#52weeks52stories “One Last Christmas”

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Did I disappear or WHAT?

I knew participating in NaNoWriMo AND moving at the same time would be daunting… and I was right. I finished NaNo ahead of time and am all moved in and settled… and had a full-blown Fibro flare-up!

But I didn’t grab my blankie and Kindle and veg out in the recliner this time. Life has stolen a lot of writing time from me in 2018 and I wasn’t losing anymore. But fibro-fog only allowed me so much concentration and sacrifices had to be made.

Sorry #52weeks52stories challenge.

I last posted during week 44 and it’s week 51, which means I have six entries to post.

And I will… before 2018 takes its final bow. 😉

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#52weeks52stories: Week 51

Word prompt: inherited

Word count – 930

Reading time – 2 mins, 9 secs

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Myrna Simmons didn’t need to look at a calendar. She knew she was coming to the end of the six months her doctor had given her. Nothing more could be done for the heart condition she’d inherited.

She glanced around at each smiling face seated at the extended dining room table. Four generations of the Simmons family traded barbs and quips between mouthfuls of Christmas dinner.

The stings returned to her chest and she clenched the fist hidden in her lap. Myrna sipped her water to hide the pain in her face.

Please, not now, not today.

She’d prayed to see the new year, not for herself, but so Christmas wouldn’t be a time of sadness for the family she was leaving behind.

She glanced at the empty chair at the other end of the table. She lost her Jimmy two years ago when his diabetes refused to be controlled any longer. Her children couldn’t bear for anyone to sit in Pawpaw’s chair during family dinners.

Would they leave her chair empty too at the next family dinner?

She pushed such maudlin thoughts from her mind. A future without her in it was what had made her older sister, Bernice, so angry.

Plagued by the congenital heart condition from an early age, Bernice had undergone two major operations before she reached junior high school.

Dale and Lorna Spooner treated their oldest child as if she were fragile. Lorna’s own battle with the condition didn’t show up until Myrna was a kindergartner and considered mild in comparison to most.

Rebelling in her late teens, Bernice eloped and married Barry parks and gave birth to three sons in five years.

Her doctors threw up their hands in frustration and their parents were mortified. Dale and Lorna spent most of those early years pleading with Bernice to be reasonable and safe and slow down.

Myrna secretly cheered her sister’s bravado. She watched Bernice do all the things with her boys she’d been sheltered from

When Jimmy proposed to Myrna, Bernice was at her side planning the wedding and as her matron of honor.

The year after Bernice’s youngest started high school, he came home one day to find his mother unconscious on the living room floor.

Her time had run out.

No amount of surgery or medication could bolster her exhausted heart.

Anger radiated from Bernice as she’d sat in her wheelchair. Family and friends buzzed around her piling their plates high with cake and ice cream to celebrate her forty-second birthday.

But Bernice could only focus on what was being stolen from her… what she’d miss—college and high school graduations, military promotions, weddings… and grandchildren.

When she didn’t wake from a sound night’s sleep fourteen months later, it was almost a comfort to her family.

Her acidic comments and toxic behavior had worn down even the steadfast and loyal Barry.

Wincing, Myrna clenched her hidden fist again.

Schooling her features, she excused herself from the table to retrieve the powerful pain pills which were supposed to make her agony bearable.

She closed her bedroom door and slumped against it, her breathing now rapid and shallow.

Myrna knew she needed the oxygen hidden away in the back of her closet.

“Please, God, not today. Give me the rest of today. I’ll use the oxygen tomorrow. I’ll tell them tomorrow. Just… let me have Christmas, please.”

Stumbling into the bathroom on shaky legs, Myrna opened the pill bottle and swallowed two without water.

She hung her head, willing her pulse to slow down.

Raising her head, she stared at her reflection… and smiled.

Her iron-gray twists fell to her shoulders, lining a caramel-kissed face almost wrinkle-free. Despite her pain, walnut-brown eyes stared back at her not distressed but content.

She looked good for her seventy-seven years of life and knew she was a blessed woman.

Myrna had lived longer than any member of her family cursed with the dreaded heart condition, hers not appearing and becoming troublesome until her fifty-fourth birthday.

Neither her grandfather or sister made it to their fiftieth year… and she’d had more than fifty years with Jimmy before she lost him.

Their five children had added thirteen grandchildren and four great-grandchildren to the family.

And she’d been there for it all.

The stings in her chest eased and Myrna said a silent prayer of thanks.

Returning to the dining room, she stood in the doorway, taking in her family.

Her oldest daughter, Lois, looked on with pride as her oldest daughter, BreAnna, fed her three-month-old daughter, Malina.

Fraternal teenage twins, Archie and Andi, fought over the last dinner rolls, while her oldest child, Kirk, argued about computers and something called gigs with his brother-in-law, Grover.

He caught her eye and winked.

Myrna smiled.

She understood Bernice’s anger now.

Moments like this were to be enjoyed and cherished, not missed.

She returned to her chair.

“Ready for dessert, Granny?”

Myrna looked at her twelve-year-old granddaughter squeezed her hand. Alison was the spitting image of Myrna’s daughter-in-law, Gale.

Except for the eyes. She had Jimmy’s soft velvet-brown eyes.

“Yes, baby, I am. Bring on the cobbler and ice cream.”

Everyone at the table cheered. Alison ran to the dessert table, followed by her cousins.

No one could have dessert before Granny.

Myrna relaxed back in her chair, enjoying the melee surrounding the peach cobbler.

This would be her last Christmas. Her traitorous heart would see to that.

But despite its weak walls, leaky valves and inability to function correctly, Myrna was grateful her heart had always been full of love.

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