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S a m u e l

M a r t i n

A

L i f e

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T h e

D a y

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a short short story b y

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g e n e

s t r o t h e r


A Life in the Day of Samuel Martin ©2008 by D. Gene Strother, All rights reserved

4:13am

Whoa! What a dream! My God, my heart is racing. I have to catch my breath. It was only a dream. See? There she is, sleeping soundly beside me.

No. Wait. She isn’t here! Where is she? Sixty-seven years, and she has always been there, right there, her back to me, curled on her side. I know the light snoring sounds she makes when she sleeps. I know the way the heat of her body radiates against me, the steady, gentle pull that keeps the covers taut, like a little perch trying to steal bait from a fishing line. Where is she?

Who is she? Who was I thinking about? There was this girl. I remember when I first saw her, caught the sunlight gleaming on chestnut hair. How she shined! Such confidence! Such beauty! What was her name? Something to do with the stars. Everyone said it was a weird name, that her parents must have been a little touched to name a kid…what was it? Nova? Yes! Nova, light of my life, love of my youth. Sixtyseven years we have lived and loved and laughed together. There’s her pillow. Where is she?

I’m so… sleepy.

6:45am

“Daddy? You awake?”

“Huh? Uh… yes, I’m awake. Who is it?” 1


“It’s me, Daddy. It’s Sammy. The girls just about have breakfast ready.”

“The girls?”

“Yes, Daddy. Your daughters. You know. You hungry?”

“I’m starved. Where’s mom? She with the girls? I always wake before her.”

“Daddy, she’s gone. Remember? You saw her just last night… at the funeral home. She’s with Jesus, now. Remember, Daddy?”

“Oh, God! Oh, God help me. Oh God, oh God. Help me. He was supposed to take me first! Not her. Oh God!”

“Daddy, please don’t do this to yourself. She isn’t suffering anymore. You will see her again soon.”

This pain is too great. It’s too heavy. It crushes my chest. It’s hard to breathe. That’s it, my son, my only son. Hug me. Squeeze me. Your chest is so broad and your arms so strong. You remind me of me… back in 1940.

What a year that was! Her father reluctantly consented when I asked her hand in marriage. The miserable old goat knew he couldn’t prevent it. I would have walked through Hell to make that girl mine. She awakened a hunger in me.

2


“I’m hungry. Mom got breakfast ready?’

“C’mon, Daddy, let’s get you dressed.”

7:34am

“Good morning, Daddy. Did you sleep well?”

Ah! There she is! My Nova, radiant beauty. Let me pull you to me. Yes! Like this and kiss your lips, those lips so soft and supple, lips that taste like purest honey. Wait! Don’t pull away.

“What’s wrong?”

“Daddy! I love you, too, but a little less enthusiastic morning kiss is more than sufficient.”

She’s funny when she crinkles her nose like that. It feels good to laugh. It’s a silly mistake, but understandable, right? Oh, my Jenny, my baby girl, the second, no the third of my daughters. Spitting image of Nova.

Sufficient? Sufficient, yes, I like that word. It’s a good, strong Bible word.

“’My grace is sufficient for thee!’ Second Corinthians 12:9.”

“Yes, Daddy, it is. His grace is sufficient. It always has been and it still is… even on a day like this, right Sammy?” 3


“Um… sure, Sis.”

“’Take therefore no thought for tomorrow: for tomorrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ Matthew 6:34!”

“Yes, Daddy. You always could quote the Bible. I guess that means we should take things one day at a time, right? You ready to eat?”

Wait a minute. I was thinking of a word. Had it right there on the tip of my tongue. What was that word?

“Daddy? Let’s eat.”

“Yes. I’m starved.”

10:11am

This chair hurts my back. I guess I have worn it out, sitting around on my butt all these years. What I wouldn’t give to have the strength back in my legs. It is so humiliating, the way I have to rock myself and then lunge to get enough momentum to pull my body upright. I don’t know what I’d do without this ridiculous-looking walker.

“Getting old is a pain in the ass!”

“I’m sorry? Brother Martin, did you say something?” 4


“What the Hell are you looking at? Get out of my house!”

Ignorant-looking bastard stares at me like I’m a zoo animal.

“Daddy! Stop that!”

“Who is this asshole and why is he in my house?”

“Daddy, this is Pastor Jameson. Leon Jameson. Remember? He’s one of your oldest and dearest friends.”

This silence is awkward. Someone should say something. I would, if I knew what to say.

“I… I’m sorry, Pastor. It must be the stress. I’ve never heard him use foul language in my entire life. I just don’t…”

“Shhh, It’s alright, Jenny. God knows all about it. So, it’s Alzheimer’s?”

“Well, no. They have never confirmed Alzheimer’s per se. But it is definitely some form of dementia. And it seems to be getting worse every day.”

They whisper about me like I’m not even here. They think I am deaf, I guess. I have better hearing than any of them. I hear everything. Wait a minute! What was it I heard just the other day? It was on the TV. No. The radio. I wanted to be sure and tell Nova about it. What was it? 5


11:01am

Bastard has his hand on my shoulder. I swear I’m going to deck him. The last guy I hit said it hurt worse than when he was kicked by that mule. What was it? 1939? I know one thing for sure: it got him over his crush on my girl.

“Samuel, I’m so sorry for your loss. Nova was more than a good woman… she was the quintessential pastor’s wife.”

“Ah, Leon! So glad you’re here, my brother. Pray for me, won’t you?”

“Of course, old friend. I do, every day.”

“No, Leon. Right now. Pray for me so I can hear you. No one prays like you do, and no one needs your prayers like I do. I get… so… confused. I can’t keep my thoughts straight. It’s so… hard.”

“Easy, daddy. Don’t get yourself upset again.”

“Hush, Jenny! Your mother is dead. You don’t think I know that? You don’t think I remember? That’s why Leon is here, isn’t it? I have every right to be upset! My Nova is dead. God help me, she’s dead.”

“Let’s pray. Dear Father, I am here before you this moment on behalf of my sweet friend, Sam Martin. He needs you, Lord, like he has never needed you before. He needs the peace and the comfort that only you can provide. He needs the clarity of thought that has always been a hallmark of his life, God, but 6


seems to escape him now. Help him to remember, to bask in the precious memories of sixty-seven years of marital bliss, to remember that you gave one of earth’s most angelic creatures to love him for all those years. If he must forget, God, then let him forget the pain, let him forget the hardships, let him forget the struggles. Wrap my friend in your wings of love. Embrace him, Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Look at them, their heads all bowed, wiping tears on their sleeves, sobbing like heart-broken children. I feel sorry for them. They think there is an answer, a reason for everything, some way to make it all make sense.

3:52pm

So nice, isn’t it? All brushed nickel and bronze. So elegant. So eloquent. Better than any of the platitudes Leon employed in his eulogy, that casket seems to proclaim the value of its treasure.

It was a good choice. Some of the caskets were too ornate, too gaudy, designed for people dying to be the center of attention. The others were too plain and ordinary, built for boring people mercifully calling it quits on their so-called lives. None of those would do for my Nova. She never called attention to herself. She wasn’t vain or self-serving. But you couldn’t miss her. She always shined just brightly enough to outshine every other woman in the room. Not on purpose, but not by accident either. Even now, beneath this tent where a hundred people or more are huddled to say one last farewell before they lower her into the grave, I can feel her presence. It warms me. She still shines. She… Shines.

The sun… is right in my eyes.

But this breeze is nice. 7


8:37pm

“Daddy, that sure was a great crowd today, wasn’t it?”

“Where?”

“At the church, Daddy, for the funeral, remember?”

“Oh, dear God, was it today? I wish I could have been there.”

“Me, too, Daddy. Me, too.”

Why does Jenny sigh like that?

I’m so… sleepy.

©2008 by D. Gene Strother, All rights reserved

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n i t r a M

l e u m a S

f o y a D e h t n i e f i L A

See the world through the eyes of a dementia patient on the most traumatic day of his life…an experience you won’t soon forget!

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©2008 by D. Gene Strother, All rights reserved


A Life in the Day of Samuel Martin