Reflections on loving God, being Catholic, being a woman, being ill, loving life and anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

O Is For Mrs. Orman

The phone rang as we opened gifts. Fourteen year-old Dawn, ripping a paper wrapping, shouted, “That’s probably my mother! I want to talk to her!” She opened the large box, “A coat! My uncle sent me a coat!” She held up the long chocolate garment, “Isn’t it beautiful?” Claire and I oohed and awwed. Five year-old Felicia alternately sucked her thumb and one of the peppermint twists I had placed in the stockings while hugging the large doll the uncle had sent her. The man’s voice cut through our Christmas morning chatter, “What? You don’t say?” Pause. “Yes! I’ll tell them. And don’t worry. They’ll be fine here.”

“I told her!” the man crowed coming into the living room through the small parlour, his arms thrown above his head as if he was one of the “thank you Jesus” women at church. Eight heads flew up; eight pairs of eyes stared at his broad smile, his laughing face. “I told her!” he looked at Dawn. “You kids heard me.” His chest expanded for a deep breath. “I told her, ‘If you don’t stop drinking, you’ll be dead before the sun rises on Christmas morning!’ Your mother died this morning.” Dawn froze, a bit of paper in her hand. “Our mother?” Felicia’s voice was a tiny whisper. The man nodded, laughing. A silent rushing, roar overwhelmed the man’s voice. My body was suffused with an electric tingle. I looked over at Dawn. Felicia huddled in her lap. Slowly, I got up and climbed the steps to the room I shared. I dressed in the outfit Mrs. P. had bought for me and walked out the back door.

The cast iron balcony railing was rough under my fingers. My feet tried to move through the waist-high bars. I watched my foot lift, watched my arms push my body upwards, watched my leg begin to swing over the top of the railing. “Merry Christmas,” a voice greeted me gently. “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Orman,” the words came of their own accord. “I’m so glad you’re here,” Mrs. Orman moved so that she looked into my eyes. “I’d love your help with Christmas dinner.” “Help?” I shook my head. “Yes,” she continued to hold my gaze. “If you could just sit with me in the kitchen while I cook. The kids are with their father and I don’t know where my daughter has gone.” I swallowed. “Okay,” my voice came from far away. Mrs. Orman placed one hand on my upper arm and gently guided me into her kitchen. “Tell me about your Christmas morning,” she placed a glass of water near my hands that lay palms down, fingers splayed on her table. My forehead wrinkled, “Mrs. Parn,” I swallowed again. “Our housekeeper,” I swallowed again. “Died this morning.” My head floated far above my body, too far for me to reach and pull it down.

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