by Shandra Love
"Y'all need to keep those kids in your own darn yard and out of the yards of decent folk, who are trying to keep what they have." Oh why wasn't I surprised at hearing "Mrs. B" as she opened her door and yelled out to me as I headed for the bus stop?
"What have they done now Mrs. Breckenridge?" I stop at the end of the driveway and await her response. I glance at my watch and see that I have fifteen minutes before the bus comes.
"Look at my yard. They have toys everywhere and over there under them there bushes, is some shoes. Don't you know that junk is gone? Or do you have so much that you don't miss it?"
"Mrs. Breckenridge, I'll be sure to call once I get to work and have one of the kids come over to pick it up. Thanks AGAIN for bringing it to my attention." I turn to walk away and she starts in again, "Ain't you out here now and see it? That's what I say about you young folks, always in a hurry and ain't going nowhere. I'll get it myself. I remember a time..." I quickly interrupt her, "Leave it Mrs. B, I'll get it." I sit my briefcase and lunch down in the driveway and head over to her yard.
She's standing there with eyes glaring and unmoving. I pick up a few things and glance at my watch again. I'm going to have to make a mad dash to the bus stop after this little episode. I toss the things over into our yard and as I reach down to pick up a rubber ball my eyes run across something that isn't ours, but it's breathtakingly beautiful.
It's a small pendant with what appears to be rubies and other stones that I'm not familiar with. I wipe it off and walk over to her. She's still standing in the doorway. "Mrs. B, Might this be yours?" I hand it to her and notice the frail little hands and gnarly fingers. I suddenly feel sorry for her. I look into the empty eyes as she looks at the pendant and squints as if trying to recall its origin.
"Yes, it's mine, I...I...I don't know how it got out there though..." I make a dash for her, I see her body no longer able to remain standing. She collapses in my arms. "Mrs. B! Are you OK? Mrs. B!" I open the door with my foot and help her inside onto the couch.
She's pulling away from me and being stubborn about my getting her comfortable on the couch. "Oh, leave me alone! Don't you have a bus to catch?" At this I remember my briefcase and lunch are sitting unattended in the driveway. "Oh shoot!" I run outside and retrieve them, as the bus roars past me. "Damn!" I say under my breath and head back in to check on her.
"Mrs. B are you on any medication for anything?" She puckers her lips in a defiant little manner and I can tell I'm in for a real long morning. I look around, find her phone and call the office. "Hello Sarah? This is Bridgette, I'll be taking a half-day. I have an emergency and have some personal family business to take care of this morning."
When I make this statement I see Mrs. B's once tense posture relax and she looks over at me, "Naw, you go on in to work. I don't need your help." I put my finger up to my lips in an effort to have her get quiet. I hang up and walk over to her, "I need you to answer my question, are you currently on medication?"
She folds her arms across her chest. "Mrs. B, I don't have time for this I need you to answer me so that we can get you taken care of. Tell me now or I'm calling an ambulance."
"I ain't on nothing. Just been a little under the weather that's all." I don't believe her but there's nothing I can do about it.
I take inventory of her house and see that it's in disarray, but she's apparently a pack rat so that's to be expected. "Can I call your doctor or son or daughter?"
"Naw, they ain't gone come. They never do." When she says this I spin around and ask her who looks after her.
"I look after myself. Peoples from the church or Senior Meals comes by, but other than that, it's just me. I don't need yo' help though, you go on to work, and I'll be fine." I sit next to her and look at her in disbelief. She turns her head in an effort to hang on to her pride.
"When was the last time you ate a well-rounded meal?" I ask.
"Oh I ate like a horse the other day. I can only take in small meals though. My stomach ain't like it used to be." I go into her kitchen and am able to determine that she's not being truthful. There are no dirty dishes in the sink, and no cooked meals in the refrigerator, but I do notice box, upon box, of catered meals just sitting in the refrigerator and some are even on the table.
I look into the cupboards and see a small amount of canned goods but nothing that would indicate that she's eating regularly. I go back out into the living room where she is crying. I rush over to her.
"Awwww...Mrs. Breckenridge, what's wrong sweetie?" I cradle her in my arms and the resistance she puts up soon fades. "They threw me away. They don't want me no mo'." I'm so shaken that I'm barely able to keep my composure, but I want to remain strong for her. "Who threw you away Mrs. Breckenridge?"
"All of them, my son, my daughter, my grandkids, they threw me away. They don't understand, I don't mean to be mean and run 'em off."
"Oh , I don't think it's that at all. You know how it is when you get a life of your own and get caught up in what you're doing...who could throw a sweet little lady like you away?" I see a smile form on her trembling lips.
I got up, went into her bathroom and ran her some bath water. I went to her bedroom pulled the linen off of the bed and put on a fresh set. I got her, helped her into the tub, and began to shampoo her hair. I rinsed it gently and smiled to myself as she reminded me of a toddler enjoying a bath by his mom. Her hair was cottony soft and smelled so sweet.
"Mrs. Breckenridge, I want you to just relax as I get you a bite to eat, OK?" I get two more towels, roll them over, and placed them behind her head.
After I was sure that she was fine, I went into the kitchen to see what I could whip up real fast. She had tuna, some vegetables, and buttermilk to work with on such short notice. Somehow I felt that she wouldn't mind.
"Bridgette...Bridgette...sis, it's time to go." I was suddenly jolted back to the present as my sister Melanie spoke to me and helped me realize that the graveside service was over and they had already begun to clear out.
I didn't want to remember Mrs. Breckenridge this way. I wanted to remember the peaceful smile that was on her face when I returned to the bathroom to help her into fresh clothes and into a nice crisp bed. I wanted to remember the bar of soap in her hand with the words "Thank You" scribbled on it. She had done this with the end of her toothbrush. I just wanted to remember her.
Although it wasn't my wish to have her pass away while being with me, after meeting her children, I somehow knew that it might've been best. They were cold and distant acting people. They cried a little and the son kept looking at his watch like his mother's funeral was keeping him from a much more important appointment. So sad that she seemed to be a bother.
Her daughter was gorgeous and was dressed to the nines in what appeared to be a kick ass Armani suit. She had shoulder length highlighted hair and kept squinting as if suffering a bad headache. She kept a firm hand on a small and oblivious son. As I was walking to the car I stopped when I heard someone shout, "Miss?...Excuse me, Miss?" I turned and saw her son walking towards me. "Yes, how can I help you?" He extended his hand, "I'm Jeremy, Mrs. Breckenridge's son. You were the one with her when she passed weren't you?"
I smiled painfully as I remembered, "Yes, it was me."
"I want to thank you for what you did for her and how you were looking out for her. I live across town and..." I couldn't take it anymore, I didn't want to hear anymore lies and I cut him off, "She knew you loved her. She talked about you all the time, I'm glad that I was there for her."
He bristled a little at this and said, "Can I compensate you for her care?" I smiled defiantly and said, "No thank you, she compensated me very well." I pulled the bar of soap out of my purse and showed it to him. "She was still holding it in her hand when I went in to help her out of the tub. Nothing could be worth more than that." I turned and walked away. The tears began to flow again, but they weren't for Mrs. Breckenridge, they were for me.