My Best Days

My Best Days

A Story by DaughterNature
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Started writing this while I was bored at work. Addresses the thing of which I am the most afraid.

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I realized when I woke that the aches and pains are here to stay. Sleep won’t make them melt away. Not even an hour of your strong hands, slick with sweet lotion, rubbing over my skin could do it now. Like an anvil in a cartoon, the morning comes crashing down upon me knowing that you aren’t here. Your space in the bed feels cold. I’ll never feel your hands on me again. You’ve gone where I can’t even see or hear you any more.

 

When I finally open my eyes, tears stand in the corners. But you already know this. I was always too weepy, too ready to tear up at the least frustration or threat. Nothing’s changed.

 

I roll and writhe and slide until my cold feet find the floor. I’m not sure quite how it happens, but I’m standing alone in the enormous bedroom. Everything in me feels stretchy, like it is taking more effort for me to stand like this than to roll up in a ball like an armadillo.

 

We saw one at the zoo, once. Do you remember? Of course you do. It was on that lovely trip we took to Florida. It was nice, even if it was too hot and there were far too many mosquitoes. I always wanted to see one in the wild - an armadillo, not a mosquito. I’ve seen quite enough mosquitoes in my life, mostly on you. But watching an armadillo trundling across the desert like a tank, able to deal with anything Life throws at it - now, that would be something, wouldn’t it?

 

But that’s how I feel, like if I didn’t continue to think about it and work at it, my back would just snap and roll me up tight like the spool on a player piano. You’d laugh if that happened. I know it. I’d be rolling around on the floor looking like a fool, and you’d be laughing that laugh of yours. I can’t hear it any more. You’d laugh to see how short I am now, too. Overnight, I somehow lost two or maybe even three inches. If only that made it easier to put on my clothes or my shoes.

 

Since I can’t just stand here in my nightie, I suppose I should get on with Life’s necessities. It takes me twenty minutes to get dressed now. I have to open and close each drawer and take out what I need. Sometimes I forget things, or grab too many. It is so hard to move my arms and legs to get them through the holes in my clothing. Wouldn’t it be nice if people still wore togas? I could wrap myself up in a nice big sheet and be decently covered without all of this fuss and contortion. Shoes are the hardest. I never liked the look of those orthopedic shoes. Hate them now. It may be harder, but I’d rather fight with laces, slipping and sliding through my crooked fingers like they want to escape. A single bow in each is good enough. I don’t think they’re going anywhere; it’s not like I’m going to run a marathon later today. Although it would be nice to feel like running again.

 

Why did we ever buy a house with such a long hallway? That must have been your decision. Each step takes such a long time. I have to lean my weight over to one side, then pick up the opposite foot. The really difficult part is placing it down again. I have to make sure it’s actually on the floor and steady enough to take some of my weight. What if I made a mistake? Walking seems so inconvenient. I wish I could try floating through the air like a butterfly. Even when they flap their wings, it seems like they’re not doing any work at all.

 

Breakfast seems rather unnecessary at this point, but I suppose I should do things in the normal order. I feel an unusual connection to the flakes in my bowl; I think we have more in common every day. They must be more absorbent, though, because when I lift the spoon it feels much too heavy - must be all the milk in the flakes. If you were here, you’d insist we have pancakes or French toast or eggs and bacon. You always did love breakfast. You loved to go out on Saturday mornings to the little diner down the road and order fried eggs and potatoes. Diner food seemed so boring to me, then. But now the flakes on my spoon are flavorless. Everything is flavorless.


But food is a part of Life. So, after I eat the tasteless flakes and their cargo of milk, I need to go to the grocery store. Where is my purse? When we were young, I would put all the things I needed in my pockets, or not take anything at all because you had your wallet and keys. Now I have a purse. It's one of those practical-looking plasticky affairs with gold zipper pulls.

 

Turning the key to lock the door is the worst. I’ve had carpal tunnel in that wrist for as long as you’ve known me, and it certainly doesn’t get easier with age. I wish I could just close the door and know that nobody would be so cruel as to go in and mess with my things. But that’s not the world we live in. I live in.

 

I take my careful walk down the sidewalk to the bus stop. When we were young and said that old people should have to take a driving test or have their licenses revoked, I never thought we meant me. Still, in some ways having the car would have been too much fuss. Paying for insurance, taking it for oil changes and repairs - that’s just too much. You used to do occasional maintenance on the thing, even installing new batteries. You wanted me to learn how. Maybe I should have.

 

As I sit down on the bus seat, I realize something isn’t right. There’s a flake from breakfast stuck under my dentures, rubbing against my gums. Suddenly it’s the only thing I can think about. It’s just rubbing and rubbing, such a tiny piece of something causing such irritation! But what can I do? I can’t take my dentures out right here on the bus. Much as I might like to, but I can’t. But I also can’t stand the rubbing of the flake, and I have to do something. Maybe this is one of the perks of being an old lady. I sneak a handkerchief out of my purse and hold it against my mouth to shield it from sight. I use my tongue to flip my dentures down and fish out the offending flake of cereal. You see, that’s the one thing that still works right for me: my tongue. It was one of your favorite parts of me, hm?

 

Anyway, nobody pays any mind to an old lady and her handkerchief, and my mouth has been rescued from the irritant. Now into the grocery store, which means more walking. Those automatic doors they have are triggered by weight on the pad, I think. Or maybe that’s how they used to work? They probably use a camera system now. But if the doors still waited for weight on the pad, they might never open for me. When I walk, I feel so heavy it’s hard to move. But when I stand still, I feel like there’s not much left to me.

 

Only a few things go into the cart in front of me. We used to complain how difficult it was to plan meals for two people, how we always had leftovers or food went to waste, or sometimes we just didn’t feel like cooking. Cooking for one is harder. It’s especially harder now that I almost never feel hungry. I’ve even tried splurging on things that I used to try to avoid, all my old food sins: ice cream, fried food, the Asian dishes I would crave. But nothing seems appealing now. So it really doesn’t matter what ends up in the cart. It’s not much.

 

As I shamble to the pharmacy aisles, though, it’s another story. Denture cream, eye drops, and the worst of it all. Remember how I told you that one of the worst parts of being a girl was sanitary pads? Once a month, for a whole week, I would endure the pleasure of feeling like I, a grown woman, was wearing a diaper. No matter how thin they made those things, they still felt like an intruder in my underwear. All that fuss, just because my sex bleeds once a month during the middle years. I should have known better than to complain. The real diapers? They’re much, much worse.

 

I can only carry these two bags onto the bus with me, so I guess it doesn’t matter that I don’t feel like buying too much food. On the walk back up the sidewalk, I fumble to find my keys. My wrist is already complaining, before I’ve even reached the door.

 

Groceries belong in the pantry, or in the refrigerator, but sometimes I slip and mix up where things go. I move real slow so that later I don’t find something spoiling in the cabinet. The clock beeps 10 o’clock. You’ll be glad to know I still have one hobby to break up my days.

 

I take my slow walk back down the sidewalk to the bus stop, but this time the trip doesn’t feel so much like a chore. Did you know the YMCA downtown does aqua aerobics for old people? My grandma did that, do you remember? She had arthritis in her hip from breaking her leg all those years ago ice skating on the pond. I don’t have a good excuse, an exciting story to explain my arthritis. It just goes everywhere with me.

 

The only unpleasant thing about aqua aerobics is the water. You know I love to swim, so it’s not the water itself, per se. It’s the temperature. It’s so cold! You know how I can’t stand cold water, never could. You used to make so much fun of me for how hot I liked my showers. You complained because I would use up all the water in the heater and leave nothing for you. Now it doesn’t matter, at home. I could turn the water on full, drain the heater in the basement, and still I wouldn’t feel warm. I never feel warm anymore.

 

The girl who leads the aqua aerobics is so chipper, her wet ponytail bouncing behind her head. I knew girls like that. Never thought they had much between their ears. Never thought they had much to contribute, but now I pay to follow her through these little routines three times a week to keep my joints from seizing up. Although, now that I come to think of it, I could freeze in place just from the temperature of the water. What would her upbeat attitude have to say about that, if one of her geriatric students froze solid right in front of her?

 

We’re done, now. The other ladies make their way gingerly back to the changing rooms to peel off their swimsuits and dry their hair. Apparently nobody has ever come up with a better way to surface pool decks. You know, as little kids they told us never to run on the pool deck because it was slippery and we would crack our heads when we fell. Well, I’m not running now, but it certainly is slippery. There’s no one left in the pool area - everyone else is in the changing rooms, and the instructor has gone back to her office or wherever. It’s just me and the tiles, glistening with water. If I fall, will you haunt someone to let them know about me so they can come and help me?

© 2016 DaughterNature


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Reviews

Even in story telling you such a poet. You write with such beautiful cadence.

Posted 7 Years Ago


DaughterNature

7 Years Ago

Thank you! I do like to approach short stories from the same place as poems - since these media are .. read more
what a fantastic write. tender and heartbreaking. I'm guessing this is a fantasy and admire your imagination and perceptiveness. very touching indeed.

Posted 8 Years Ago


DaughterNature

8 Years Ago

Thanks! I don't know if "fantasy" is the right word, but it is fiction. It's actually one of my deep.. read more
Woody

8 Years Ago

shhhoot! I meant fiction, sorry. and hey don't let it bug you. you'll ruin your present by worrying .. read more
DaughterNature

8 Years Ago

hahaha, no biggie! Oh, I know - the "old" people I know (my grandparents) seem to be doing great and.. read more
I've read this twice and feel my guts tighten and tears floating around them. What a brilliant course of words, tumbling so naturally onto the 'page'. The descriptions of scenes and another and words and emotions are tied up with what seems to be complete sincerity - tis as if you feel every letter, every word to this day.

The way you moved on into different situations, how you age, change your shopping habits - how you felt about wearing a diaper - as it were... that really set me thinking of how it must seem.. And maybe more so, how that and other memories remain. The thought of aqua-aerobics made me wonder about rebirth. or at least a baptism (the mention of the wet pony-tail, youthful, energetic?) Then, there's
your reluctant acknowledgement of less stamina, Your slowing down brought a lump to my throat... and yet. there's no self.pity, just the truth of the matter until that ending, The acceptance that at some soon time, who knows what the next trip may be.

That final sentence reminds me that you've been having a conversation throughout the story... hence, the near funny question about your dear other haunting someone to haunt on your behalf! I smiled then in spite of how i feel for your alone.ness.

Posted 8 Years Ago


DaughterNature

8 Years Ago

Thank you so much, glad you liked it!
The character in the story is trying...but she is very alone. Everything is about the past with him and how impossible that makes the present. Taking courage in the small everyday things. One step at the time...

Very tender, very authentic. I feel the pain.

Posted 8 Years Ago


DaughterNature

8 Years Ago

Thank you, I'm glad you liked it! The situation of the speaker is one of my greatest fears. I know t.. read more

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Added on October 6, 2015
Last Updated on January 4, 2016
Tags: death, old, age, people, grandma, grandmother, dentures, diapers, bus, swimming, water

Author

DaughterNature
DaughterNature

Chicago, IL



About
I know I'll always be learning, but ready and willing to read and review! I have been writing for about 14 years, and I have had one short story published in a magazine. I love experimenting with diff.. more..

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