Edna sucked in the soup. A large noodle stopped at her lip. She tried to tongue it into her mouth and couldn’t reach it. She slipped back into the chair and let out a long sigh.
“I miss George.”
Larry stood up and wiped off her mouth. He lifted her hand up and placed the linen in her lap. She forced a smile patting his hand. He left her chair and moved to the window.
“George was a good man.”
Edna tried to turn her head to look at her son. “Would you mind showing me the pictures?”
Larry looked around his mother’s room. A picture of him and the kids in a frame on an old oak table. A white knitted doily circled the frame. On it another picture of a young George. He wore black Caterpillar hat and a blue jean jacket. He never smiled. He was too busy working.
On the other side of the room a heart monitor stood by the bed. Beyond that a bathroom with its arm bars and handicapped shower. He spied the picture book in the corner.
Larry opened the book to a picture of him and George crouching down next to a toy fire engine. Edna fingered the picture and smiled.
“He thought you’d be a great fireman.” Larry had become a stock broker. He had not seen the picture before. He looked at it closer.
“You always think your kid will follow you,” he said.
“He worked hard to give you kids something.”
“He worked hard at being away all the time.”
She rubbed her finger over George’s face. “He just loved you so much.”
She looked past Larry over to the photograph on the table. He followed her eyes.
“He died before I had a chance to know him,” he said. She started to say something and paused. He looked down at her. She stared up. He could tell she was thinking. She broke contact and looked at her lap. She fumbled with the linen.
“I know you miss him. We all do,” he said.
He stared back out the window. A young man walked an elderly woman across the grass. He helped her take a seat on the bench. Edna continued to fiddle with the linen. A knotted ball formed in her hand.
“George wasn’t your father.”
Larry turned from the window. Edna looked over at him with a tear in her eye. He thought about George.
He taught him to toss a football. He tied a tie for him before church. He offered him a gentle hand after a nightmare. All the memories of a father.
“You’re confused,” he said. Larry pulled a sweater up around her shoulders. Edna grabbed his hand and held on. She clutched the knot tighter.
“George was your brother.”
Larry dropped beside her. He touched her hair and she smiled back. He smoothed her bangs away from her forehead.
“He was my dad.”
“That’s what we wanted you to think.”
“This was his idea?”
“It seemed the easiest.”
It sounded impossible. This must be dementia. His mind whirled absorbing her truth.
“George isn’t dead,” she said.
Larry bounced on the floor.
Edna looked at him as tears streamed down her face.
This was too much. Larry exasperated and stared at his mom.
“Are you even my mother?” he asked.
Edna fumbled with the linen. She looked up at Larry and broke down.
“No,” she stuttered.
Larry looked aghast. He fluffed up the flowers and wiped up the spilled water around the vase. He tossed the paper towel into the trash and picked up his jacket from the bed. He paused at the door.
“Too much mom. Too much.”
Edna continued to cry. He turned away and stopped at the nurse’s station.
“You need to check her meds. Something is off.”
The nurse looked at him.
He smiled and tapped the counter. The nurse viewed the chart in her hand.
Larry looked back at his mom. She wiped her eyes with a tattered cloth.
He crowded at the back of the elevator and wondered about his mom. George was dead. She had to know that. Was he his brother? Larry couldn’t know.
The alarm announced the first floor and Larry waited for everyone to walk off. As the crowd jostled to leave the elevator, Larry looked down at his shoes. On his exit, he bumped into a large man carrying a bouquet of flowers. The door started to close as he looked back.
The flowers covered the man’s face. On his head, he wore a black Caterpillar hat.
© 2016, Michael Shawn Sommermeyer. All rights reserved.