”I once had a good life, or at least I thought it was a good life”, she mumbled as she walked slowly on the damp morning grass. She bent down and picked up a few leaves that had fallen from the big oak tree during the night.
She shook her head as she examined the brown dry leaves. “Early, this is way too early, where did the summer go? It seems like yesterday that we celebrated 4th of July”, she said to the dog that was jumping around her feet.
She remembered how much fun they have had. Both her daughters and her grandson had come to visit her. And her husband had been unusually jolly that day. Now he just sat mostly silent, half asleep, in front of the TV, that without interruptions mirrored a life that he was no longer a part of.
“Coco, you remember how sweet Henry was when he helped me in the kitchen,” she said as she petted his ears and stood up. The dog, happy to be noticed, barked and wagged his tail in complete agreement.
With a sigh she sat down on the old rod iron chair and laid the leaves down by her empty coffee cup and as she closed her eyes and let her mind wanders. A soft breeze came rushing down from the big pine tree on the side of the patio, played with her hair until it tired and moved away.
The first couple of years in the new country had been hard, very hard and she remembered how she cried in the morning after her husband went to work. She cried out of being homesick, cried out of feeling alone, different and not quite understanding the new language. She always laughed at the wrong places until she stopped laughing completely. She remembered repeatedly asking her husband what was so funny and how he smiled and said that it was hard to explain.
As the years passed she learned to laugh at the right places, not that she thought it was funny but it was what she was expected to do. She still felt alone and was longing for her old life, a life where she was completely in tuned with everyone else and most of all where she felt that she belonged.
Than it was that night in June, the telephone rang around midnight and when she picked it up she heard a stranger’s voice tell her that her husband was in a hospital and that there had been an accident. Her world fell apart as she learned that he had been shot. She remember pounding her fists into his pillow at night as she laid alone at night, not being able to understand how someone could aim a gun at a stranger and pull a trigger. The long waiting for his lifesaving surgery to be successful and over with was the worst she ever had experienced.
The fear and the not knowing what was going to happened to them, how were they going to be able to buy food made her lay awake at night, tossing and turning, unable to close her eyes
She remembered not having money for new school clothes for her daughter. She felt ashamed that her daughter could not have the best and the prettiest clothing. Her lump in her throat when she waived good bye to them as they left to go to Hawaii still had not gone away. But her husband needed to get clarity of the near to death experience and he needed to get his frazzled nerves calmed down.
“He always was in need of being excused of one thing after another”, she said to the dog and sighted as she closed her eyes again and remembered the feeling of joy when she went to the airport and picked up her girls again a couple of month later. She thought about how she made the decision of never leaving them again and never, never not having the best for them even if she had to lie and steal to get the necessary money.
How she hated to sell real estate the first couple of years. How she felt that she wanted to go back to the way her life was, finish her doctorate and be able to get an employment where she could get satisfaction in knowing that she mattered. After a few years she got used to it, like everything else. She liked the freedom in not having to show up at the office at a certain time but could stay at home if one of the girls were sick.
She made sure that she had the necessary money for their trips back to the old country every summer. When she went to pick them up she used to pretend that she had a one way ticket. She was always very disappointed that the country she left had changed or maybe she was the one that had changed, she never got that fact cleared up.
Her face hardened as she remembered his infidelity. How she felt betrayed, worthless, used and unloved as she tried to cope with the new chapter in her life. Many times after that had she asked herself why she unpacked her bags, when it would have been so easy to turn around and go back. She always came to the same conclusion, the girls adored him and she was to proud to go back and acknowledge the defeat. But she could never love him the same after that.
The distance between them grew and grew. He started drinking more and more and she berried herself in work and so the years passed them by. The girls grew up and they became her whole life.
She smiled as she remembered how she threw away all the law books that she had packed when they moved. She remembered that it was on her 43rd birthday when she told her self that she was the one that made the bed and now she had to either get up or sleep in it. She started drinking more and more until she one day woke up and decided that enough was enough.
They moved away to a new neighborhood and she thought that she started a new and fresh chapter of her life. The house was new and she filled it with nice furniture and pretended that her life was perfect. Her garden became her pride and joy, she did not care if it was esthetically correct, she found a plant that she liked and gave it a home and she was happy.
Then came the humiliation, the groundless accusations, the front page in the local newspaper where in bold print her temporary suspension of her real estate license could be read. She remembered crying when one of the girls told her that someone at her school had brought the clipping and how ashamed she felt.
She shrugged and swept the gown tighter around her as she felt a chill sweeping up her back. Her teeth cleansed and she took a deep breath. The pain in realizing that her sweet little girls had to be ashamed of her had burned a hole in her heart.
They were behind on their mortgage and the water was turned off. She struggled with electric bills and hated to always say no to the girls as they asked for special things. Her chin was kept high as she went to the grocery store but she cried when she was alone and learned to pray.
To leave the little office to her husband and to start a commute seemed to be the only way. She remembered her 10 hour days and how the week ends were packed with household chores. The younger girl got quieter than before as the older had sought comfort in her friends and left her little sister alone at home.
But she kept on going. Around that time there was a commercial on TV shat she took as her mantra. It was a rabbit symbolizing a certain kind of battery. The rabbit kept on going and going and going and going…… There were days when she was to tired to eat when she came home and she remembered how she hated tuna and hamburger helper that was kept warm in a pot on the stove.
She caught up on the mortgage, the water was not shut off and she had no fear of the electric bill. She remembered how she compensated the girls in buying what they wanted and how proud she was of their accomplishments at school.
Her husband stopped seeking her in bed and replaced her with the TV in the extra bedroom, where he started to sleep. She remembered how she started to put on weight and how she used to buy big chocolate boxes and eat until the sweetness in her mouth turned bitter.
The dog barked at a squirrel and woke her up from her thoughts and as she watched him she remembered a couple of good memories from the many week ends at the beach. She remembered the freedom she felt as she sat there and watched the girls playing in the waves and building their never ending sand castles. She was always happy at the beach and when she was happy the girls were happy.
The sun was hiding behind a big, grey-blue cloud and the wind picked up. She grabbed the coffee cup, called the dog and walked into the house, thinking that it was time to prepare some lunch.
"That was a happy chapter of my life Coco, wasn’t it” she said to the dog that barked and wagged his tail.
Camilla Oct 2011
FLekka hansch n Kalle å a Sofi
1 year ago