only to make sure I haven't gone and died on him yet. The only reason anyone tries to talk to me is if they want something, like a spot in my will. At this point, I might as well will away my goldfish of two years. She'll probably outlive me.

It seems like old Goldie is the only friend I've got left, who remembers me more than anyone else, even though her memory span is seven seconds. Or so I've heard. She's my only entertainment during the week, except for the TV. But I don't even know how to turn the dang thing on. Other than that, I sleep and pray for death to come soon.

It's not like I have anything else to live for. My life has been terrible. My mother died during childbirth, and my father worked all the time. I was their only child. I spent my days doing chores around our rundown house and singing of the future, when I'd marry a handsome prince and become queen of Greenland, where everything was the color of emeralds. (Although I found out later in life that Greenland wasn't actually very green at all.) I never had any real education, except what my six-year-old neighbor Peter told me when he got home from school. He was my best friend, and I wanted to marry him, but he moved to Alabama with his family and I never saw him again.
So life went on until my father died from a heart attack when I was sixteen. My aunt and uncle agreed to adopt me, but they paid no attention to me. By age eighteen, they had married me off to a man named Ronald. He was an awful husband, and hit me when I didn't comply to his orders or do them the right way. I got pregnant at age twenty-two, but the baby died a week after he was born. I had another child when I was twenty-three, but Ronald was upset, as this baby was a girl and not a boy. I named her Anna after my mother.
Ronald left me at age thirty-four to care for a young child and myself. I had no job, no money, and no one to help me. Anna and I found ourselves on the streets, begging for money and searching for food.
Two years later, someone finally employed me. I worked at a restaurant clearing tables with Anna by my side. We still had no home, but we at least had a way to buy food. I was at the grocery store shopping for the essentials when I met John.
We married when I was thirty-nine, but by that time I already looked about fifty. But John loved me, and he loved Anna, and he took care of us. We stayed together in his small house until he died in 1995, and I moved in with Anna and her family until 2007, when I was experiencing heart failure and was admitted to the hospital. I've had multiple problems since, including kidney failure and breathing issues. I'd been in and out of the hospital for the last three years, moving to and from the Happy Acres, a dusty retirement home that smells like medicine and old cheese.

The doctor says I don't have much longer to live. I guess I've known that for a while. I wake up in the morning surprised to find that I'm still alive. Anna's probably getting my funeral set up, if I'm important enough to get a burial. I've heard cremation's cheaper. But then again, I've already been such a bother to them, why would they want my ashes to sit in their living room like I did for so long when I was alive?

I'm hurting now. Every bone in my body aches. My head is reeling. I reach to press the help button on the side of the hospital bed, but I don't have the energy to press it. I gasp for air; it tastes like desperation. I look down at my wrinkled hands, and watch them shake uncontrollably. I remember the date: January 12th, 2011. I look at the clock: 11:28 at night. My room is dark, but the moon shines through the cleaner-streaked window. I blink, but I cannot get my eyes open again. I struggle, but then I stop. I don't want to resist. I don't want to wait, or try to move or do anything. What do I have to live for? Goldie? That's when I remember that my precious pet died two days ago. No. Not even Anna is worth surviving. I feel like something is grabbing my hand, and even though it is completely dark in my head, I know it is John, pulling me, coaxing me.
"It's better on this side," he says, but I stop. I won't follow him, not yet. I say, through forced lips, how much I love my family, and that I don't mind what's happening to me, just in case someone is in the room listening to me. I feel for the locket on my chest, one of the few gifts my daughter has ever given me. There is a picture of her and her family in it. I pull the chain from my neck, and feel the cool silver pool in my hand. I finger the sapphire and diamond heart, bring it to my lips, and kiss it.

There.

With the locket and my family in hand, I take one last breath.


It is time to go.





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