The Golden Years by Kayla Tuttle
The brisk air stings my skin and numbs my fingertips as I sit on a park bench, allowing the melted snow to soak into my jeans. In front of me are two children, giggling uncontrollably as they chuck snowballs at each other. The snow is not quite right for snowballs – most of it falls apart before reaching its destination.
I can feel my frostbitten lips stretch into a smile as I look away to watch the bright white snow falling from the sky.
Suddenly, I hear the sound of tires screeching against the pavement. I quickly look towards the noise, but all I can see is a small boot flying through the air.
The horn of an impatient driver rings through the bedroom and jerks me awake from my slumber. I sigh as I rub the reoccurring dream out of my eyes and walk toward the kitchen to get a glass of water. I can feel my pain medication wearing off as I trudge toward the cabinets, my legs begin to ache more with each step that I ask of them. I reach for the glasses and grasp tightly onto the closest one, it reads: ‘World’s Best Grandma’ and I wonder if I really am.
I can feel my lungs expanding and collapsing as I breathe. I seem to have become much more conscious of my existence lately, and it feels like another burden that I am forced to carry. I glance down the hallway, where the bathroom light illuminates the dark walls, which hold aged photographs. They’re all filled with the faces of smiling people; I used to know who they were, but now they have just become strangers to me.
I begin walking towards the light; each step seems much more difficult than the last. I reach the room and the florescent bulbs burn my eyes. I look at the sink, where a medicine cabinet with an attached mirror sits above. The reflective surface is prepared to judge me; to once again remind me of what I realize is now inevitable.
I raise my head to look at myself. The face that stares back at me is one that I do not recognize, but have been forced to accept. My eyes, which once shined, are now glazed and dusty. My skin has been pulled down and stretched, forced into something that only acts to remind me and everyone that glances at me of who I now am. My hair, which instead resembles a bundle of wiry straw, lies upon my skull.
I postpone the reminder of my humanity to open the medicine cabinet and glare at the bottles that clutter it. I look to the left and read the list of my medication that is tapped to the wall. It reads:
- Nexium (GERD)
- Abilify (depression)
- Crestor (cholesterol)
- Donepezil (memory)
- Warfarin (blood thinner)
- Oxycodone (a lot of pain)
- Tylenol (a little pain)
The note acts as another reminder of the person I am now, the bag of meat and bones that I am forced to carry around every day. I look down toward the sink and begin turning the cold faucet handle. It seems like such a difficult task for my body. Once the cold water is pouring out, I fill my glass with just enough to take my pills.
As I start to take my medication, I gaze upon the pile that I hold in my hand. It still amazes me how small things, like these pills, can have such an influence on me and my life. I put them in my mouth and wash them down with the water.
I decide to make some breakfast, so I stumble towards the kitchen and open the fridge. It is only filled with an expired container of 2% milk, a package of wilted lettuce, a somewhat ripe banana, and three eggs. With so many choices it is hard to decide, but I take an egg and the banana out and set them next to the stovetop.
As I reach for the pan to cook the egg, there is a knock on the front door. I shuffle toward the door and open it. My daughter, Cynthia, is on the other side to greet me. Her sweet face has always been able to enliven my day, even when it didn’t seem possible. As I look at her, all I notice are her brother’s features. She has his nose, which is small in size but is slightly crooked and points to the left. Her hair is the same dirty blonde that sweeps around her shoulders and is a bit curly on the ends. It has always been difficult to look at her without seeing him, but now it’s hard to even remember his face.
“Morning, Mom. How’d you sleep?” She smiles at me and walks toward the kitchen and continues to prepare my breakfast. I follow her and sit down at the table and watch her as she gathers the utensils.
“I had the dream again.” I cannot recognize my own voice; it has been aged along with the rest of me and it sounds raspier than I remember.
Cynthia doesn’t respond right away, even though I know she heard me. I immediately regret saying anything and wish I could take it back. No matter how long ago it was, it still affects us all and I know the pain will never diminish. “I’m sorry, Mom. Want anything else?”
“No, that’s fine.”
As if she already knew, she walked towards the refrigerator and opened the door to gaze at what it had to offer. “I’m going grocery shopping later, so I’ll pick you up some stuff and drop it off.”
“Thank you, I have money…” I look around the room for my purse and try to remember how much money it has.
“Don’t worry about it. Have you taken your morning pills?” She places the cooked eggs onto a plate, sticks a fork into them, and slides them toward me. She then begins peeling the banana and cutting it into pieces.
“Yes.” I glance down at the food in front of me. Similar to the medicine, this stuff is what keeps me alive. Even though I don’t feel hungry, I start eating the eggs. They’re a bit slimy and slide down my throat before I can fully swallow them.
“The doctor gave me a prescription for a new medicine. It should help you with your memory; I’m going to pick it up later.” Cynthia finishes slicing the banana and places the knife down next to it.
“That’s nice.” I didn’t like talking about my medicine. The doctors had switched me to new things before. That’s what they want, a guinea pig. I stared down at the yellow lump on my plate.
“Mom, I know you don’t like trying new things, but you need help.” Cynthia looks at the watch wrapped around her wrist and an expression of surprise and panic is plastered over her.
“Oh no, I didn’t even realize what time it is! I’m supposed to pick Timothy up from soccer practice in twenty minutes.” She quickly puts the pan in the sink and gathers her things to leave.
“You should call Christopher.”
Cynthia swings around to look at me; her eyes are filled with concern. “My husband died two years ago.”
“Oh, that’s right. I’m sorry, sweetie.” My mind feels like an old container of Jell-O, jiggling around and slowly disintegrating. I try to force it to stabilize, but I don’t even recognize my own thoughts anymore.
“It’s fine.” She walks over to me and reaches her arms out for a hug. I wrap my arms around her and grasp tightly on the back of her shirt. I breathe in her perfume and a small smile comes across my face. “Bye, Mom.”
I have always been grateful to have her, but I do wish I could still have both of my children with me.
I turn around in my seat to finish my breakfast. The eggs seem to have entirely lost their flavor and my body feels heavy and lifeless; I hate making Cynthia upset and it makes me feel like a terrible mother. I would rather not eat anymore, but I don’t want to be wasteful. As I swallow the last bit, I stand up and face the left side of my apartment. My bed sits in the center of the bedroom; it looks so welcoming and it beckons me towards it. Since I have no other plans for the day, I decide to surrender and begin my journey back to the bedroom.
I settle myself into the bed and close my eyes. I want to dream of my little boy again.