#My52: Week 10
Word prompt: copper
Word count – 1384
Reading time – 5 mins, 07 secs
Jo Tanner kept a neat home, but the drain on emotions and sanity over the last two months dealt a harsh blow to the tidy organization of the Tanner home.
When the brothers left for school early that morning, the corner breakfast nook was covered in mail, newspapers, and piles of half-folded laundry… as it had been for weeks.
Now the table and benches were clear and clean, no longer a catch-all for a stressed household.
Copper cookware hung neatly above the chef’s island and its sunflower yellow countertop sparkled.
A slamming door caused Kent to look across the kitchen to see his mother enter from the back porch carrying a basket of clean laundry.
“Hey, you’re home. Good.”
Jo sat the laundry basket near the door and went to her youngest son, pulling him into a warm hug.
Kent pulled back, searching her face.
She was different.
Though sadness was still a resident in his mother’s brown eyes, they were not red and swollen from endless tears. Her features didn’t sag in defeat, and she appeared to be calm and in control.
Kent had so many questions but gave in to the lump forming in his throat and returned her hug.
The side-door opened, and mother and son turned to see Jack enter with the same wide-eyed expression Kent had worn.
Jo raised her hand, beckoning for her firstborn to join them.
Without a word, Jack dropped his backpack and raced into the group hug.
With an arm around each of her sons, Jo gave them both a tight squeeze before pulling back and looking up into their faces.
“I’m sure I have more tears to shed, but not now.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself. “Your dad and I had so many plans for the future—things we wanted to do with you boys and things for the two of us after you guys were on your own.”
“He was bigger than life to me and I’ve loved him since the day we met at a peace rally in front of the public library. I saw us growing old together, spoiling your kids and fussing about dentures.”
Jack and Kent smiled while their hearts broke for the memories their mother would never have.
“I know there’re no guarantees in life, but I never imagined losing the love of my life to a massive heart attack at only forty-two years of age. Dang man had never even had a cold in twenty years, then he just up and dies…”
The brothers tightened their grip on their mother, holding her up.
“It broke me, and I allowed it. I was doing things by rote, ignoring everything that took thought,” she looked at each of them, “ignoring my boys.”
Jack and Kent protested.
“Mom, we understood-”
“It wasn’t like that-”
She shushed them both.
“That’s exactly what it’s like… how it’s been.”
“After the funeral when everyone was outback and your great-aunt Pearl gave you both a dressing down because you weren’t sad and crying enough to meet her definition of grief, I said nothing.”
“Mom, it was the worst day of our lives, give yourself a break.”
“Exactly, baby, it was the worst day of our lives, but I could only think of myself.”
“No. I didn’t protect my children. I know Aunt Pearl meant well in her own too-nosy-for-her-own-good way, but I should have said something.”
Kent interrupted her.
“But no one else did either, mom.”
“Hmmpf. That’s because she has money, and no one wants to get cut from her will.”
The truth of the comment made them all chuckle.
“But Pearl never knows—or doesn’t care—when to stop. She’s called every few days. Sometimes I answer, sometimes I don’t.”
“What’s she calling for?”
Jo scoffed. “As she put it, ‘it’s her familial duty to make sure we’re okay,’ but it’s always about money with her. Offers to pay for a housekeeper or handyman, hire help for the crop rotation, even send us on a getaway trip for healing.”
Jack threw his head back and yelled, “Vegas!”
Jo laughed too, smacking his arm. “No, Mr. still-a-minor. I thanked her but said no thank you.”
Kent smirked. “I hear the sound of scissors… cutting you out of her will, mom.”
The Tanner family belly laughed together for the first time in months and Jo led her boys over to the breakfast nook. After they were seated, Jo became serious.
“It had been over two weeks since Aunt Pearl’s last call. I’d hoped she’d found someone else to harass.”
Jo shook her head.
“I wasn’t that lucky. She called this morning right after you guys left for school.”
Jack frowned. “Dang, mom. We left at six-fifteen. You said it was rude to call anyone before eight in the morning.”
“That’s for normal people who don’t believe the world revolves around them, honey. Aunt Pearl doesn’t fall into that category.”
“What did she want, mom? You look like she upset you.”
“Oh, yeah… big-time. She started right in the second I answered the phone.”
“Morning, Aunt Pearl.”
“Hello, JoAnna. How are the boys?”
“The boys are fine. They’ve already left for school.”
“No, I mean how are the boys, really? It’s only been two months since Wes died. Have they mourned properly?”
“Aunt Pearl, what is the proper way to mourn? Everyone deals with grief in different ways.”
“Oh, don’t get all defensive, dear. Everyone knows those boys were as crazy about Wes as he was them. Their life paradigm is forever changed. And no matter how big they are in size; Jackie and Kent are still children. I’d expect them to shed buckets of tears.”
“Auntie, again, there is no right or wrong way to mourn for anyone… children or adults. My boys were in shock just as I was. And yes, it is life-changing, but the boys had a father they loved and looked up to. I doubt losing him will alter their personalities. Wes’ death was so… so sudden. It still doesn’t feel real, but it is, and we’ll deal with it.”
“I know, dear, I know. That’s why I’ve cleared my calendar all the way to fall.”
“Huh? What? Auntie, what does that mean?”
“I’m coming to stay with you for a few months. While the boys wrap up the school year, I’ll line up a housekeeper for you and get some field help scheduled all the way through harvest. Then when the boys are on summer break, I’ll-”
“… get them scheduled for some-”
“I said no.”
“… counseling and maybe even a trip to the Grand-”
“Aunt Pearl, are you listening to me? I said no!”
“There’s no need to raise your voice and get so dramatic, JoAnna. I’m just trying to help my family the best way I know how.”
“I’m sorry for yelling, Auntie, and I appreciate your generosity, but my answer is still no.”
“Why are you being so stubborn about this? Wes was my favorite nephew… closer to me than my own boys. Jackie and Kent are all I have left of him.” Her voice faltered. “It-it hurts to look at Kent sometimes. He’s the spitting image of his father. Please, let me help them through this.”
“Aunt Pearl listen to me. I know you miss Wes too, but you can’t work through your grief by forcing yourself on the boys-”
“JoAnna! I’m not forcing-”
“Let me finish. You can’t channel your grief through them. You cannot make them feel what you are feeling. They have to work through this on their own in their own way and if they need help, it comes from me.”
“The boys have band camp and sports camp this summer. But I promise to sit down with them and go over their schedules. If they want to visit you together or separately, I will make that happen. But, it will be their decision to make.”
Jack and Kent stared at their mother with their mouths hanging open.
Kent whistled. “You said that? To Aunt Pearl? What did she say?”
“Well, she wasn’t happy with me, but she said she hoped to hear from me soon and hung up.”
Jack pointed his finger across the table. “You are so out of the will now, no question.”
To be continued…
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