Thursday, October 22, 2009

Survivor - #fridayflash

Another Thursday night.

She usually looked forward to sharing the next hour with her husband, but tonight she felt weary. Leaning on the table, she pushed away her half-eaten Stouffer’s lasagna and pulled herself up. Wavering over her walker, she adjusted the dial on the portable oxygen tank to highest flow.

The walk across the kitchen seemed interminable. She paused at the counter and gathered the supplies. The cans rattled against the metal basket. At the living room entrance, she rested again. The carpet slowed her down; it always did. She adjusted her nasal cannula. After a few breaths, she shambled the last steps to the Lazy Boy.

Her husband’s white hair always shocked her; once, it had been jet black. But she loved the feel of it now; spun silver soft as the Lamb’s Ear edging the front walk. He slumped in the chair, washrag pressed against the side of his face where the tumor had eaten into his jaw bone. A good man, an obliging patient, his tee shirt was already rolled up to his chest.

“Dinner time.” She tried to sound chipper.

He grunted, nodded his head, but didn’t look at her.

The tubing unwound in her hands, unreeling like a garden hose. She leaned over him, feeling precarious without her walker to steady her. Her hand trembled against the warm skin of his stomach, shrunken so that the skin folded in canyons. This time she managed to slip the tubing end into the port on the first try. It wasn’t always that easy. Tears of relief welled in her eyes.

She wheezed and gripped the side of the recliner to catch her breath. She shook one can, then the next, struggling with the pop-tops. Arthritis crippled the finger that had once quilted and knitted, that had wrung weeds from the earth and turned patients in their hospital beds. She despised her weakness.

He grunted again.

“Oh. What’s for dinner tonight?” A new part of the ritual she kept forgetting. “Tonight we have meatloaf with lots of catsup, mashed potatoes dripping with butter, and, of course, peas. The LeSuer ones you love. For dessert, Boston cream pie. Your favorite.”

He grunted again, but managed a weak smile.

She smiled back. She hung the bag from the IV pole and slowly poured in one can. Liquid the consistency and color of gravy slowly edged down the clear tube. She sighed as she sank to the couch and waited for gravity to pull sustenance into his frail body. He watched, too, his eyes anxious on the bag.

She wondered whether the artificial nutrition had any flavor, whether he could somehow taste it through his blood. Whether it satisfied. To her, the liquid smelled the way chalk tasted. She thought of the meals they had shared the past 49 years: the duck confit and profiteroles in Paris, the smorgasboard of salmon and cheeses enjoyed in Sweden on their second honeymoon, their daughters and grandchildren gathered around the Thanksgiving table. The glasses of wine, the morning coffee. Thursday night pizza and television. All those years.

“Honey, do you remember when we—“

He grunted. “Shush.”

She bit her lip, averting her gaze to the floor. Her mouth flooded with a metallic wetness.

He looked past her, to the wide-screen. Buff young bodies dove into crystalline water in an exotic country she would never visit. Jeff Probst’s voice filled the room. “Last week, on Survivor…”. She looked again at the mud-colored nourishment flowing into the hole in her husband’s stomach and wondered how many more Thursdays they still had left. She patted his knee.

“I love you.”

He grunted, eyes still glued to the tube. But he released the remote, circled her trembling fingers, and squeezed them tight.


Excerpted from... life.

Peace, Linda


  1. Oh, sad...and beautiful.

    And for him to be watching the young and whole bodies on Survivor :(


  2. Yes, heartbreaking, and also heartwarming in its own way. This is a really emotive excerpt, I'd love to read the whole thing.

  3. We never really know the answer. So, we must enjoy every moment we can. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Linda, this is such a moving story. You captured the emotion beautifully.
    Great read!

  5. This was touching, beautiful ... and bone-deep scary as hell. You want to recoil from such a life, and yet hope for it as well.

  6. Beauty and love even in decay. That is the human spirit, captured so well here. Wonderful!

  7. Superb case of using the right title.

    I don't think you could of used a better word to capture this story.

    like others have said, sad and beautiful

  8. This is simply excellent, Linda. I just don't know what else to say. I'm in tears.

  9. Beautiful, poignant, sad, yet there was a glimmer of happiness. Isn't that life? 49 years together. Many wonderful memories, and of course Survivor, to get them through those remaining Thursdays.

    Well done as always, Linda. Just a delicate touch.

  10. Beautiful and haunting, Linda. The pacing was sublime, a perfect match for the slowed down part of life where the clock races against you.


  11. Thanks for making the tears well up again and fall over the edge...

    too real!

  12. A beautiful tale of what it means to truly love someone.
    I really, really enjoyed this.

  13. Thanks all for reading. This story comes from my heart - and my life. These are my parents. The circumstances are true, the love is truer; I only imagine how they spent last night together, watching their favorite television show.

    My way of paying tribute, my way of mourning... Peace, Linda

  14. Jeez and you said my fridayflash was heartbreaking!

  15. Very beautifully written Linda. Love the skin folding into canyons and soft as Lamb's Ear visuals. I don't want to get old. It's so hard watching them fade away, especially knowing it might/will be us one day.

  16. Beautiful! A love story and horror story, perfectly intertwined. Wonderful flash. Thanks for sharing it!

  17. Hey, I know this couple.
    If a picture is worth a thousand words then a thousand words can paint a picture.

  18. Haunting, beautiful, heartbreaking. Your title says it all.

  19. I think you captured the scene perfectly.

  20. Wow, what an emotional piece. So sad, and yet hauntingly sweet. I know this must have been hard for you to write. My heart goes out to you and to your parents.

  21. Sweet and sad - and very well done.
    I agree with Chance on the title - perfect choice

  22. You've captured so much tenderness here--and through such precise details. Really beautiful. And sad.

  23. Oh my, that was heartwrenching.
    Yes, I recognized that life excerpt and you voiced it with the exact love touch necessary to remove pity from the reader's feelings but yet you invoked powerful empathy and appreciation.

    Loved it.

  24. Foly Huck.
    As powerful in detail and structure as it is in emotion. A true coupe de grace.

  25. Thanks all for taking the time to read my words. For better or worse... a small tribute to the people who made me, raised me, loved me. Peace, Linda

  26. A beautiful tribute-I bet they are amazing people. Certainly they raised an amazing daughter.

  27. What a beautiful snapshot of a couple who truly love each other!

  28. Reminds me of what my grandparents are going through at the moment. Not exactly, but sort of close. Good story.

  29. We should all be so lucky as to love and be loved like this. Beautifully written. Beautiful story. 5 stars!

  30. Thank you all, and aw shucks, Kelley ;^)

    See you tomorrow... Peace, Linda