Mrs. Littleton Goes Flying

by Ruth Z Deming

Occasionally her family wished she were dead. She was such a bother. How had she known how to "escape" in the middle of the night when she didn't even know where her bedroom or the bathroom were?

Her children, Henry and Marie, didn't find out about it until the morning when that nice police officer knocked on their door, with Shirley Littleton in tow.

"Mom!" cried her son, Henry. "Thank God you're all right and didn't freeze to death."

She was in her nightgown, shivering, with crossed arms.

Although she looked at him, it was doubtful she understood a word he was saying.

She looked down at the wooden kitchen floor that Home Depot had installed several months ago. When they had company - and the Littletons gave dozens of parties every year - Shirley would volunteer to set the table.

She hadn't a clue where the utensils were kept. At first they started to label them, but it did no good. They had seen this in the movie "Still Alice" with Scarlet Johannsen.

Henry got on "speed dial" and began talking to the next door neighbor.

"Susie," he said, "mind coming over to take care of Mom?"

When she arrived, Mom was combing her hair with a blue hairbrush, taking out the gray hairs and throwing them on the floor.

"She's having a bad day," said Henry. "Sit down with her at the table and play Monopoly or Rummicubes."

Then he whispered, "We have no choice. We're putting her in a home. She got out last night and roamed the neighborhood in the cold and the darkness."

"Unbelievable!" said Susie.

She grabbed a paper napkin in the middle of the table and blew her nose.

Henry and Marie maintained emotional distance but not Susie.

How she would miss their beautiful house with room enough for when the two girls, Samantha and Kristin, came home from college.

She walked into Shirley's bedroom. White café curtains hung on the two windows. Photos of everyone in Shirley's life - from her movie-star handsome husband, Bud - who died a painful death of emphysema - to her two sisters who had retired to Florida.

Then she walked into the living room. Shirley's daughter-in-law had hired an interior designer from Bloomingdale's and for sure, the room might appear in Architectural Digest. Not only was there a long green sofa, the color of a fir tree, but the Berber rug was a magnificent champagne color.

And there on the coffee table was an "I love Grandma" coffee mug, still filled with the dregs of the coffee the Littletons brewed every single morning.

Susie felt that one of her duties was to advise Shirley what was going on in the world. You never knew if she would understand or not.

She explained while they drank their coffee that the royals had fled the United Kingdom because of the paparazzi that had made Harry and Meghan's life unbearable.

Shirley, with her dazzling blue eyes, stared at Susie, nodding her head.

A conditioned reaction, thought Susie.

The neighbors watched an ambulance pull up to the Littletons.

Entering the ambulance with "Mother" was her son, Henry, who kept his hand on her arm.

She lay on her back, strapped down.

What a good mother she had been all these years. Once in the sixth grade Henry had been accused by the teacher of cheating on a test because he scored top marks.

His mother shamed the teacher and said how smart her son was.

The teacher did apologize.

Also the head of the school marching band said the slide trombone was too difficult for a ten-year-old, which Henry longed to play, but Mother had her way.

Everyone was so proud when the Upper Moreland football games came around and there was Henry, wearing the gold and purple uniform, high-stepping, as he played the majestic slide trombone.

"Saint Barnaby's" was a small nursing home. The ambulance drove about ten minutes until they reached a green canopy, where the residents had gathered on the sidewalk to see who their newest individual would be. The few men who were there hoped for a beautiful woman with whom they could become intimate, forgetting their age and inabilities for the moment.

What they saw was indeed a lovely woman with curly gray hair and barely wrinkled cheeks.

As they entered, Henry fumbled in his backpack for the paperwork.

It was nice and warm in here, he thought, unlike the cold February weather.

Mother walked along side Sister Michael, who put on a good show of welcoming this insensate woman to the "Reflections" unit.

"Henry, is that your name?" she asked.

Flustered, he didn't know what to call her.

"It is, ma'am," he said.

"We have rules here," she continued. "It's best if you don't see your mother for a week, until she gets used to the place."

"Then she'll never remember me!"

"Goodbye, Henry," she said.

Mother, Mrs. Shirley Littleton, felt imprisoned in her new home. A few of her photos were put up on a ledge in her room.

"Who were these people?" she wondered.

She begun to get used to the dinner bell. A volunteer aide would walk her to the dining room where she saw a sea of people. Though she had been there several weeks, they never looked familiar.

She was ravenously hungry and ate everything on her plate: chicken in sweet and sour sauce, peas and carrots, and lemon meringue pie.

She needed no help in eating. And she enjoyed it.

With what little mind she had left, she recognized the Red Exit Sign.

One of the rules at the home was that everyone must dress for all meals. No lounging about in your pajamas.

She took a final sip of her coffee and stuffed a big piece of pie in her mouth and went out the door.

She was always a good walker. She and Susie had gone on many a walk. Once they walked down their street where a dog named Daisy lounged on the lawn. The owner said she was waiting to put the dog down, but the dog wasn't ready.

"She'll know," said Susie.

Once out the exit door, Mrs. Littleton flung out her arms as if she were flying.

"What a lovely feeling," she thought.

From walking, she began to trot. She wasn't able to stop herself and in her black shoes, her blue slacks and yellow sweater, she fell into the pool.

It was terribly terribly cold but somewhat pleasant even in the February weather.

Dogs were called to find her.

They finally did.

Stone-cold dead.

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