It is time once again to write a piece for Patricia’s In Other Words Challenge. The challenge is to write a piece of flash fiction from a quote she offers.
Here is the quote:
“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
My offering is below and you can find Patricia’s other contributors at the underlined link above.
I Could Not Couldn’t Do It
By JE Lillie
I have known moments in this journey when I was certain I couldn’t do it. I have wanted to pack my bags and leave so many times. I suppose no one would blame me if I did.
When I was about ten we had this wealthy neighbor. Her name was Anna. At the time, I thought she was about two hundred years old but she was only about sixty. My difficulty with telling her age wasn’t that I was afflicted with the “old person ceiling”, which makes young people think everyone over twenty-five is ancient. Anna’s life made her old before her time. Somewhere along the way she had begun to medicate the pains of her heart with whiskey, but it didn’t work to heal what was broken on the inside. Each year found Anna a bit older and a lot meaner.
Anna needed a maid having lost the will to clean for herself. My mother took the job. I was young but not so young that I couldn’t see the toll it took on Mom. Many times she came home from Anna’s in tears.
I suppose had my father been alive he would have told my mother to quit the job and that would have been it. But life had a lesson to teach me in Dad’s absence so Mom kept working at Anna’s, if for no other reason than to teach me that you cannot give up on people.
Mom never complained about the work. She never missed a day. Anna never got better but that wasn’t because Mom didn’t try. When Anna had her first stroke Mom began working more to make sure Anna ate like she was supposed to. I don’t know exactly when I realized it but at some point I came to the knowledge that Mom was not working for Anna because of the paycheck. Mom worked for Anna because she loved her.
After Anna died people met Mom at the funeral and called her a saint for “putting up with Anna”. Many told her that for years they had been concerned because they felt Mom was trapped in the job. Invariably they asked her why she had stayed and reminded her that she could have at any point just said that she couldn’t do it anymore.
To this day I can still remember Mom’s response. “Anna needed help whether she wanted it or not. I thought about quitting once and that week Father Sweeney preached a message I shall never forget from Philippians 4:13 called,”I Could Not Couldn’t Do it.” After hearing that sermon I just couldn’t say I couldn’t help, because really I could.”
I think about this story everyday as I am helping Mom out of bed, as I am getting her dressed and brushing her teeth, as I am helping her on the toilet or helping her in the shower. Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease. It feels like it is beyond me, but I could not couldn’t do this. Thank you Father Sweeney.