This is a story of fiction I just entered into a local library contest... written by yours truly, of course...
"They Just Didn't Get It"
The year was 2007. The old lady lay quietly waiting to die...they knew she was on her way out...each of the people in the room was lost in his or her own thoughts. Life had not dealt kindly with the old lady, but she had never seemed to be fazed by her situation. Some of her children were already there waiting...hoping it would not take Nora Evans long to make her exit; after all, they had things to do, people to see, places to go. Why couldn't she just get on with it, anyway?
They never considered that they were being selfish. Nora had lived out her life on that God-forsaken farm, where each of her children had been brought into the world. She had never been in a hospital before. All the kids had been born in the old four-poster bed in the big, two-story farmhouse out in the sticks. They had struggled with going to school, wearing hand-me-down clothing and most of them couldn't wait to get away from the farm. Most of the other kids had better stuff than they did, and got their kicks by making fun of Nora's offspring.
Their father, well, needless to say, didn't make their life any easier with his military "Suck-it-up" attitude. James Evans was a farmer by occupation. He had been a soldier in World War II, coming home from the war with a bad attitude and scars on his face and arms, as well as his soul. He was always telling them how lucky they were to have it made so good. Didn't they have a bed to sleep in, a roof over their heads, and food to fill their bellies? Didn't they?
The old man was unbendable and tough as nails. No love lost there. A heart attack had taken him several years ago, to meet his Maker, leaving Nora, Nathan, and Nathan's family alone on the farm. Nora still seemed to be grieving for her mate. She had been going downhill rapidly after his death. The kids didn't get it. Their father was hateful; why did Nora miss him?
Eleanor, the eldest, looked around the room, taking in the gathering together of her brother and sisters. No one was really talking, while eyeing each other with suspicion. A large corporation was after the farm and it was worth a lot of money.The money would be divided equally among all of them when and if it sold. Nathan was holding out to keep it and all the rest of the siblings were angry with him. After all, Nathan reasoned, the farm had been homesteaded by their great-great grandfather and had been in the family forever. Nathan was determined to hang on to it. He couldn't understand why they wanted to sell it. They didn't want to live there; he did. Farming was in his blood, and he would fight them tooth and nail to keep it. If he kept it, they would probably want him to buy their share of the farm. Of course, he didn't have the money to buy the farm from them. What a royal mess it all was!
Nora and James' children had not done too badly in the world, if one can use making money as a yardstick. They were all quite successful in their chosen careers. Eleanor had become a high-priced attorney-at-law; Julia had become a doctor; Elroy had become a banker; Samuel had achieved success in computers; Dorothea had become a psychologist; and then there was Nathan who had farming in his blood and had become quite good at it. His apple orchards were among some of the best in the state. He had taken the old farm and turned it into a profitable business. As well as having orchards, he raised and bred quarter horses.
Nora slept on; it was going to be a long night and she didn't look as though she was going to leave the world any time soon. Julia looked over at her mother. How tiny Mama looked, she thought. So very fragile and so weary, yet her face was as peaceful looking as a baby's face. The lines that usually filled her face were smoothed out and a small smile seemed to be gracing Nora's lips. What did she have to smile about? Did she even know where she was, or what was about to happen to her? They just didn't get it...
"Is anyone hungry? Does anyone want to go with me to get something to eat and maybe some coffee? Don't you all think we need to talk? This is not the place to talk, with Mama right here in the room where she can hear us." Dorothea's voice was kind of scratchy sounding because it had been some time since she had spoken and her throat was dry.
"What do you mean, 'where she can hear us'? Didn't her doctor say Mama was in a coma? You don't hear anything when you're in a come!" Eleanor's voice was strident and argumentative. She sounded as though she was ready for combat.
Julia put in her two cents and protested, "Of course, it is believed that people can hear what is being said right up to the very end, even if they are in a coma. For pity's sake, girls, let's go somewhere else and talk. We have a lot to discuss. It certainly won't hurt anything to leave for awhile. Nathan can stay if he wishes, or he can come with us. I wonder where Samuel is. He was supposed to be here by now. I guess he is being held up by his third wife, Nancy Mae. She most likely has taken him shopping with her. She probably has to have a couple of new outfits for the funeral that will be coming up soon."
"Has anybody heard from Elroy yet? I called him as soon as I heard about Mama, and he said he'd be here as soon as he could. He had to come all the way from New York City. He has those two kids that are always in trouble. I hear one of them is on drugs and is in rehab again. God only knows when he will be able to get here. We have a lot of decisions to make and both Samuel and Elroy need to be here." This came from Eleanor.
Dorothea led the way out of the room and all the others followed. The afternoon had been very long, and they did have a lot to discuss.
The room became very quiet again. Nora lay there in the silence, with the enigmatic smile playing around her mouth. Much was going on in her mind. She was seeing herself as a young woman, being courted by a handsome young man. They were seated on a porch swing. The year was 1941; he had brought her candy and flowers. His name was James Evans and he had driven over in a Ford Coupe. It was brown, with a rumble seat, and he was going to take her to a picture show over in town. They they would probably go to the malt shop for a soda. Nora was so excited. It was her very first real date with him. Her mama had warned her to be careful, but Nora was not worried. She was concerned, though, about the war. His draft number could be called up any day now. Nora didn't want him to go into the service; she wanted him to stay home and be safe. She just knew something awful might happen to him.
Then she saw herself in a simple wedding gown; her parents and James' parents were there. James was so handsome and strong with his arms around her, kissing her. He was in a U.S. Army uniform. She saw herself throwing the bridal bouquet and her best friend, Amy, catching it.
Then the scene changed...she saw him come home to the farm. She had been living on the farm with James' mother. His dad had died while James was in France. The tractor had turned over on him and killed him. The Red Cross had contacted James, but James had been in the hospital himself. A bomb had exploded near him and burned his arms and face. The scars on his face and arms had mostly healed by the time James came home. James had gotten a medical discharge. There were nights that he screamed and Nora held him close till he went back to sleep. His ailment was what the doctors called being "shell shocked". James slowly recovered, but he had changed from the sweet young man he had been when he left, into a much more serious man, with a lot of harshness where sweetness had been. The scars on his soul took a lifetime to heal.
In her dreams, Nora saw her children being born, saw their adorable faces, watching each one grow, each child different, yet all with a stubborn will. She knew it was up to her and James to give them the backbone and determination they would need to survive in a tough world. She saw how they were ashamed of the clothes they wore, but all she could do was to try to teach them to stand tall, and take up for themselves. She knew that James was tough on them, too, but he loved them, just as she did, and he did his very best for them.
She saw herself early each morning, taking down the family Bible and reading from God's word. She prayed for James and each of her children by name and often reminded them of how God loved each of them. She took them to Sunday School and church every Sunday. James would not go, because he was angry with God. He asked her where was God when he got injured. She told him that God had spared his life and brought him home to her.
He just said, "Huh! They why couldn't God have just kept the bomb from exploding?"
"I'm afraid you'll have to ask Him that question," she replied.
Before James died, he had finally made his peace with God, but Nora thought of all the years he had wasted in the meantime. Perhaps the children would have fared much better, she thought.
She dreamed on, smiling.
In the meantime, the siblings were in the hospital cafeteria, talking. Elroy and Samuel had finally arrived. This was the first time in years that they had all been together in the same place, except for when the old man died. la. Now, here they all were - reminiscing about their years on the farm. Now, thereinthere was even laughter as they talked about a lot of things that had happened as theythey grew up.
"Say, Ellie, do you remember that time you climbed up in the old apple imle tree down by the barn, and you were afraid to get down? I climbed up to help you down, and you still wouldn't getget down? We ran ran to get Dad. He said you would eventually come down when you got hungry enough. You stayed up there all evening until you finally got the nerve to get down." Samuel laughed out loud as he recounted the story.
"Yeah, and remember when you got into trouble for taking Dad's car and wrecking it, Elroy?" asked Julia. "The sheriff arrested you and when we went to Dad, telling him about it, he wouldn't bail you out. He said you needed to learn a lesson about honesty. You had to stay in jail the whole weekend."
"Yes, and then I had to work out the fine by doing community service. Everybody knew what I had done and I was so embarrassed. I learned a valuable lesson there. Now I wish I had been that tough with my own kids. Maybe they wouldn't be in trouble now."
"Hey, Dottie, do you remember the ghe girl that was al always teasing you about your red hair and calling you Ratty Dottie because your clothes were ne not as good as hers? I think her name was Mary Ann Jones," inquired Nathan.
"Yeah, I do. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I heard where she was hauled in for selling drugs. She was heading ad up a drug ring that had been in business for a long time. The Feds finally caught up with her. Seems like she was living in a high-rise apartment and dealing drugs out of it. Her dad's business had gone belly-up and she was too used to having everything she wanted. She just got sent to prison for fifteen years, plus having to pay a big fine, to boot."
As the evening wore on, each of them had stories to tell about lessons they had learned because of their mama's love and their dad's strict code of ethics. The were coming tog to realize their parents had loved them more than they knew. They were beginning to understand.
"Hey, guys, do you remember how we used to walk out that dusty road to the little country church with Mama? We would kick the gravels and get dust all over our shoes; then she would take her scarf and wipe them clean, so we could all go in nice and neat." This came from Julia.
"Yeah, and those songs they sang in church like: 'Farther along, we'll know all about it, Farther along, we'll understand why, Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine, We'll understand it all, by and by," Elroy sang in a clear baritone voice. . He was surprised to realize he could still remember the words after so long a time.
"I remember when Mama seemed to be down in the dumps, that was one of the songs she sang, then she would smile at us and be happy," observed Dorothea. "She somehow would get a lot of comfort from them."
"Oh, yes, and when we were helping her with the dishes, we would sometimes sing along with her. Even though we were working, we felt happy. I wish I could feel happy like that again, don't you all?" inquired Eleanor.
"Well, it would be nice to feel that t carefree again, but we're not kids any more. We have big responsibilities now," responded Samuel.
"But Mama had a lot on her mind, and she always had big responsibilities, too, raising six kids and taking care of the house. Maybe she was happy because she was always giving and not expecting a lot in return!" exclaimed Julia. They were close to getting it.
"You know, we don't really need the money that would come from selling the farm to that large corporation," said Dorothea. "Do we? Don't we each have enough money and success? Why should Nathan have to give up something he ha has worked very hard to keep? None of us wants the farm, and he does. He's been quite successful with it. What do you all say we let him keep it?"
"Well, I reckon you are right, Dottie," said Elroy. "I have no objections. Let's put it to a vote. All in favor of letting Nathan keep the farm, hold up your hand."d
Everyone voted in the affirmative and a sudden peace descended upon them.
"Who's in favor of some dessert to celebrate?" asked Samuel.
They all had coffee and apple pie. It was time to go back to their mother's room. They had settled their differences peaceably and they needed to say goodbye to their mama.
When her six children came into into the room, they noticed she was still smiling. Julia walked over to the bed. With a doctor's practiced eye, she noticed that Nora's breathing had become more shallow.
Julia turned to her siblings, "Mama is getting closer to going, and we'd better say our goodbyes to her."
Each of them, in turn, bent low and whispered into Nora's ear of their love for her. Each placed a kiss on her brow and thanked her for the way she'd raised them. Just after the last one bade her goodbye, Nora took a last breath; her soul slipped away on its journey to Paradise.
Then she saw him...there was James! He had been waiting for her! Nora and James were both young again; his arms and face were no longer scarred; she was no longer bent with pain, barely able to move.
They were face--to-face, smiling into each other's eyes. His arms were wrapped around her, once again, welcoming Nora to this place of indescribable beauty. This mother and father's faith, love, and strength had brought the children to the understanding they had today. The family was united in a way it had never been. Nora and James' children had finally gotten it. THE END