I visited her every Saturday. I never left town, and she lived nearby which made it easy to do so. I was a teacher at the local elementary school that was a couple of miles away from where she lived. I taught the children English; how to write the alphabet, how to write simple stories, and how to write their names. Many of them falter and struggle, but they would always be determined to do better the next day.
I knocked on her aging door. I heard a muffled “Coming!” I stared at the floor, smiling at the sing-song way she said it.
“Jimmy!” I looked up. What stood in front of me was a short, white-haired woman with glassy, kind eyes. Her face was pruned but showed a healthy glow. Her hands that had reached out for me were frail and bony.
“Morning, Marge.” I said to her sweetly.
Her face smiled as we both embraced one another. I kissed her on the cheek, and she let out a giggle.
“You were always so sweet, Jimmy. Come in!” Marge motioned me inside and scuttled away to the kitchen to start boiling some water for tea.
I never liked tea, but after I started to visit her, the bitterness of it became sweet; at times comforting as well. The preference grew to the point where I don't drink coffee so much anymore.
I now prefer tea, but the tea that comes from her.
“I’m sorry for the mess, Jimmy. Haha, I seem to have lost something.” Her voice peeked out of the kitchen corner, and I turned around to see her scratch her head.
“What did you lose?”
“I’m not so sure.” She replied. Marge became fixated on the carpet below her. I walked over and placed my hand on her shoulder.
“I’ll help you find it. Don’t worry.”
She took her pale hand and placed it on top of mine. She smiled sweetly and said, “Thank you, Jimmy.”
I felt my stomach starting to collapse into itself. An uneasy feeling began to wrap my chest, and I couldn’t shake it away. Looking at her, seeing her pale eyes, and realizing how old Marge was slowly becoming almost brought me to tears.
A high whistle pierced through the air, and we both learned that the kettle was crying out that the water is boiling.
“Oh! Be right back. The kettle is boiling!” Marge hastily made her way to the kitchen to turn down the stove, leaving me alone once again.
I looked around the parlor. The TV was collecting dust in one corner. The fireplace held more ash than wood. The paint in the wall was dull and old. Looking around the house, everything was aging day by day.
Becoming a lost memory.
There was a shelf that held a bundle of pictures of happy groups of people. I slowly walked over and took on off of the shelf. It was an old family picture. Marge was there, much younger and stronger, holding two children, a hand that held onto each. Next to her was a man, smoking a large cigar. His shoulders were broad, wide enough to carry both of the children at once. His face was soft, a gleaming kindness like Marge’s I felt my face crinkle into a small smile but fell to a frown. The feeling inside of me grew stronger.
It was eating me.
Festering and possessing every piece of my heart.
“Jimmy, I have the tea!” Marge’s voice helped me escape the uneasiness. I hastily placed the picture back as I swallowed the lump in my throat. She placed the tray on the pine coffee table, and I sat down right next to her.
The tea was warm. I could see the misty steam coming out of the teapot. I’m glad it was warm. I liked the tea this way.
“Were you looking at the pictures?” She asked after pouring herself a cup.
“Yes, I was.” I nodded.
“Oh! Would you like to hear about them?” She excitingly sat at the edge of her seat as she asked me. I chuckled at the sight. Even at this old age, her childlike personality still shone through.
“Yes, I’d love to, Marge.” I placed down my tea as I watched her grab the same frame I was looking at.
“This is my family. I’m sure you know of them, Jimmy! You’ve met them before.”
“That’s my husband, Theo,” She pointed at the man smoking the cigar. “A very charming man, isn’t he, and one who is too flirty for his own good! At times, I would think he would be cheating on me, but Theo, he was a good man. He loved our children with all of his heart, and he treated me as if I was a goddess! You know how he and I first met?”
I shook my head.
“Well, he was with his friends, and I was with mine. I didn’t think of much when he started to walk over to me, and then, he tripped and fell in front of me! Before I could even ask if he was okay, he went on his knee and said: ‘I fell for you, Marge Simmons. Please let me be yours.’” She laughed lightly. “The absolue nerve of the man! I was flustered to the brim. The rest is history.” She patted my knee as I chuckled along with her. Marge fell silent for a bit, studying and staring at the picture.
“I wonder where he is now. It’s been a while since I’ve last seen him! He is visiting our children while I am stuck here at home. Theo does like taking his sweet time. He’ll be back soon, won’t he, Jimmy?”
Theo Franks is dead.
“Oh! These two!” Marge pointed at the children. “Michael and Millie, the Troublesome Twins. They caused so much trouble back then, didn’t they? Good thing that they’re all grown up now. Of course, you’ve met them, haven’t you?” She turned to me.
I slowly nodded, eyes fixated on the picture.
“They’re absolutely wonderful! Such little bundles of joy! Millie is in the city, I believe. Michael is off on his adventures. He was always so curious when he was younger, always wanted to travel.” Marge smiled.
“I miss them so much. I wonder how they’re doing everyday. I haven’t seen them in such a long time!” She sighed heavily and took a sip of her tea.
I stayed silent.
Millie Franks died two years ago after taking a day off from work to visit Marge. The truck didn’t see the red light in time.
“Can...can you tell me more about Michael?” I asked in a low whisper, not daring to look at her eyes.
“Michael?” She leaned in close and whispered, “Oh, don’t tell Millie, but Michael, he has always been my favourite. I know a mother shouldn’t have favourites, but Michael is such a gem! His mind is so bright and filled with such amazing things. He showed so much promise for his future even when he was just a child. Why, I could call him a gift from God! Michael was larger than anyone could ever be. I’m blessed and proud to call him my son.”
I didn’t realize that my vision started to blur at that spot.
I didn’t realize how cold my tea became.
I didn’t realize that I was crying until Marge pointed it out.
“Why, Jimmy? What’s the matter? Do you miss them too?”
I nodded as I gasped for air, wiping away my tears.
“Yes, I do. All of them, I miss all of them.” I stared at Marge the longest when I glanced back at the picture.
I swallowed the lump in my throat.
“My name is not...Jimmy.”
She laughed loudly and slapped my knee.
“I know that, but that’s the name you wanted me to call you! You hated John because Mother never liked you.”
“You hated how Mother called you. You convinced everyone in town that your real name was Jimmy.”
John Simmons died serving his country in the year of ‘45. He never came home. He was only 25 years old.
I finally broke.
I just wanted to shout that I wasn’t Jimmy. I just wanted to cry to her that all of them were dead. I just wanted her to know that her Michael never left. I never went on those adventures. I never did.
I’m right here.
I’m right here by her side.
Mom, I’m right here. Your Michael, please.
I hated that she confused me for Uncle Jimmy. I hated that she remembered everyone else but me. I hated how every week I put myself in this position to hear her say these stories every time. I hated that I was the only one left who had to suffer seeing her like this. Oblivious of her condition, she continued life as if it was normal.
God, I’m right here.
I’m not Jimmy.
“Jimmy? Why are you crying?” I heard her say above my sobbing.
The tea was cold.
The TV was collecting dust.
The fireplace held ash.
The tea was cold.
My mother was slowly dying in front of me.
And I was becoming a lost memory.