As I lay, in the hospital, a sterile and neatly made bed beneath me, dying, I consider life and how it was to me. I am an old woman of 92 years now, with short, white hair, a face of wisdom – or so they tell me — and I lay dying of cancer. It struck me at 90 and has been killing me for the past two years. The doctors say I haven’t much time left — that I can go any day now. The painkillers (mainly Morphine now) greatly numb the pain, but I can’t stop my mind from wandering — wandering into what’s beyond me and to what my life has been. As a wiseman once said, “In the end, it’s not going to matter how many breaths you took, but how many moments took your breath away”. I reflect a lot on these moments — these precious moments — as I lay here, slowly fading away. Here is where my story starts…
The sun was going down. She stepped outside to light her cigarette. The blood orange sun glared back at her, angrily. The smoke from the first puff curled around her. As the took another drag, she saw a black cat, hiding by the tires of her car. The cat looked back at her. She dropped an ash. The cat hissed. The light from the sun was slowly fading in the autumn sky. Her cigarette got smaller. The embers fell into her makeshift ashtray on the porch where she was sitting in her rocking chair. The phone rang inside. Quickly disposing of her cigarette butt in the ashtray, she ran in through the screen door and answered it.
“Patricia Holmes?” the man on the other end asked after she said hello.
“Yes?” she answered.
“I’m calling about the farm. It seems you haven’t made a payment on your mortgage for awhile.”
Patty sighed. She knew this was coming.
“Look, gimmie sometime. I’ll have the money available for you in a couple of weeks…” she began.
“Patricia, it’s been two months. You need to make a payment now, or we’re going to have to –”
“I’ll have the money soon! Times have been tough, and work is slow!” Patty exclaimed into the
phone before she hung up.
Patty continued to look at the phone after she had hung up. It didn’t ring again. No doubt about it, she was scared. She hadn’t made a payment on her mortgage for two months. She knew she was going to lose the farm. She had no money and nowhere to go. The saddest thing was, she hadn’t had a job in over two months. The economy was down, and she didn’t even know where to look for work. Her unemployment was quickly running out. She didn’t know what to do.
“Hi, Grandma!” My granddaughter, who always visited me in the hospital every day, was just arriving as I was waking up for the day.
“Look what I brought you!” she exclaimed excitedly as she set a bag down on the table in my room and opened it. She pulled out what looked to be a cell phone. In my 92 years, I have never had or used such a contraption as that. I don’t know what she expected me to do with or how she expected me to use it!
“So now I can call you or you can call whenever you want,” my granddaughter, Jolie, was gushing to me as I stared at it.
“Jolie, I’m 92-years-old, stricken with cancer, and the doctors say I can go any day now. Why would you bring me something like that?” I asked.
“Oh, I know, but I miss you, Grandma, when you’re stuck in here, and I can’t talk to you and such,” replied Jolie. “Plus, I miss your stories. Tell me how you met Grandpa.”
I chuckled. “Well, you know, Jolie, after I got that phone call about losing the farm, the next day, I had a gentleman calling at my door…”
The doorbell was ringing. Patty went to answer it, dreading who might be behind it.
“Good afternoon,” the man on the other end greeted her, removing his hat.
“Was this man Grandpa?” Jolie interrupted me.
“Hold on, I’m getting to that part,” I replied.
The man on the other side of the door looked at her.
“May I come in?” he asked after a moment’s pause.
“Sure,” Patty replied, opening the door wider and letting him in.
“What’s this about?” she inquired as she hung his hat and coat by the door and went to put on the tea kettle.
“I’m here about the farm,” the man replied, looking at her. Patty stopped and almost dropped the cups she was getting out for tea. She set them down and looked back at the man through the partition in the kitchen.
“What do you want?”
The man looked at her warmly. “Did I startle you?” “I have a proposition for you,” he went on.
“Sell the farm to me, and I will split the land with you.”
“You mean, I can stay here?”
“Sure. I will build an extra room and board on this land.”
“That’s mighty nice of you,” Patty told the man, bringing him his tea. “One lump or two?” she asked him.
“May I ask who you are?” She handed him the teacup, and he took a sip.
As he set his teacup down, he looked at her and smiled. “Do you remember a man you met in town by the name of Jones?”
“Carl?” she asked, looking at him quizzically.
“Yes. He sent me. He would also like to ask for your hand in marriage.”
Patty’s teacup slipped out of her hand, and she spilled tea down the front of her blouse.
“Oh, my!” she exclaimed, picking the two pieces of the teacup and sighing.
“It was my mother’s set…”
The man looked sympathetically at her.
She set the two pieces of teacup aside and looked back at the man.
“What is your name?” she inquired of him.
“Timothy Jones, Carl’s brother,” he replied.
“And why do you two want to help me so bad?”
He moved closer to her. “When my brother Carl first saw you, he knew it was love at first sight. You told him about the struggles you were having with the farm, and his heart just opened and bled for you. My brother isn’t even a sensitive man, but when he saw you… it changed him somehow, and he opened his heart and let you in. You’re a beautiful good woman, Patricia.”
A tear ran down her face. How she met two good men in such her time of need, she did not know. She raised her eyes and face to the heavens and whispered Thank you.
“So do you accept?”
She wiped her tears with the back of her hand and nodded. “I inherited this farm, you know… From my parents.”
“I know.” Timothy smiled at her.
Jolie’s cell began to ring. “Oh, oh! It’s my husband… What does he want now?” She rolled her eyes heavenward.
I smiled. “Answer it. He loves you.”
“I know, I know, it’s just that… I hardly ever get time with you, Gram, and I miss you so much whenever I don’t see you.”
“When a man opens his heart to you and needs you, you should respond. Go to him. He loves you and cares for you.”
Jolie answered her phone. After 5 mins, she hung up and looked at her Grandma.
“I gotta go,” she said, tears welling up. “Bye, Gram. I love you.” She bent down and kissed me on the cheek.
I watched her go, smiling with my eyes. My granddaughter — adopted granddaughter, that is — was the most precious thing in the world to me. She came to us — our family — when she was five years old, an orphan due to a car crash that killed both of her parents. Once we went through all the legal paper work and adopted her, she was the sweetest thing that ever came into my life. Her mother — my daughter Sarah — did the best she could for Jolie and raised her to be the wonderful, hard-working, caring woman that she is today. Sarah never married, and Jolie was the closest to her own family she had.
Night had fallen. I was beginning to get drowsy from all the drugs when Jolie popped her head in again.
“7:00. Still visiting hours,” she said as she stepped into the room.
I smiled. “Jolie, I’m a bit tired and drugged up. I’m afraid I don’t have much story left in me for the night.”
“That’s all right,” she replied. “I just came back to make sure your cell phone was charged.” I looked at it, laying over on my bedside table. “Jolie…”
“It’ll only take a second, Gram, I promise you.” She picked up the phone and plugged it in to the wall. “There. Now I can call you tomorrow and speak to you. Sorry, but I’ll be in a meeting at work all day and won’t be able to stop by, but I’ll call you later to see how you feel.” She looked at me with sad eyes. “Did you really accept Grandpa’s proposal that quick?” she asked me.
I nodded, sleepily. “It was a wonderful thing to have met such a wonderful man in town,” I slurred. “I took the chance and what he brought me was a beautiful daughter, whom I named Sarah. She was so sweet and lovely, and she brought into the family the kindest soul into the family.” I looked at her. “You are a wonderful human being, Jolie, and I do love you very much, but please, lemme get some sleep.” My eyes twinkled as I watched her go.
“Good-night, Gram,” she said as she kissed my forehead. “I love you.”
After Jolie’s meeting the next day, she drove to the hospital. What she saw when she got to her grandmother’s room was a shock! Nurses were running in and out, cleaning; the bed was empty.
“Where’s my grandmother?” Jolie asked, terrified of finding out the answer.
The nurses looked at each other and at Jolie with sadness in their eyes.
“We’re sorry,” one of the nurses said, “but your grandmother has passed away in her sleep last night.”
Tears sprang to Jolie’s eyes. She walked towards the bed where her grandmother had been laying dying, and touched the sheet. The nurse put a hand on her shoulder.
“She went peacefully in her sleep,” the nurse explained to her.
Jolie didn’t look up from the bed. She closed her eyes. Tears were rolling down her cheeks.