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“Ma, I got another letter from Paul.”

She looked at me and smiled. “Why, we haven’t seen him since last Christmas. How is he?”

“He says he’s fine. Working at the plantation. He raisin’ Norma fine. Growing up to be a fine young woman, I hear. Almost thirteen years of age.”

“She ought to take after her mother.” says Shelley, my wife.

“She’s a pretty woman, that Norma. She’ll turn out fine.” I say. “He says he coming around next Thanksgiving.”

“Maybe he’ll bring his grandsons?” says my wife.

“Naw, they too stubborn. Never come around. Always working. What a shame.” I said. “Ma–what’s that sound?”

“The kettle. You asked for tea. I’ll get it, dear.”

She hobbled over to the kitchen. Her back craned, weighed down by many years. I read my paper. I didn’t like the television at night; too much sound. I liked the quiet. The country does that to you. Shelley and I live a modest life, Presybyterians that we are. She reads her book while I read my paper.

“Another strike, ma.” I called to the kitchen. “Railroad workers. They’s always making a ruckus for no reason. We worked our whole lives and we didn’t complain for a bit. Isn’t that right, Ma?” No response.

“Ma?” I called again. No response.

I got up and walked over. “Ma?” I asked. She was there pouring the tea.

“Yes dear? What is it?” she asked ponderously, slightly doubtful.

“I called and you didn’t answer.” I replied.

She stared at me perplexedly. “No, I said ‘that’s right, dear’ in reply, then you called for me again, and I said the same thing.” I had not heard her.

“Huh. My hearing goes a little funny sometimes. Happens with old age, I guess.”

She handed me the tea. I grasped the mug; it was very hot. I dropped it, for my hand felt like it would light aflame from the heat. My wife instantly started cleaning up the mess.

“Oh, you old fool! Don’t you know to hold the handle?”

“Sorry ma, I forget sometimes.”

She mopped up the floor and put the pieces in the bin. I apologized. She wasn’t mad.

I got into bed for the night. I made my graces to God and all he has given us, then sat in bed beside my wife. She dozed off. I shut my eyes and rest.

It was hard to sleep. I opened my eyes again and got up to get a glass of water. She kept on sleeping. I walked to the kitchen and almost slipped; the floor was wet. I laughed to myself, thinking that if I had slipped, I would have broken my back. I was old like that. Though I was not incapable of getting up, I certainly wasn't fit to try.

I got my glass of milk from the fridge, then headed back to my bedroom. My wife was sleeping soundly. I made my graces to God and all that he has given us, then after drinking my milk, fell asleep soundly.

I woke up with a back pain. I got up slowly and smelled something malodorous. My wife was still asleep. I smelled quite bad, for I had not showered in a week. These things sometimes escape old folk. I hobbled over to the shower and turned the faucet on. After showering, I made my way back to the bedroom and found my wife still asleep. She did not snore, nor did she move.

“Ma, it’s time to wake up. Can’t sleep all day. That’s how we become lazy.” No response. I shook her and she still did not move.

I turned her over in bed and realized how pale she was. She did not seem well.

I propped her up with a pillow and looked at her. I shook her again and still no response. Her feebleness worried me. I opened her eyelids and stared into them. Her eyes were vacant, looking off to the horizon, entranced by the dawn.

I called her a doctor and sat back down. We have a good family doctor, so I was not worried.

I went to the kitchen and sat down with my paper in hand. My wife sat there and read her book. She read it with grace. Everything came from that book; her ethics, mannerisms and stories. She was old-fashioned that way. I, however, didn’t mind that. That’s how it was when she was raising young Paul, and he turned out good.

A fly landed on her cheek. Annoying little thing. I buzzed it off before she could. She never had the quickest reaction time; too entranced by her book, I suppose.

I walked over to the kitchen to make some tea, since I didn't wish to disturb her reading. I walked to the kitchen and started boiling the water.

She had gotten up and was now sitting outside. She sat on the garden chair I had built for her many years ago, looking off into the sunset. I smiled. It made me remember how much I loved my wife.

I walked back into the kitchen and realized the floor was wet. I started mopping it up. I poured the tea and sat back down with my wife. She was watching television. I tapped her shoulder and handed her the tea.

“Thank you, dear.” she said. “Sorry dear, but my hands ache. Would you mind helping me drink this tea?” she asked.

“Sure, ma. Here you go.” I held the tea up to her mouth and helped her drink. She made little sound, always doing things with grace. I then remembered something.

“Ma.” I said, “I got another letter from Paul.”

She looked at me and smiled; her cheeks were sullen.