A Life Fulfilled
by Kelly F. Barr
Sunlight prodded her eyelids, pleading with Clara to wake up. She groaned and pulled the blanket over her head. She moved her right hand to the other side of the bed. It was cold … empty, and suddenly the bed didn’t seem so comfortable. She pushed the blanket to her waist and sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed, and slipped her feet into her pink fuzzy slippers. She grabbed the pink terrycloth robe from the foot of the bed, stood, and put it on.
Clara shuffled to the kitchen. She stopped in the doorway remembering breakfasts of pancakes and sausage or french toast and scrambled eggs. There wasn’t any point in making so much for herself. She tottered into the room and turned the burner on beneath the teapot, put two slices of bread into the toaster, then pulled the jar of peanut butter from the cupboard and withdrew a knife from the drawer. Clara put a scoop of her favorite loose-leaf tea into her tea strainer in her pretty teacup with sprigs of lavender painted upon it. When the toast popped, she placed it on a plate and covered each slice with the nutty spread. The teapot whistled and she poured hot water into her cup covering the strainer. She carried the plate of toast to the little table by the window.
As Clara stepped across the kitchen to the counter to retrieve her tea, the telephone rang.
“Mom, how are you doing?”
The sound of her son’s voice brought a smile to her lips. They spoke a few minutes—she assuring him she was fine, and he tossing more questions at her until he was convinced. He promised that as soon as the boys’ baseball season ended, they would drive down for a visit, then they ended the call.
She turned on the old radio on the counter on the opposite side of the room, wobbled over and dumped some of the tea in the sink so she could add hot water from the pot and a teaspoon of sugar. She ate her toast while Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin took her back to a happier time.
After cleaning up the few kitchen items, she picked up the phone and made a call. The lawyer on the other end had handled things so well for her in the past. She sought his assurance that all was in order, and he assured her it was. She thanked him and hung up the phone.
She returned to her bedroom and put on her gardening clothes: a pair of green clam diggers a little worn in the knees and a faded pink blouse. She slipped on a pair of socks and her old brown penny loafers, grabbed her wide-brimmed straw hat and plopped it on her head. She stopped in the mudroom and grabbed a pair of garden gloves and the little plastic bucket with her spade and hand rake and stepped out the front door. She eased herself down the two steps, then onto her knees on the lawn in front of the flower bed and set herself to weeding.
The sun beat down on her. She wiped the back of a wrist across her sweaty brow and licked her parched lips. She finished the weeding and stood up slowly. She paused a moment, then carried the little bucket of tools back into the house, placed it on the shelf in the mudroom and shuffled to her bedroom.
After returning the hat and shoes to the closet, she pulled out clean clothes and plodded to the bathroom. She turned on the shower and stood under the refreshing flow, then lathered up a washcloth and scrubbed herself clean. She stepped out of the shower, toweled herself off and dressed, then moved to the living room.
Clara sat in her favorite chair and pulled out the crochet project she’d been working on. She continued crocheting until the blanket was finished. She rose from her chair and wobbled to her bedroom, placed the blanket in a box and wrapped it. Then she wrote “Kendra” on a little tag and taped it to the top.
As she placed the box in her closet, her telephone rang. This time it was her daughter. They spoke for a few minutes, then her daughter let the three girls take turns talking to their grandmother. The girls told her about all the activities they were involved in. Clara grew weary just listening to it all. They were too busy to come for a visit.
Clara returned to the kitchen for another cup of tea. This time she took it to the living room, set it on the coffee table, and dropped onto the sofa. She withdrew a photo album from beneath the table next to her and paged through it. She was blessed with so many happy memories, but when she came upon a photo of Harold, she ran her fingers over it and a tear slipped from her eye. She closed the book, rose, and moved to look out the front window.
Jasmine’s car wasn’t in the driveway across the street. Clara frowned. That poor girl worked so hard for her babies.
Clara tottered to the kitchen. She busied herself making chicken noodle soup. As the soup simmered, she baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies. When the food was ready, she peeked out the front window once again. Still no sign of Jasmine. She returned to the kitchen to take care of the clean up.
When the kitchen was restored to order, Jasmine’s car was finally home. Clara took the pot of soup and the plate of cookies and placed them in a box. She lifted the box carefully and padded over to Jasmine’s house. Jasmine opened the door looking quite tired. She smiled and showered Clara with thanks for her generosity and kindness.
The sun was setting in the sky but Clara had one more place to go. She walked the block and a half to the cemetery. She moved between the headstones until she came to the one most familiar to her. She stopped and looked at the stone. “Well Harold, I think I’ll be seeing you soon. I miss you so much since you’ve gone. The children are fine, busy with their own families, jobs, and activities. I am a little concerned about Jasmine, but I trust the good Lord to help her.” She kissed the tips of two of her fingers and touched the top of the stone, then turned and strolled back home.
She sat in her favorite chair, placed her glasses on her face and her Bible in her lap. She read her favorite scriptures until her eyes grew tired. She placed her glasses upon the little table next to her and rested her head back against the chair. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply … then she died.