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Earlier in the week the word was she was going home. Then she took a turn for the worse and we knew Heddy’s death was at hand. Her kidneys had failed now. Her heart was too weak for her to dialyze. I was grateful for the distance this time. I had said my last goodbye and didn’t have the heart to look into her eyes and admit the finality of the situation.
They said that she went peacefully.
I knew the news would come. Not heart wrenching sorrow this time; more, a sense of release for a good soul. And a full schedule, a brand new to do NOW list. I mentally prepared for what I knew would be my tasks.
I was in a rather fetid mood anyway. It was a Valentine’s Day and my boyfriend thought I wouldn’t notice. I was deciding how to handle it. I let the entire day go by, waiting for some affectionate something, but it never came. I had given up hope, hence the gray mood. I was contemplating my attitude, and expecting the phone to ring.
Heddy had been comfortable the last few days. She had gone in the hospital some time in December. I know it was before Christmas.
The time between Thanksgiving and December 25th is such a blur to me each year that I walk around clueless until about March. I hate Christmas. I love the idea of ‘peace on earth’, blah, blah… Christmas is a hell of a lot of a work for a woman. (Though every man I know complains about it the whole time.) Its deadlines and details, and then you have to put everything away! It’s a socially appointed stress-fest and we all buy into it year after year. Santa is laughing at us for being liars! Yet every year I make at least eight types of cookies and a dozen or so of my grandmother’s walnut loaves to give to all the neighbors. I volunteer at the school to be the craft elf. I weave garlands and stuff stockings and spend money I don’t have. I buy what I hope someone will like and I pray I don’t end up with another bathrobe. I try, try, try to fulfill everyone’s Christmas expectations.
I get very tired at Christmas.
This year was a typical holiday. On Christmas morning we rushed through opening gifts under our tree, and then dressed in appropriately festive attire. We then drove the four hour drive to my sister’s, stopping at Seven/Eleven for breakfast; nothing else is open on Christmas. We had a nice ham dinner at Claudia’s, exchanged gifts, and then back in the car for the long drive home, another Seven/Eleven meal along the way. When we finally got home the children had their first opportunity to examine their goodies. I slipped into my new bathrobe and went to bed. I slept for the next few days. Ho, ho, ho.
I know Heddy entered the hospital before Christmas.
It was the damnedest thing. Heddy had said –quite a while ago- that she would not go back into the hospital. She felt that if she were hospitalized again she would not come out. She mentioned this to all of us at one time or another. Even her doctors knew how she felt. She was having major problems though. Somehow (I shake my head now) her doctor convinced her that she was an outpatient who would be staying for several days, perhaps weeks, but she was an outpatient. I suppose this was to appease her, but she was nothing if not bright.
She had a hell of a time in hospital. She saw the priest. She became acceptant. She died peacefully. She fulfilled her own prophecy and never returned home.
Mary had gotten the house ready for Heddy’s homecoming. She had the living room furniture replaced with Heddy’s bedroom since Heddy would no longer be able to negotiate the stairs.
When Buffy died a few weeks ago, Mary took advice and didn’t share the news with Heddy. Buffy had been a loyal friend to the two sisters for many years, and Heddy was an emotional character under the best of circumstances. It was best not to tell her about her beloved canine. Perhap’s Buffy’s passing was more than coincidence.
Mary had to hide sad news from a hospitalized Heddy before. She’d had a pacemaker put in a few years back and the morning of her surgery had begun one of Mary’s most heart-wrenching days. Mary had found her other housemate, other sister, life-mate, friend, dead on the floor of her bedroom. She was advised then, too, that it would be too much for Heddy’s heart. And so Mary planned Gene’s funeral alone. She made all the necessary preparations. She did all required tasks. And when she spoke to Heddy on the telephone, she mentioned not a word of the burden on her heart.
The three sisters had lived their entire lives together; two nurses and a teacher. The question of their sexuality was never broached. In their day they were simply labeled spinsters. If this bothered them in the slightest, they never let on.
They always reminded me of the three fairy godmothers in Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”. Heddy was Flora, the matriarchal figure; Mary would be Merriweather, the perky peacemaker; and Gene was Fauna, the one in green who was forever bickering with Flora. (I naturally assume the role of Aurora, the beautiful niece.)
I heard that Gene was in love once. Her beau left for California, asking her to go with him. The word “marriage” apparently wasn’t uttered, and so she stayed behind. She was a staunch Catholic, as were they all. In their home pictures of the pope and Jesus adorn every room, if not every wall.
Having no children of their own, we, the children of their siblings, were the most precious on the planet. They always let us know our special ranking. Of the ten cousins, the four children in my family seemed to hold an especially honored place, although I’m not sure why. I think it was because we lived so far away. We were not scrutinized for daily indiscretions as were those in close proximity. I’m sure my mom would say if any prejudice did exist it was because of sisterhood; the other cousins were the children of brothers. Heddy was my godmother and so that also carried weight.
The telephone rang around eleven p.m. It was my mother. Heddy had passed earlier that evening. Mom didn’t want to talk much just then. She’d call back in the morning so we could make a plan.