Sunday, May 30, 2021

Across the Water (short story) (children's fiction) by Leanne Dyck

 Readers' reviews:  

So good. I'd love to read this to a group of children. When it's illustrated I will! 

And it was entertaining, especially to young children, due to it's imagination-provoking lines, lyrics. What got me, was the sense of loneliness and isolation in your story. And the setting. The beautiful thing though was their determination to connect. Children are indeed lovely beings, who mostly does not care about differences.


photo by ldyck


Two children, who live on neighbouring islands, try to get together to play. This short story is a little bit silly.


I stand on the sandy shore, wave my arms, and chant, 

Come over to my house

Come over and play

Come over to my house

We'll have a fun day

Across the water, you stand on the other shore and ask, "How do I get there?"

"You could catch a ferry."

You run here; you run there--here, there, there, here. A ball of light flies away. You flop down onto the sand. A few minutes later you say, "I can't catch the fairy. She's too fast."

You chant, 

Come over to my house

Come over and play

Come over to my house

We'll have a fun day

Across the water, I stand on the shore and ask, "How do I get there?"

"You could fly."

I flap my arms up and down, down and up--faster and faster and faster, but I can only get a few feet off the ground.

I say, "I can't fly. My arms get too tired."

I chant, 

Come over to my house

Come over and play

Come over to my house

We'll have a fun day

"I have an idea," you say. You run to the water, take a big leap, and... Splash! My island is too far away. You have to swim back to your shore.

You chant

Come over to my house

Come over and play

Come over to my house

We'll have a fun day

My turn, I whistle and a friendly orca swims to my island. I jump on his back. He takes me to your island and then he swims away.

I search here and there, there and here--but I can't find you anywhere. 

Ha-ha-ha, a seagull calls. You jump off the seagull's back and onto my shore. "Yoo-woo, where are you?" you call.

"Over here."

We laugh, we sigh, we chant,

Come over to my house

Come over and play

Come over to my house

We'll have a fun day


"I have an idea," I say. "Stay right there. Don't move."

I make a raft with driftwood and seaweed and set sail for your island. I get closer and closer and closer to you. But then the seaweed breaks. Piece by piece the driftwood floats away. I'm way too tired to swim. All I can do is hold onto the last piece of driftwood. It starts to crumble.

"Help!" I yell.

You swim to me, wrap an arm around me and pull me to shore. We fall asleep on the sandy beach, under the stars.

Come over to my house

Come over and play

Come over to my house

We'll have a fun day





'Over to your house' photo by ldyck


Listening to...

The Penguin Podcast

The CBC spring reading list


            photo by ldyck

June on this blog...

On Thursday, June 17 Iceland celebrates Icelandic National Day and so...
We'll celebrate a day early--Wednesday, June 16--with a reading of In Icelandic

But I've jumped too far ahead...

Wednesday, June 2 
Author Reading
Alone with Him (short story)
I'm alone with him in my bedroom and we're going way too far, but I can't stop myself...

Sunday, June 6
Short Story
Mayne Island Bakery
While selecting an ice cream cone at our island bakery, I take time to show my appreciation, but I don't think it's appreciated.

Wednesday, June 9
Author Reading
Lazy Bones (short story)
Sometimes other people don't understand our lazy 'writerly' ways.

Sunday, June 13
Short Story
The Magic Carpet (children's fiction)
A rain day is saved by using imagination. 

Wednesday, June 16
Author Reading 
In Icelandic (short story)
In celebration of Icelandic National Day

Sunday, June 20
Book Review
From the Ashes by Jesse Thistle (memoir)
puts a face to homelessness 

Wednesday, Jun 23
Author Reading
Writing Stories (short story)
I think I'm alone in my bedroom until...

Sunday, June 27
Book Reviewer:  Benni Chisholm
Lost Immunity by Daniel Kalla (thriller)
CBC radio programs featuring Lost Immunity by Daniel Kalla

Wednesday, June 30
Author Reading
Is sharing stories with your spouse the best way to improve your writing?




Sharing My Author Journey...

Ask me how I know the CoVid crisis is almost over?

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Book Review: Dropped Threads: What We Aren't Told (anthology) (Volume one) edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson

 On Twitter, I tweeted that this anthology was 'little-known'. It may have been 'little-known' to me but to the rest of Canada it was a  'publishing phenomenon'. I'm surprised that someone didn't write back, "Listen, kid." People are very kind. 


This book has sat on my bookshelf untouched for years. I could have donated it to my local library or bookstore. I could have, but I was determined to read it--someday. That day came while searching for a suitable book to review for short story month.




Dropped Threads:

What We Aren't Told

Edited by Carol Shields

and Marjorie Anderson

anthology

Volume one

Vintage Canada

a division of Random House Canada

2001


Dropped Threads is an anthology--as such I would liken it to a box of chocolate. I wasn't sure what waited for me among its pages--short stories or essays, fiction or non-fiction. (How to write a fictional essay) I enjoyed solving this mystery as I happily flipped from one author to the next.

The majority of the authors are Canadian (Rosalie Weaver lives in northern Minnesota), many are from Manitoba. Sandy Frances Duncan is from the Southern Gulf Islands. Imagine that. Some like Carol Shields, Margaret Atwood, Lorna Crozier, Miriam Toews are established authors. Others are academics, ranchers, politicians, homemakers, journalists, lawyers. They are all women. They all address the same question--what is missing from the body of female wisdom?

Among Dropped Threads mainly non-fiction essays ('Lettuce Turnip and Pea' by Anne Hart and 'Edited Version' by Isla James and 'Wild Roses' by Katherine Govier and 'Reflections from Cyberspace' by Carol Hussa Harvey and Katherine C. H. Gardiner are short stories)I found advice on how to grow old, deal with grief, praise for women's work, and observe what women gain during menopause.

'She who knows not

and knows not that she knows not

is uniformed; inform her'

Sandy France Duncan, 'I Have Blinds Now'


Dropped Threads 2: More of What We Aren’t Told



I'm fortunate to have a neighbour with a green thumb
and recently received this uplifting gift.


What I listened to last week...


The Forest of Reading is a Children's Literature writing contest in which the readers' nominate and vote for their favourite books. 

To learn about the Forest of Reading 2021




For me, this was an amazing introduction to this festival. I loved the exchange of ideas and the in-depth explanation of Benjamin Labatut's book When We Cease to Understand the World--translated by Adrian Nathan and shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A Woman Like Her (short story) (6/6) by Leanne Dyck

Part five:  Mom tells me that my place isn't with her in Manitoba. It's with my husband, Byron, in BC. So I fly home and shortly after I do Mom dies.

Readers' Reviews:  Pass the Kleenex! Beautiful writing Leanne.

So very moving, Leanne. Thank you for sharing your experience, your thoughts and your heartache.

Beautifully written Leanne, you touched my heart!

Beautiful words indeed n thanks for openness about grief... Somehow your words helped me...shows I am not alone or crazy.



photo by ldyck

Part six

My grief is a heavy rock. It squeezes out all light, colour, emotion. It flattens me.

Byron is busy on his computer when I walk into his office. I pull open the fridge, grab a beer and take a swig. 

That gets his attention."What are you doing? It's the middle of the day."

"I'm going to finish this beer, go into the kitchen, take a sharp knife, and cut my wrists. Don't worry I won't make a mess. I'll sit in the bathtub."

 A day or two after mentioning that plan, I begin to see a grief counsellor.

The lights are dim. The sofa may be comfortable, but I sit bolt upright--staring at the tiled floor. The counsellor, pen ready, waits for me to spill my guts.

"Describe a typical day."

I don't look at him. "I don't understand what you want me to say."

"Start with where you work."

"I don't. I quit."

"Okay. So start with what you do first thing in the morning. You get up, have breakfast, and...?"

"And I feel tired so I go back to bed." Every time I open my mouth his pen moves across the page, I can sense it.

"For how long?"

"About twenty minutes--could be longer."

"Okay, after your nap you..."

"I try to watch TV but it's crap. I try to read but I'm not interested. So I go pester Byron."

"Byron is?"

"My husband.  I'm in his office but I can tell he's trying to work so I go have lunch. But I'm not really hungry so I stuff my face with donuts, chips--anything with sugar. Then I feel tired so I go back to bed. Look, I don't know what you want me to tell you. I spend most of my life in bed."

"How do you feel after you get up?"

"Tired."

"Do you think napping is helping?"

"I don't know."

"Well, you go to bed tired and you wake up tired. So...?"

I'm not stupid. I know what he wants me to say. "It's not working."

"What do you think you could do instead?"

"What do you think I should do?"

"That's not the way this works," he tells me. "Trust yourself, you know the answer."

"Um, I don't know. Go for a walk."

"Excellent idea." He sounds happy like we'd made some kind of breakthrough. If we have I missed it. "When was the last time you went out with friends?"

"I don't have any."

"None?"

"Okay, some."

"And you went..." Long pause, fill in the blank, your answer goes here.

"We went to the beach."

"It was a nice day?"

"No, we went in a thunderstorm." I'm trying to be rude but he laughs. "Yes, it was a nice day. The sun was shining, the water was warm."

"How did you feel?"

"Relaxed, I guess. But then..." He doesn't say a word, just waits with his pen. And I give him. "Mom's dead and I'm enjoying myself like it doesn't matter. She was this wonderful woman, she did everything for me. Now she's dead, let's party. Like her life didn't matter. But then... but then I got out of the water. I found the most uncomfortable place to sit--between two rocks--I wanted to hurt myself."

"Do you often feel like you want to harm yourself?"

"Often? I guess. But I'm too much of a wimp to go through with it."

"Okay, so, you're back on the beach--sitting between a rock and a hard place and...?"

"My friend keeps coming over to me. 'Leanne? Are you okay, Leanne?'" And I just lose it. I'm bawling so hard that I can barely breathe.

"Take your time." He pushes the box of tissues closer to me.

Finally, I squeeze out, "I told her, 'I want to go home.'"

Sitting there, talking to him is exhausting, but I keep going back and one night, in my dreams, I see a child--her head is buried in her knees. She's crying. Between sobs, I hear, "I'm so scared. I lost my mommy."

I wrap my arms around her. "Don't worry. I'm here. I won't let anyone hurt you."

She raises her head and I recognize her--my younger self. Mom has entrusted me with her care. And I will always protect her.

***

A year or so later, I have another dream. Mom and I are doing the dishes. She washes and I dry. She scoops her hand into the sink, blows, and covers me with bubbles.

"Hey." I laugh.

"That's better." She dries her hands, reaches into her pocket, and pulls out a folded note. "Read this when it's time for you to wake up."

A mother's worries are many,

joys are far too few,

one of my greatest joys is to see you happy,

so smile, darn you

signed

Your Mother



photo by ldyck

Thank you for being there as I shared this story. If you are grieving right now please know that someday you will see the sun again.

Related stories...

From Mom

A Woman with a Pen

Lasting Love

A New Reality


Sunday, May 23

Book Review:  Dropped Threads:  What We Aren't Told

Edited by Carol Shields and Marjorie Anderson

An anthology by women about women


Wednesday, May 26

Author Reading:  The Invisible Woman

by Leanne Dyck

a woman loses her identity


Sunday, May 30

Across the Water (short story) (children's fiction)

by Leanne Dyck

two children attempt to cross the water so they can play together


Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Woman Like Her (short story) (5/6) by Leanne Dyck

Part three:  All her life, Mom had shared a bedroom so I move into the palliative care room to be by her side. 

photo by ldyck

 Part five

We are chatting up a storm, but then Mom grows quiet. "You know, Leanne," she finally says, "I've always loved you and now that I've gotten to know you as an adult, I really like you. You're a good friend, but you need to go back to BC. You need to be with Byron."

She wanted to protect me from the final ending. She wanted to protect me from her end. And there was something within me that wanted her to--that feared I wasn't strong enough to face it. And so I left.

***

The plane finally lands. It feels so good to be back in Byron's arms again. The minute we get home, I dial the phone.

"Mom's right here," Rick, my oldest brother, tells me.

"Honey Bunny, are you home?"

"Yes, Mom, I'm in BC. It was a long flight. The plane was delayed. Byron told me that I owe him one for making him wait."

"Is Byron there?"

I cup my hand over the receiver. "Byron," I call.

He emerges from wherever he's been hiding. 

"Mom wants to talk with you."

I uncup the receiver. "Mom, he's right h--."

"Leanne," Rick interrupts me. "Leanne, Mom's sleeping."

***

A few days later, the phone rings, Byron answers. "Leanne, it's for you. It's Jim."

"Mother passed away, peacefully," Dad tells me. "She wasn't alone, Keith and I were by her side."

I see Dad and my youngest older brother sitting beside Mom's bed as she takes her last breath. I'm not imagining it. I’m recalling it—like I was there.

Dad breaks through my thoughts. "Thank you for being with Mom. I know that time was precious to her. Oh, yes, and dear, one more thing, could you please send me the tribute you wrote. Your mother and I want it to be read at her funeral. I love you, Kid. You know."

I drive my fingernails into the palm of my hand so I won't cry. "Yes, Dad, I know. And I love you too."

Byron is there for me when I hang up the phone.


Part six




This week I will listen to...

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

A Woman Like Her (short story) (4/6 ) by Leanne Dyck

Part three:  An ambulance takes Mom back home to Eriksdale. I sit beside her all the way home.

 Reader's review: Omg, the tears are falling as I read your heartfelt story, Leanne. 



photo by ldyck

Part four

During the day visitors come and go as if through a revolving door. Mom is pleased to see them all. To inquires of, "How are you?" Mom quickly replies, "Fine. And how are you?" She is genuinely interested. Through comments and follow-up questions, she makes it know that she doesn't want to talk about herself; she wants to remain plugged into the world around her. 

The visits are brief but still draining. I try to control her social interactions, behind her back. If she discovers that I delayed a visit by a day or even a few hours, I know she will be upset. Between visits, the morphine overtakes her and she sleeps.

The phone rings and even though it's in the next room, I rush to it--willing the sound not to wake her.

Byron's silky voice wraps around me. I cuddle with him on the chesterfield. 

"Beth phoned," he tells me and that changes the mood.

Immediately, I begin to think I've lost my job. She's sick and tired of waiting for me to get back and has hired someone to replace me. Or maybe she's just threatening to if I don't go back immediately. But my place is here with Mom. 

"Did she sound annoyed?"

"What? No. She was just checking on you. She told me to tell you not to worry; everything at the daycare is fine. They're missing you, but fine. And she wanted me to reassure you that your job will be waiting for you when you get back."

***

A nurse whispers in the night, "Your mom needs you."

Groggy, I reach for the edge of the blanket, try to climb out of the pull-out bed but bang my knee on the arm of the chesterfield. I stumble, half-blind, bare feet on the cold tile, to Mom's bed.

"Oh, hello, dear." She sounds puzzled by my appearance.

The nurse wheels the last of the machinery past me, out the door, and down the corridor. 

"Mom, it's Leanne."

"Leanne. Of course, I knew that."

"Would you like me to sit with you for a while?"

"Yes, that would be nice." She smiles.

Words full of anger, thunder from the mouth of another patient down the hall and explode around us. 

"I'm going to go tell the nurses. We don't need to listen to that."

"Leanne, be kind, she doesn't know where she is."

I close the bedroom door but that doesn't prevent the words from attacking us.

I can't just sit here and listen to it.

"I've decided to drop out of university, quit my job, and move out of Coquitlam." The plan is being formulated as I speak. "At least that's what I want to do. I haven't told Byron, yet. But..."

All I want to do is hide--dig a deep hole and jump in.

"What will do, Honey Bunny?"

Huh, that's a question. Grasping for something, I say, "Open a store."

I've never operated a cash register and I can't add in my head. So why not.

"That's a wonderful idea." Mom has always supported my dreams. "What kind of store?"

"A bookstore." I have dyslexia but I've always loved books. So why not.

We continue to plan my future until a yawn burst through her lips.

I arrange the blankets--holding her in a cozy nest.

"Don't leave. Not yet."

"Would you like me to pray?" Praying out loud for someone else--especially mom, especially now--how can I do that? But by the way she looks I know I have to try.

"Dear God, thank you for this time for Mom and me to be together. Thank you for the dedicated doctors and nurses that offer such compassionate care. Thank you for the family and friends who support us. Now as we prepare for sleep, please hold us in the palm of Your hand." I knew I'd forgotten something and quickly add, "Amen." I look over and Mom is asleep. 

Part five



Listened to 



Sunday, May 9, 2021

A Woman Like Her (short story) (3/6 ) by Leanne Dyck

Part two:  I flew to Manitoba to visit my mom in the hospital. 

Reader's review:  Heartfelt description.  

I'll be waiting for 4/6!

Great storytelling and so vivid. Eager to read more.





Part three

Friday, Saturday, Sunday...Monday comes too soon and Byron flies away with my kiss on his lips.

I walk into Mom's room and she's sitting in a chair...in...a...chair.

"Hello, Kid," Dad says and gives me a huge smile.

"Hi, Dad. This is good news." I nod at Mom in the chair.

"Your mother is very strong. She'll be able to go home soon."

I walk over to Mom. "You must be so happy that you're feeling be--." Jaw locked, hands tightly wrapped around the arms of the chair, knuckles white and--. "Dad, how long has Mom been sitting in that chair?"

"Not long. She was there when I arrived--shortly after nine. Why?"

"It's almost ten. She has been sitting there in agony for an hour." I head to the door.

"Leanne, the nurses know what they're doing." 

I leave Dad's words in the room.

"Excuse me." That nurse sails right past but the next one won't. "My mom needs your help."

That nurse is five foot nothing and, I estimate all of one hundred pounds. "Where is your mother?" But she has a huge presence--like a six-foot, two hundred pound linebacker.

She follows me into Mom's room. 

Dad gives me a look I recognize from my childhood--like when I lipped off or something. I know he isn't pleased but that isn't my biggest concern right now.

"How are you today, Mrs. Willetts?" 

"She's just fine," Dad says.

"She's not fine," I say, "Look at her."

"Would you like to get back into bed, Mrs. Willetts?"

Mom nods. "I'd like to--." She looks at Dad. "I'm fine."

"We're going to move you back into your bed, Mrs. Willetts." The nurse looks at me. "If you'll support her other--."

"Me? But--I might hurt--I'm not a nurse."

"I could call for another nurse but it will take her some time to get here if one is free."

I do what I can to help.

 When Mom is resting comfortably, the nurse removes the chart from the end of the bed. "Sitting is recommended, but only for short periods of time--not exceeding fifteen minutes. I'd like to apologize to you, Mrs. Willetts, and to your family." She looks from Dad to me. "I assure you this won't happen again."

The nurse is gone and Mom is sleeping, so I take the opportunity to try to apologize, but Dad cuts me off. "No, Kid. You were right. Your mom needed help and you were there for her. I'm proud of you."

***

Dad and I take turns going for lunch. He goes first. 

A nurse brings a tray with a plastic glass of brown liquid and unwraps a bendy straw.

"No, thanks," Mom is quick to say.

"Now, Mrs. Willetts, if you won't eat, you have to drink the meal replacement."

"I said. I don't want. Any."

The nurse looks so frustrated so I say, "I can help my mom." 

"That would be very helpful," the nurse hands me the straw and puts the wrapper in the garage. "It's very important that she drinks all of it." She looks at me first and then Mom and then she leaves the room.

I pull the aluminum lid off the glass, add the straw, and bring the glass to Mom, but she tells me. "Leanne, put that back on the table."

I'm on my own--with only one title daughter. "But the nurses said that you need to drink all of it."

Mom sighs. "It's just so bland."

"I know it's awful but--."

"Really? How do you know? Why don't you taste it."

So I do and... "Oh. Oh, that's gross."

Mom laughs. 

"But what are we going to do? You have to drink it." I stare at the gray carpeted wall. Thumbtacked cards are here and here. Other thumb tacks wait their turn to be useful. And just like that, an idea is born. "How about this. Each time you finish drinking one of these gross things." I hold up the glass so we can glare at it. "I'll pin the aluminum lid to the wall. They'll be your gold stars for consistently good behaviour. They'll help us see your progress. What do you think?"

"I think my daughter is a genius. But don't forget to rinse and dry the lids before you pin them to the wall."

I promise Mom I will and we set to work earning her first gold star.

Day after day, we add lids to the wall. Until we add so many that Mom earns her ticket home.

Eriksdale's ambulance may not be the newest or the best, but the attendants know exactly what to say. "Hey, Oli. You ready to come home to the haystack? Say goodbye to this big smoke? We sure have missed you." They share news from Eriksdale--all the changes that have happened since she has been away. On and on through their words, they bring her closer and closer to Eriksdale. 

In the back of the ambulance, I sit beside Mom all the way home.

Eriksdale's Palliative Care two-room suite is newly built and carefully designed. The first room contains a chesterfield with a pull-out bed, a kitchenette, and a cordless phone. This family room is L-shaped and surrounds the bedroom. Mom's bed faces a framed finely painted landscape--a green meadow with wildflowers. A large window is to the left of her bed offering her a view of Eriksdale in winter--snowbanks and icicles dangling from trees. Exhausted from the journey, Mom sleeps under a handmade quilt in shades of green, her favourite colour.

That night she sleeps alone for the first time in her life. Growing up, she'd shared a bedroom with three sisters. She'd moved from that room to her marriage bed. Even in the hospital in Winnipeg, she'd had a roommate. I worry and stew all night long until I find a solution. The next day, at the breakfast table, I tell Dad, "Do you remember, yesterday, when the nurse told us that sometimes a family member would sleep on the pull-out bed? Well, that's where I'm going to sleep."


Part four





Are you following me?


I'm listening to...


Sharing my author journey...

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

A Woman Like Her (short story) (2/6 ) by Leanne Dyck

Readers' reviews:  I find your stories so great n seem to draw me in.

A really good story Leanne! Can't wait to read more!!

Part oneI received a phone call advising me to go home to Manitoba to see my terminally ill mother. 


photo by ldyck

Part two

Lost in the toxic goo of my mind, I rely on Byron to guide me from our house to the plane and down the hospital corridor. The smell of cleaners, antiseptic, coffee, and food blends together and makes my stomach flip.

"Pancakes, please," Byron tells the woman behind the counter. He nudges me. "What are you going to have?"

I shake my head and place my hand on my stomach.

"Are you sure? You haven't eaten since supper, and you had very little of that."

"I'm just not hungry," I mumble.

Byron pays and picks up his tray. "Hey, isn't that Jim?"

That man sure doesn't look like Dad. He's too old, too fragile.  Who's he talking to...? Who's that woman in a white lab coat sitting at the table with him? She must be Mom's doctor.

When the could-be doctor stands up, Dad puts his hands on the table, leans forward, and pushes himself to his feet.  She gives him a hug before she speeds down the aisle, passes us, and leaves the cafeteria.

Dad waves us over.

"Hi, Jim." Byron sets his tray on Dad's table.

I give Dad a gentle hug--worried that if I press too hard he'll crumble.

I sit down but Byron doesn't. "Where's the bathroom?"

"Just over there." Dad directs Byron with a nod of his head.

Thin wisps of steam rise from Dad's coffee mug. "Are you thirsty, Kid?"

I want to see Mom but I'm scared. 

"Oh, no... No, thank you."

I want everything to be the way it was before I left.

"How was your flight?"

I'm so very scared that things have changed. Please, Dad, tell me she'll be okay.

But he shouldn't have to try to carry me through this. The weight of it is already crushing him. 

"Our flight was smooth. No turbulence."

"It's been so long since we talked. What's new?"

I should have written, phoned, visited more. If I had... None of this would have...This is all my fault. I'm so sorry. I love you. Mom won't be forgotten. I'll make sure she isn't. 

All the words try to come out of my mouth at once and so I say, "Bttlr."

Dad smiles because he thinks I'm still his little girl. That I haven't matured. That I'm not strong. 

He needs someone to lean on. I need to prove to him that I am that someone. 

I pull my journal out of my purse and flip to the page. I remember the words as he reads them.

Mom has filled...

I wait to see the look of pride sweep across his face. I wait to hear him say This is really good, Leanne.

But his face hardens into a scowl. "What is this?"

"I wanted to make sure she would be... It's..."

Too early. I gave it to him too early. I should have waited...until... How could I be so Stu-pid? So cold.

Sharp eyes glare at me. "Leanne, what is this!"

"I didn't know... I didn't mean to..."

He drops my journal on the table like it's a foul-smelling rag. Metal chair legs scrape against the linoleum floor and he's gone. 

***

The two of us against the world, Byron leads me to the nurse's desk. "We're here to visit Olavia Willetts," he tells her. "I'm her son-in-law Byron Dyck."

The nurse gives him the room number and tells him to follow the mint green tiles to the oncology ward.

"Dear, you have to eat." The closer we get to Mom's room, the louder the voice grows. "Just a little, Hon."

At the threshold, I squeeze Byron's hand--holding him there. I breathe out--one, two, three. In--one, two, three. "I'm so glad you're here."

"You'll be okay," he whispers and ushers me into the room.

A mint green uniformed nurse holds a bowl in one hand, spoon in the other. The patient is as white as a sheet and looks like a stiff wind could blow her over. She looks more dead than alive.  

Where's Mom? She must in the next b--.

"Why are you here?" A woolly-haired, elderly woman dismisses me with a wave of her hand and focuses on Byron. "Now you. You, I'm happy to see."

Byron smiles at her. "Thanks."

"Well, you can't travel back to Ericston on an empty stomach, Hon." The nurse tells her patient.

Ericston? She must mean Eriksdale. So that ghost is... "Mom?"

Mom searches my face with her saucer-like eyes. "Oh, Honey Bunny, you're here."

The nurse puts the bowl on the table beside the bed and moves out of the way. I lean down and softly press my lips against Mom's cheek. As I search for words, Byron fills the silence. "Hi, Oli. Nice room."

"Oh, Byron. It's so good to see you." Mom reaches for his hand. "How's work?"

"Oh, the usual--we're really busy," he tells her.

"Then you'll have to get back soon."

"Yes, unfortunately, I fly back on Monday." They let go of each other's hands, but I dive in. "But I can stay as long as you want."

"Well, then we're going to have a nice long visit." Mom smiles at me


Part three





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Sunday, May 2, 2021

A Woman Like Her (short story) (1/6 ) by Leanne Dyck

 Readers comments:  Your writing is beautiful

...can't wait to read the rest...

Thanks for sharing this loving and thoughtful story. Please continue!

Beautifully written.


This is part one of a heartwarming, life-changing six-part short story inspired by events that unfolded around my mom's death. 


photo by ldyck


Most of the babies are asleep in the nap room. Jordan sits in the highchair, an array of banana slices spread before him. He captures the pieces between thumb and index finger, wraps his fist around each morsel, and pops his saliva-soaked hand into his mouth. Mashed banana covers bib, ears, and sparse hair.

Each time he looks up I spoon mashed carrots into his mouth. Banana--spoon--banana--spoon. We are managing nicely when we hear the phone ring in the director's office.

"Tel-e-phone. Tel-e-phone." My funny voice makes Jordan giggle.

"Leanne, where's Trudy?" Beth, the director, walks into the room. She is still wearing her shoes which is odd because she knows the rule:  No hard-soled shoes in the infant room.

Following my obvious gaze, Beth steps back and kicks off her shoes. 

"Trudy's in the nap room with Brooke. Do you want me to get her?"

"No, the phone's for you."

Who...? Maybe Byron? 

"It's a man."

Nope, Beth has met my husband. Maybe one of my professors? Or Bill. Bill and I co-facilitate a parent resource group.

"You can take the call in my office. I'll help Jordan finish. Does Sara need anything?"

Sara looks like a baby Harp seal scooting around on her belly after a bright pink beach ball.

"Oh, no, that girl just wants to have fun."

Though small, the office is always orderly. Posters of smiling children and a calendar with circled dates hang on the cork walls. A metal filing cabinet decorated with magnetic happy faces is shoved into a corner. An old-fashioned oak teacher's desk occupies the centre of the room. Paperwork is neatly organized in two wicker baskets. The phone receiver lies in one of the baskets.

"Hello." I recognize the voice immediately--my eldest brother. I'd moved to BC three years ago but I still feel pangs of homesickness, especially when I speak with my family. "I'm surprised you're phoning me at work."

"Listen, Leanne, I wish I was calling about something more--."

My knees begin to buckle and I collapse into the padded chair. 

"It's Mom. The doctor thinks you should come home."

Fighting back tears, I hang up the phone and push myself back to the infant room.

"Beth..." Somehow I'm able to get the news out.

"Leanne, you've got to go home. We'll manage here," she tells me.

***

The click of Byron's computer keyboard greets me at the door. 

I can't face him--not yet. I'll drown him in tears. I can't dump this all on him. I have to wait until I'm...I'm strong enough. 

I pass his home office and make my way to our bedroom. 

I need to... I need to... 

I flop onto the bed, close my eyes, and... but dark thoughts make rest impossible. I push myself up with my elbows and swing my knees off the bed. Where's the...? I need to... 

The large red suitcase is in the back of the closet. 

Spoiled--that was me. My parents always gave me everything even if that meant they had to do without.

I pull open my top dresser drawer.

But I've changed, grown-up.

I collect several balls of socks. 

I'll be like Florence Nightingale--not think about my own needs at all, only Mom.

I stack the socks against one side of the suitcase. 

We'll talk like we used to about fashion and home renovation. 

Back to the dresser this time for panties. 

She'll grow stronger and stronger. Until she's strong enough to go home. And then so will I. 

The panties tumble out of my hands and onto the socks like leaves. I ease myself onto the edge of the bed and slid down to the floor. 

Or maybe I'll stay longer. Have a break from work and school and volunteering and... I've pushed myself so hard for so long. 

I push myself to my knees and then I stand. 

I'm so tired, but everyone else is managing all their stuff. Why can't I manage mine? I need to push myself harder and not cave in so easily. I can't lose my job. I have to complete my degree. The parents need me. I can't let Byron down. I need to pack a few bras. I just wish I didn't always feel so tired. Maybe I should reduce my hours at the daycare? Or take fewer credits? There's got to be a way all of this can work. Mom will know. She always has. 

I grab a few bras and toss them into the suitcase. 

No, it's my turn to take care of her. She needs me. And I owe her... I...owe...her...so much. 

Tears well up but I refuse to let them fall. 

I need to be strong. I need to get a grip on things. I need to...write.

Full of memories, I crawl into the closest and pull the door closed.

I recall three of us gathered around the kitchen table--Mom, me, and a younger cousin. Homebaked cookies were on a plate, milk in plastic tumblers.

"I want to do the arithmetic game," my cousin said. 

Mom set the challenge. "2 times 2?"

Without taking time to think, my cousin said, "4"

I needed the time, but I got there.

"4 times 4?"

"16."

That's wrong, I thought. It's 8.

"Right," Mom said with a smile. "16 times 16?"

They continued like this, speaking their language--leaving me in the dust.

Later, after my cousin had gone home, I went to Mom in tears. "How can you love me? I'm so stupid."

She wrapped her arms around me. "Leanne, never say that. You are smart--."

"No, I'm not," I told her, "I can't play the number game."

"Leanne, there are many ways to be smart. Numbers are only one way." She assured me of her love, of her pride. I can tell by her eyes that she's telling the truth, that she does love me.

My elementary school teachers, clearly frustrated, gave up on me, but Mom never did. She had boundless patience for me. Day after day, teaching me colours, numbers, the alphabet. She moved mountains. She was always there to encourage me, always there to help me work through the puzzling world. She was always there. Was...?

She needs to be remembered as a heroic woman, I propped my journal on my knees and click my pen. Words chase words out of my brain onto the paper and my pen flies.

Mom has filled many roles in my life--nurturer, adviser, fashion coordinator, sage, and most importantly my best friend. In fact, if I focused on my needs this would be a dark gray day. However, this is very selfish.

It is up to us to live our lives--positively or negatively. Mom thrilled in the  positive. She found pleasure in small things--children, animals, family, and friends. Her life wasn't always easy. She did meet setbacks. But she took them in stride, handled them with grace and put her trust in--

"Leanne." The bedroom door creaks open. "Leanne?" The closet door swung open. "What are you doing in there."

"Writing."

"In the dark?"

"Yes...I need to…" I can’t push my voice through my tears.

Byron helps me to my feet and folds me into his embrace. "Oli is strong," he tells me. "She can beat this."

Part two


Part two of  'A Woman Like Her' will be published on this blog on Wednesday, May 5 at 7:40 am PST

 



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I'm enjoying listening to...

the collection of short stories and poems on Creative Drive Podcast

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