It's For The Best
Tomorrow at about 12:30 p.m. inside the steam room of the 21st Street “Y” sitting next to a friend from church, I will, after a few moments, close my eyes, tilt toward my left, and, as if in slow motion, land on the cement platform. EMT personnel will arrive, open their medical bags, fire up their machines, conduct their tests. They will be pleased with the results.
“For your age, these results are good. I don’t think you had a stroke, heart attack, or even a T.I.A., but let’s just do a couple of more tests.” After the results of ninety-second standing test, they will pack their equipment while telling me to be sure to see my doctor soon. “Does that sound okay?”
I will not respond. I have stopped breathing. Emergency measures. I’m declared dead.
They will briefly consider calling my wife but be dissuaded by my friend. “I’ll do it. It’s better to do it in person.” I will be transported to the funeral home. Twenty minutes later my wife will hear a knock on the front door.
Thirty minutes after my friend leaves, the funeral home will call. My wife – my widow - will then call my daughter who will not answer but calls later. “Sorry, putting out fires.” Arrangements discussed. Plans set.
One month after my funeral, six generations of family furniture and heirlooms promised to my daughter will be removed from my home and hauled to my wife’s son’s house - it’s the second marriage for both of us. Later, her son will claim ignorance of the provenance of the property - his default position – and attempt to shift blame to his tiresome wife. Also his default position. “She said we should do it.”
My daughter will complain, but only to her husband, and only inside her house.
By the second week of that summer, my son will deliver the news. “Mom, now that you’re getting older, it would really help if we lived together. It’s for the best.” My widow will accede, and the six generations of inheritance will wind its way back to my widow’s house. My daughter will complain, but only to her husband, and only inside her house.
The next day, her son will place his tattered house on the market.
Three weeks later, he and his wife will have convinced my widow to move to the basement so he, his wife and their son can have the two upstairs bedrooms. “It’s better if we have the two bedrooms. You know, the boy and all. It’s for the best.” My widow will nod when he adds, “Mom, you’ll be more comfortable down there.”
My wife will object but only to herself and only when she’s alone. In public she will declare the move to be in everyone’s best interests. She will also continue to drive her grandson to school and her son’s wife to work – the thirty-six-year-old woman won’t test for a driver’s license for another two years. “I don’t have time. Besides he’ll yell at me when I drive,” she said referring to her husband.
Two months later. “Just sign this, mom,” her son will say with a sense of urgency in his voice as he hands the pen and paper to his mother. My widow will sit on the bed in the basement and nod as she signs the power of attorney.
For twenty-four months that arrangement will continue, until, one morning they will drive my still-active widow to a nursing home. “It’s for the best. We just don’t have enough time anymore.”
“Whatever you think,” my widow will say.
The next day my wife will walk alone down a long hallway to her room at the far end of the nursing facility.
Thomas Elson’s short stories, poetry, and flash fiction have been published in numerous venues such as Calliope, Pinyon, Lunaris, New Ulster, Lampeter, Selkie, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Adelaide Literary Magazine. He divides his time between Northern California and Western Kansas.