One of the ladies hanging garlands laughed. “It’s easier with the second one, isn’t it? By the time you’ve had four, you’re satisfied just to keep them all fed, diapered, and bathed. Mine were eighteen months to twenty-two months apart. it seemed like I never would get through washing diapers. Every day, another load of diapers. We had that old wringer washer, and I’d sand there and churn that thing, and churn that thing, then wring the diapers, and hang the diapers, and in the meantime, the children would be tearing up the house, or running in the mud hole, and here I’d go again.”
Wanda giggled along with her. “My mother used to put the babies in those long dresses, and when she had work to do in the kitchen, she’d pick up the table leg and set it down on the end of the baby’s dress. That way she’d know right where we were. Of course, she married at seventeen and had seen, so she had to do something.”
. . . Driving the winding road to town, I thought of how it must feel to be unable to do the things you’d done all your life, how frustrating it would be to have to ask for help when you were accustomed to doing for yourself–as if you were a child again, only as a child you know you’ll grow out of your problems. For Grandma, the problems would only grow larger, the list of forbidden activities longer, the need for help greater. She was like a prisoner in a cell with the door slowly being boarded shut.
Rage against the dying of the light.
Now I understood those words. Grandma was angry with the passage of time more than she was with us–frustrated with her own body, and the fog in her thoughts, and her doctors telling her what to do, and her children trying to take away what was familiar.
. . . “My daddy hung on to those horses for a long time after we had tractors.” She sounded just like Grandma. In the amber light from the fire, she looked like Grandma Rose in the pictures.
“It nearly killed Grandpa to see those horses go,” Grandma added as she came into the room. She sat on the other side of Aunt Jeane and touched the picture with trembling fingertips. “He kept horses for years after all the other farmers around here had given them up. Oh . . . and,Kate, your father wanted so badly to get rid of those animals. he was all for the newest machinery. Said it wasn’t efficient to have those horses sanding here eating when they weren’t any use anymore. But Grandpa hung on. When the tractors would get stuck in the mud, he would smile at your father and tell him to go hook up the team, and here those horses would come, prancing across the field, so happy to have something to do. Grandpa would hook them on the tractor, and there they would throw themselves into the harness and pull the tractor right out. Grandpa would smile at your dad and throw his hands into the air and say how there were still some ways that horses were better than that new machinery.” Throwing her head back, she laughed, her eyes cloudy with the mist of memories.
Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate
Lisa Wingate graduated from Oklahoma State University with a B.A. in Technical English. She lives on a small ranch in Texas with her husband, Sam, and their two young sons.