Friday, July 22, 2011

Is This Living

A fiction story  By Theresa Franklin

Lillian trudged to the kitchen to start her morning coffee.  As it brewed, she planned her day.  She had always been a planner.  Let’s see.  First, I’ll eat breakfast and wash the dishes.  Then I’ll make the bed.  Then I’ll read awhile.  And I might watch television.  The same as yesterday and the day before and the day before that.  She didn’t know why she bothered to plan.  Her life was the same every day. 

Lillian had moved into a small house after her husband died.  Her son had built it on his property behind his own home so that she wouldn’t be alone.  The problem was that he and his wife worked so much that Lillian still felt alone.  She went to town every so often, but mostly she stayed alone in her small house.  She had never been much of a mixer, had few friends and didn’t really want any.  When she complained about being bored or lonely, her daughter-in-law would suggest things for her to do.  “Why don’t you volunteer at the hospital?  Most of the volunteers are your age.”  She’d say.  But Lillian didn’t want to volunteer.  She just wanted to be alone.  She just didn’t want to be lonely.

Loneliness had always been with Lillian.  Even when her husband was living, she was lonely.  Shortly after she married Gerald, she knew that the only conversation between them would be when he gave her orders or they were arguing.  It wasn’t what she wanted in a marriage, but she had no education and two children to support.  So she stayed in a loveless marriage and went about the necessary chores of being a wife and mother.  Along the way, she gathered as many material possessions as possible.

Lillian had felt both regret and relief when Gerald died.  She had told her daughter-in-law, “I feel like I have been in a hole for 35 years and somebody just took the lid off”.  She was able to keep herself entertained with shopping for a few months, but then the new wore off of that and she was back to being lonely again. 

The company of her children and grandchildren was a pleasure—when they came.  She never bothered to go visit them.   When anyone questioned her about her absence, she would say, “I am the mother.  They should visit me.”  So she sat in her house, waited for her children or grandchildren, and complained that no one really loved her. 

Lillian not only refused to visit her children and grandchildren, but she never acknowledged birthdays or any other special occasion.  She knew the dates and would say, “Tomorrow is Mildred’s birthday.”  When asked if she had mailed a card, she would say, “No, but I thought about it and it’s the thought that counts.”   Then the inquirer would ask, “How do they know you thought about it?”  “They don’t, but I do and that’s what matters.”

So again today, Lillian was alone.  She decided to sit on her porch.  Her son had designed it when he had the house built.  It was completely covered, a full 8 feet wide and covered the length of her house.  It was one of her favorite places to sit.  She would watch the cows in the pasture and visit with any dogs that happened by.  As she sat enjoying the breeze, she heard someone approaching her porch.  She turned to see a small girl starring at her.

“Who are you?”  Lillian asked.

“I’m Samantha, but everyone calls me Sam.”

“What do you want?”

“Nothing.  I just come play on your porch sometimes when it is too hot to play outside.  Your porch is shady so it is cooler here.”

“I’ve never seen you here.”  Lillian said.

“Maybe because you never come outside when I’m playing.”

“Did you take a bath last night?”

“No, why?”  Samantha asked.

“Why not?”

“Because it wasn’t Saturday.”


“It was Tuesday.”

“I know what day it was.  Do you only take baths on Saturday?”


“That’s disgusting.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means you should go home and get cleaned up.  Put on some clean clothes.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because it isn’t Sunday.”

“Would you stop telling me what day it is and isn’t?  What does the day of the week have to do with you putting on clean clothes anyway?”

“I put on clean clothes every Sunday.”

“And you wear them the rest of the week?”

“Yes.  I take a bath on Saturday night and put on clean clothes Sunday morning.”

“Why do you do that?”

“I don’t know.  That’s what I’ve always done.  It’s what my mommy tells me to do.”

“What does your daddy tell you to do?”


“Nothing?  He does talk to you, doesn’t he?”


“Why not?”

“Because he doesn’t know where I am.  Mommy says that when we lived with Daddy, we took a bath every night and had clean clothes every day.  But I don’t remember that.”

“Why don’t you live with your daddy now?”

“He did bad things to me so my mommy packed me in the car and left without telling him where we were going.  I don’t remember that either.”

“How old are you?”

“I’m six.  I can remember a lot of things, but I was too little when we left my daddy.”

“Which house do you live in?”

“We don’t have a house.  We live in our car.  It’s big enough for me and Mommy.  Mommy says it is better than living with Daddy and let him do bad things to me.”

“You live in your car?”

“Yes.  At night we find a safe place to park so we can sleep.  During the day, we park at the shopping center down the street and Mommy goes to houses and works for people.  I just find some place to play.  If it is too hot, I come here and play on your porch.”

“What does your mommy do at these people’s houses?”

“Sometimes she cleans the houses.  Sometimes she washes and irons the clothes.  Whatever they need done.  My mommy is pretty smart.  She can do anything.  She used to be a teacher.”

“Why doesn’t she get a teaching job?”

“Because we have to move a lot to keep my daddy from finding us.  My mommy says we will keep moving as long as we have to so that he will never hurt me again.  What time is it?”

“It’s 11:00, why?”

“Oh, I have to go.  My mommy gets worried if I stay gone too long.  She is afraid my daddy will steal me away from her.  Bye.”

Lillian watched as Sam ran toward a house down the street.  She thought about this mother who was willing to give up a career and live in a car to protect her daughter.  For a moment, Lillian thought she was having a heart attack.  Then she realized that it was the Holy Spirit convicting her of her unappreciative attitude.  She had spent a lifetime complaining about what she didn’t have and how little others did for her.  She complained that her children didn’t love her enough to sacrifice so she could live more comfortably.  She wondered, Lord, My house is too small.  I don’t have enough clothes.  My food is not the best.  But I have so much more than this mother.  Which life is more pleasing to You?  Which mother is really living?
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