By Karen Brode
Travis stood on the walkway in front of his Mother’s house. His right hand curled around the handle to the car-bed that carried his baby girl, Kathy. He would’ve rather been anywhere in the world than here.
A few weeks ago on a Sunday, Winnie had driven his mother and father to Kilgore unannounced. He had done the best he could under the circumstances. He knew he had. But now he could hear the accusation in Winnie’s voice.
“Momma went to bed when we got home, and never got up again.”
Was everything in the universe his fault? He was 28 years old, and he was doing his very best to be a good father, a good husband, a good provider, but now he hadn’t been a good enough son. Well, no one could be a good enough son to Effie. Albert didn’t even try. Albert had somehow gotten past those guilty hooks that held Winnie and Travis so securely.
Poor Winnie had gotten the worst of it. Travis hung his head when he thought of Winnie. At least he had a life away from here. At least he had been able to break free and find his own way.
Winnie came out on the front porch and walked down the steps to greet Travis. Jane was still getting things out of the car, and Travis thought, trying to postpone this as long as possible. He couldn’t blame her.
Winnie stood in front of Travis, and said, “She’s really bad off. The doctor said she may not make it much longer. She laid down when we got home from Kilgore that Sunday, and never got back up again.”
Why did Winnie have to keep saying that? An accusation that he was somehow at fault for his Mother’s condition. And hadn’t he heard that same accusation very thinly veiled all his life? Effie was never the same after she had him. As if he had done something to her as she carried him in her body.
Travis went up the steps and into his mother’s house. His dad was sitting in a rocking chair in the front room, and Travis went to him. His dad looked so old and worn. Had he looked that old when they came to Kilgore? Travis couldn’t remember. He didn’t think so.
Travis set the car-bed down at his father’s feet, and John’s eyes brightened at the sight of his new granddaughter.
“Why she’s pretty as she can be!” surveyed John as he studied her while she slept.
Travis and Winnie entered the bedroom.
“Momma? Momma?” Travis asked but there was no answer. His mother lay somewhere between life and death, somewhere between awake and asleep. Travis knelt by the bed and held her hand. “Momma, I’ve come to visit. You need to wake up so you can see the baby.”
But she didn’t wake up.
Travis went to the car-bed and tenderly picked up the baby girl in sleep and took her into his mother’s bedroom. He gently laid his daughter beside his mother in the bed. “Momma, Momma, the baby’s right here! Open your eyes and you can see her!”
The baby laid there asleep next to her grandmother for several minutes, and then the baby woke, and cried.
“I’m coming with a bottle! Just give me a minute.” Jane said from the next room.
Travis needed to think. He needed to be alone and work this out in his mind. He knew that Winnie would blame him, but Winnie’s idea of fault and blame were not necessarily his own. What had he done that was so horrible? He had not allowed his mother to come into his home and disrupt everything, and that was what she required.
Would he do things differently now? No. So why did he have this nagging guilt and worry? It was because Winnie kept glancing at him with that look. He had seen that look since he was old enough to remember. It wasn’t anger, it wasn’t sadness. It was disappointment, and he had never wanted to disappoint Winnie.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.