The 5 Stages of Grief

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Chapter 13, Holly

“Mother, I’m home.” Holly walked down the narrow hallway leading to the main living area. Normally, she would have been greeted by some kind of abuse – that she was late, that she’d not made her room properly, that she didn’t have dinner ready. It could be just about anything as the target continually moved, there was no way to hit it, like herding cats or nailing jello to the wall, it was foolish to even try.

Not long ago she would have gone insane trying to please the woman, attempting to comply with her impossible standards, to be everything at once, only to fail over and over. It reminded her of a poster that hung on the wall in one of her old classrooms:

We the willing, led by the unknowing,

are doing the impossible, for the ungrateful.

We’ve done so much, with so little, for so long.

We are now capable of doing anything with nothing.

She had read the thing repeatedly, ultimately memorizing it. It had become a mantra of sorts and she found herself repeating it under her breath whenever she was asked to do a chore or comply to one of her mother’s impossible whims – the end result always failure then on to punishment. It seemed to sooth her for some unknown reason, confirm to her that she was not the crazy one – not yet anyway.

Walking into the main living area she saw her mother sitting on the couch. Well, not sitting, not exactly, she was kind of tilted over a bit, practically in the same position Holly had left her. She stopped and looked at the old lady who’d once and not all that long ago, had her quaking in her skin with the slightest raise of her voice.

“Momma, you seemed to have made a mess again.” She could smell the urine from where she stood. And the puddle, quite large beneath the woman, would have soaked right into the couch had she not had the foresight to put a green plastic bag under her mother before leaving for her appointment. A string of drool trailed from the corner of the old woman’s mouth and connected to her blouse, which now had a pool of the slime running down the front of it. “What have I told you about making a mess, Momma? You know the rules. They are yours after all.” Her voice stern, she crossed the room to stand at her mother’s side, plucking a cigarette from the package on the table in front of her.

Since her mother’s stroke or strokes or whatever you called them since she wasn’t sure never having had a doctor attend the patient, things had changed considerably as she had informed Dr. Reichmann. Her mother no longer frightened her. As a matter of fact, the horrific bitch could barely even speak, so it was up to Holly to be the mother figure now. It was her chair now, her mother sat on the couch. It was Holly who made the rules, her mother’s duty to follow them. It was she who doled out punishment, her mother’s place to receive. It was she who controlled the cigarettes, her mother’s role… and so on.

She lit the power-stick nestled between her two fingers, inhaled then coughed. She was not particularly skilled at it yet, but she would get better over time. She sat in her chair looking at the pathetic, stinking-thing on the couch beside her and blew a stream of smoke in her face. Watching her eyes water, a bubble of drool slink from slack lips.

After a few puffs, putting the cigarette in the ashtray to await her return, she rose from her chair, walked to the kitchen and turned on the hot water tap. Her mother had always told her the water needed to be good and hot to wash away the sins of the flesh and Holly was nothing if not a good student.

She returned to the living area, took another puff and coughed. She’d considered changing to a weaker brand but felt that it would not be right. After all, if she was going to be mother now, she had to set a good example, show some stick-to-itiveness.

After butting the smoke, she got down to her work, stripping her piss soaked mother of her clothes. It was a gross job, quite revolting, but her mother had always taught her never to shy away from hard or unpleasant tasks.

With her mother stripped and pulled onto the worn wooden floor of their living room, Holly went to the kitchen to fill the wash pail. Since it was too hard to carry Mother upstairs to the tub or even to bed for that matter. And since this had always been Mothers favorite room. Holly had moved all the old woman’s belongings down, dresser and all, some time back. It hadn’t been that difficult really, as they were remarkably poor. With her mother never having actually worked in this country, there was simply not much to bring down.

Instead of baths, Holly gave her a sponging each night. Luckily, her mother had never been fond of carpeting, believing it dirty and disgusting, so Holly laid her out on the bare floor, which made her job that much easier. If her mother behaved, not making a mess of herself like pissing on the Chesterfield, Holly would use this wonderfully soft sponge and a towel even softer to dry her with. However, on days like today when Holly came home to a filthy mess, well then things were different, a lesson needed to be taught.

The bucket filled with water, Holly reached under the sink for her cleaning items. A few capfuls of bleach and some laundry detergent dissolved quickly into the steaming pail, followed by her scrub brush. It had a strap on it for her hand. She also retrieved her rubber gloves, pulling them on first to protect her hands. On bad days, she didn’t use a towel, finding that – by the time she’d finished scrubbing her mother in one place and moved to the next, much of the woman had dried. Besides, her mother never complained – much like Holly hadn’t when she was taking her punishments as a little, defenseless, girl.

No, she would not be finding a new place – she would be staying right here, taking care of mother until she died.

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