By: Ruth Z Deming
She couldn’t quite remember but thought this was her sixth day without food and water. Lydia was the picture of passivity, a leaf blown hither and thither down the street. A nurse mopped her cracked lips with ice and Lydia shivered.
Frank sat in the corner quiet as an old dustmop, that bastard husband of hers.
She had stopped speaking but inside she was burning with rage. She wished she could bang her head against the headboard and show them all that her mind still worked.
Her energy, however, diminished by the minute, no, by the second.
Helen bustled into the room. She leaned over her sister and kissed her on her warm cheek, knowing that in time, it would be cold as the Popsicles they used to suck from the ice cream man.
Lydia managed a grimace and the word, “music.”
A Sony radio sat in a corner. Helen went over and pressed a button. Static poured out. Helen adjusted the antenna, moving it around as if it were a child’s plaything.
Of all things, “Dies Irae” from Mozart’s Requiem filled the room.
“Resurrection is at hand,” the lyrics proclaimed.
Lydia’s two grownup sons were there, Allan and Michael; that idiotic wife of Allan’s, infamous for not allowing the Sullivans access to their grandchildren.
Lydia seethed and wished she could start over again.
Her diagnosis was “nodules” in both lungs.
Cancer, in other words.
A decision was made by her primary doctor, her husband and her children, that cost-wise, it would best if she were dead.
Her room at Angie’s Choice was spacious. If she wished, she could look over the grounds and view tall, unbending tulip trees, a small garden of yellow mums, tall purple zinnia, still in bloom, and an old woman, sitting right in the dirt, wearing gardening gloves, tidying up the garden plot.
She wore earbuds, which meant she was listening to music and nodding her head every now and then.
Her sister, Helen, had visited the Caribbean, with her live-in boyfriend, Charlie, a widower.
Yes! Old people did things!
She had been desperate to get married, even though she was only twenty-two.
Frank had been a mama’s child, so when they married, “Mother” accompanied them to the Philadelphia Harmonic Orchestra. Every week a new concert was presented and Lydia loved these to the high heavens.
Their home in the suburbs had a stairway of perhaps twenty steps. One morning as Lydia and Frank were awakening in their bed, they heard a terrible sound.
“Mother” had fallen down the steps to her death.
Of course, Lydia cried. What a horrible death like in those movies she and Frank would watch on TV where Richard Widmark would push women down the stairs to get their money.
But if not Frank, who should she marry.
Simply wait. She would meet someone in church. Her mother had told her that.
There had been a singles’ buffet. She had shining blonde hair she wore in two long plaits like a princess.
All sorts of fruits were laid out – fresh pineapple chunks, ruby red grapefruit slices, and Bing Cherries, which grew nearby in Bucks County.
She had been very popular, she remembered, and different young men swarmed around her.
Had Frank been there, too?
Oh, no matter. She was doomed. And that was the truth.
As “Dies Irae” swept through the room as if Holy God himself were there, slow tears fell down her cheeks, like the parting of the Red Sea.
She looked outside at the woman with the earbuds, who stood up, dusted herself off, and glanced into the window of the room.
Could she see inside?
In the Common Room of Angie’s Choice, the grandfather clock chimed eleven a.m.
Lydia heard nothing.
Her time had come.