Written by Lisa Gibalerio
Last summer in this space I introduced a character I had created while participating in a series of writing workshops entitled: “Writing for Everyone," a program affiliated with the Amherst Writers and Artists. My character’s name is Leah. She is a woman in her 70s living alone in the small home she shared with her husband and children. Her husband has died and the children are approaching middle age and are busily ensconced in their families and careers and entangled in the challenges that arise in striking a balance between the two.
Here’s the second of four installments I wrote about Leah.
Leah Part 2
Leah finally knew what she had to do. Sweet relief washed over her as she rooted about her desk for pen and paper.
“I’ve got to get this down,” she thought, “before I forget the details.”
Leah winced as her arthritic hand grasped the pen. She drew a deep breath, shook out her hand, and began to formulate a “To Do” list.
Meet with the man from the financial planning company to review finances (David something?)
Call Jennifer – maybe she can help with selecting a real estate agent
Hire neighborhood teens regarding getting the house and yard in order (garden, indoor painting, attic purging, staining back deck, etc.)
Call plumber – tub still leaks
Ask Barrett about ...
Leah stopped. Her hand was shaking and her head was buzzing. The energy that moments before surged through her veins had morphed into feelings of overwhelm and dissonance.
“It’s too much for me to manage,” she mumbled to herself. “Fixing up this old house, selling it, buying another one, moving.”
She sat listlessly for a moment.
“I’ll never get to South County,” she thought, ripping the “To Do” list into pieces.
“My life will end here ... in this stupid house in Massachusetts.”
Leah couldn’t help but despair. After all these years, Massachusetts felt like the wrong place to be. Her heart belonged one state south, in her beloved Rhode Island. A cottage somewhere near the sea felt like a balm to what she knew was waiting patiently to reach out and grab her – certain illness, eventual death.
She wrestled with so many disparate feelings these days: generalized sadness, both fear and excitement about the future, a longing for all that’s been lost, irritability, and often a searing sense of hopelessness. Leah’s days were quiet but for these emotions assaulting her core.
“Oh, why is the last leg of life so cruel?” she wondered, standing painfully. “I’m alone, held captive by memories of better days, all of which are now behind me.”
As she moved away from her desk, Leah passed the mosaic mirror that hung in the living room. She paused there and stared at the old, craggy face in the reflection. Even the color of her eyes seemed faded. And of course, the face returning her glance looked weary. Sometimes it seemed that little by little life was eluding her, effectively slipping away.
Moving away from the mirror, she pulled on a sweater and carefully stepped out onto the back deck.
She walked to the far end, held onto the railing, and greedily breathed in the crisp autumn air.
“Ah, fresh air! This will have to be balm enough,” she thought. “Fresh air, the blue sky, puffy white clouds, wind, the moon, the sound of rustling leaves, of birds chirping – this is what I have now.”
She gazed around the yard and smiled. The sedum was still in bloom and the mums as well.
“Cherish the little things,” she told herself. “Love what you have.”
Leah lowered herself into her chair and gazed up at the sun, soaking in its warmth.
“Well, at least I don’t have to worry about skin damage any more,” she chuckled.
Then she closed her fading blue eyes.