Aimee was with Peter the whole time. She sat by the hospital window and watched while the doctors administered to him. They explained that they hoped to prevent his minor TIA from morphing into a deadly stroke. When they kept him overnight  she moved beside his bed and held his hand. By 2:00 am, she was exhausted and let her eyes close to catch a brief nap.

Peter moaned; Aimee opened her eyes to see a dark figure looming over the bed. She recognized him and tried to thrust him away.

“Go.” she ordered, “It is not time.”

“You are wrong.” countered the figure.

“You don’t understand.” she replied, “We two are soul mates. We found each other late in life, we haven’t been married long. We must have more time together.”

“Time together?”

“Yes, we are together. You must not separate us!”

The figure nodded and disappeared.

By 4:00 am the ward was humming with action. The man in the adjacent room had died. Aimee knew that this was a result of her conversation.  She did not discuss her suspicions. The the next morning she was delighted when the doctor told her that Peter could go home. She brought her car round to the door of the hospital and watched the nurse wheel Peter out. He climbed into the passenger seat with ease. She loosened her seat belt and leaned over to kiss him on the lips. She turned on the radio and they laughed as she drove away. The dog appeared at the first intersection. She swerved to avoid it. In that prolonged awful second that they slammed, out of control, toward a concrete wall she saw the nocturnal visitor again.

“Wish granted,” he said “You are together!”

The man who had three mothers-in-law – a short story.

A man’s relationship with his mother-in-law is often beset with complex emotions and anxiety. Naturally, she demands perfection, on her terms, for her daughter; perfection which most husbands can neither understand nor attain. Dick fit the normal model. Whenever his mother-in-law came to visit, he immediately informed his wife and family that his car urgently needed attention. This ploy gave him an excuse to spend the duration of all her visits lying on his back under his car. Both his wife and mother-in-law commented on this curious coincidence, but neither deduced that the emergency was of his own volition. However, this story isn’t about Dick; it’s about John, who, unlike Dick, expertly managed to become best friends with all three of his mothers-in-law.

John was not a ladies’ man in accordance with any Hollywood definition; for although he was always immaculately turned out, he could not be described as cute or sexy. And yet, he was a ladies’ man. He could comfortably converse with any woman and put her at ease, take her for lunch, or entertain her at a game of golf without her ever feeling threatened. His knack had something to do with his enduring admiration for women, and the fact that he genuinely enjoyed female company, not necessarily as sex objects, but as friends and equals.

John’s first wife was his high school sweetheart, a knockout blond from the drill team. They got married during his first year at dental school; and set up in a tiny apartment in their home town. They lived hectic lives. By the time John graduated, they had two children. John went on to open his own dental practice and gradually saw success in his chosen profession.

John had once read a book on how to remember people’s names. It gave a tip that if you developed an association, such as an unusual facial characteristic, and tied this to their name you could use this to trigger your memory. John used this form of mental gymnastics successfully with his patients. He became so accomplished that he even developed word picture associations for people whose names he had no trouble remembering. His wife’s mother went by Goldie, which John liked because she always made him think of gold. This could have been due to the fact that she always wore an antique gold chocker necklace or perhaps because she had blond hair and favored cream clothing. It might have also been because of her business acumen and the way that her many referrals had assisted in getting his practice launched.

When their children grew up John’s wife defied expectations and became increasingly parochial and bored. John had fully expected her to mature into a replica of her mother, with the same drive and business-like approach to life. Indeed, when he was in high school his father had told him to make sure that he liked his girlfriend’s mothers for, he counseled, “Most women eventually turn out to resemble their mothers.” John liked Goldie, for her go-getter attitude, and her interest in art and literature. He always looked forward to a healthy discussion when they met. He had thought that her daughter would develop similar interests, but she disappointed him, and her only topics of conversation were the children and the latest TV soap opera. When the children left home to follow their own careers, she announced that she wished to join an obscure religious sect which would include their getting a divorce. John acquiesced, letting his wife move out while maintaining a close friendship with, her mother, his mother-in-law, Goldie.

John hadn’t thought that he’d ever remarry; but one of Goldie’s referral patients made him think otherwise. After a quick courtship they invested in a quiet destination wedding in Hawaii. They returned to a few years of marital bliss. His new wife took after her mother, Myrtle, and possessed a highly developed sense of empathy. When his new wife developed brain cancer, John and she, both agreed that they must fight this thing for they craved the opportunity to spend more time together. But even love as deep as theirs is not capable of thwarting fate. John, together with Myrtle, nursed her through her weeks of suffering. They held hands over her bed, and when she died, they mourned together.

John, true to his propensity to nicknaming people in his head, had, very early in their relationship, given Myrtle a secret mental nickname. He thought that it fitted her gifted empathy for others and complimented her given name. The name developed greater significance in his mind after the ordeal of the death, and the mutual support which they gave each other over their loved one’s deathbed.

Now John had two mothers-in-law to meet weekly and to count as his close friends. They both had similar interests in art and literature and so he introduced them to each other and they often dined together. John enjoyed the blending of business acumen and empathy which their interchange gave. One day Goldie brought her dear friend, Frances, with her. This lady contrasted the other two in her beauty and grooming for she was always perfectly turned out. Her conversation added a new dimension to the luncheon debates. Soon John was introduced to this lady’s daughter.

John certainly didn’t expect to embark on a third marriage but Frances’s daughter was an excellent oral hygienist and soon he invited her to work with him. They shared the same work ethic and had a healthy exchange of ideas. Love was inevitable. John talked to Myrtle, and she told him that the best compliment he could give her dead daughter was, to endorse the institution of marriage, by getting remarried. So, John got married for a third time. Now Frances joined John’s line-up of beloved mothers-in-law. She always wore a hypnotic perfume which John could only deduce was extremely expensive. True to form John gave her a nickname in his head, one to describe her perfume and exquisite essence, one to resonate with her given name.

Each Christmas John and his wife would treat his three mothers-in-law to a special dinner. As he sat at the table enjoying a good bottle of wine he would clasp his wife’s hand and the lean back and look at the three wise old ladies before him. At this time of celebration he marveled at the richness of his life; and luxuriated in the secret names which he had given them; the names, which reflected their regal gifts to him, of gold, myrrh, and frankincense.

Copyright © Jane Stansfeld, December 2013

I Remember – a poem

You might enjoy a good laugh today.

The high pile reeked,
Cow manure, good, and rich.
He ordered it to feed the azaleas
I remember her horror as the big
Red dinosaur truck dumped the load
A giant turd on our drive.
The flies arrived with it.

I remember her voice as she yelled
Horror, I remember his cringe, his
Rapid movements as he began to cart
It away, one relentless wheelbarrow
After another, his exhaustion.
I remember the driveway clean
When her dinner guests arrived.

The smell lingered on for days,
Floating on fly-laden air.

Marriage – a poem

‘The Wind’ by C Dale Young is a haunting poem. In this poem I plagiarize by taking the first line of each stanza of ‘The Wind’ (at times modified slightly) and work it into my own interpretation called ‘Marriage’. I wanted to post a link to C Dale Young’s poem that you could read it but I couldn’t find one, so if any of my readers requests it I’ll post it here. I refrain from doing so now as I don’t want to be compared with a master like C Dale Young.

But I was afraid then. I remember still
menacing water on my face,
my anguish, as I lost my grip on the shore.
Where were you, partner, when I stepped in
alone, to brave the salty deeps,
abandoned, to my frigid fear?

Unlike you I was lit by panic then,
waves sucked me into their embrace,
Could I yell for help?
Many were there immobile, impassive
but you mouthed ‘I love you’.
Then, you told me that

there shall be no fear. But I was afraid.
Yesterday I watched my friend
walk the same path to the vows altar.
I heard her dismayed cry as
her craft swirled on wild waters.
The current spun her fast, she

who has only just learned to be carried by it.
Do not shrug, I need you beside
to brave life’s treacherous eddies
Together we sail swirling seas to eternity.
I need you to buoy me up,
To save me; you, who keep my heart

in your rooms. Now, the old man says
we must face life together,
what God joined no man shall
put asunder. The lifeboat of union
needs two at the oars.
You and I together, for a third.

But this, this final step … Do not laugh.
when a child joins us in the
waxing and waning of life. We are bound,
watertight, as a deft dry family
rowing serenely over the expanse,
hereafter, to never dive alone.