BY K C SOMMERS
©APRIL 4, 2012
My heart was in it but my mind wasn’t. I stared out the bay window into the darkened gloom. It was ten am yet, rain had set in. In the distance I could see the edge of the rain fall. Lighting was heavy in the sky. “Oh”, I jumped!
“Aunt Carol, are you all right”?
A voice that seemed to come from a distance call, and then gradually the words came clear. It was my nice Sybil. “Aunt Carol, are you all right”? Sybil asked once again.
I just turned my head and looked at her and smiled, as if that should have been enough to satisfy as the answer. From the window bench where I had been perched I had seen a lighting strike off in the far distance. Perhaps it struck the trees, it often had. It was nature’s way of clearing out the over population of forest.
Living in the northwest was a beautiful experience growing up. North and west of Sisters Oregon high in the hills that overlooked rivers and miles of green forest and the scars of my fellow man.
Sybil came and set down opposite me, not saying a word to one another we turned and looked out the oversized window my father made in his workshop. Garand dad my father and his four brothers build this home for my Grandmother. That was two life time’s ago. My dad was the only survivor now sixty seven.
Sybil pointed into the distance. I said, “I see it. It must have been from a lighting strike”.
“How bad do you think it will get”?
I shuddered knowing the truth about forest fires. I didn’t like to say what I knew. It was indeed a fire we could see the smoke. She sprang from her perch ran from my room after turning right , then down the hall two doors and into my mother’s room. I reluctantly followed I reached mom’s room and froze at the door seal. Sybil had picked up my mother’s binoculars, aiming them into the gloom and now what looked like impending doom. There was a fire break so I wasn’t much concerned, I don’t know why; maybe I was upset about my mother’s funeral that took place yesterday. My Mother now rests on the mantle next to her parents.
Rising and falling, up and down Sybil was flexing her ankles, up and down. She was athletic; many times I too exercised my calf muscles in that same way. She was my sister’s kid after all and she favored me mostly and I guess that would mean our mother too. I remember mom liked to hike and running was natural for her, that or biking. From a toddlers view I remember her as she pedaled her bike towing me and then later my younger sister behind her until we could join our older siblings on bikes of our own. Dad and grand-pa were the best of friends, except during football season, basketball and yes baseball too. Mom always exclaimed if they ever agreed on any sport our home would be boring. Dad and grand-pa did agree on one or two things when it came to sports. The both hated soccer and disliked golf, and hockey well I won’t tell what they said about hockey, partly because I like it. Dad, well he played golf and still does, as funny as it was, I suspect dad and grand-pa just needed something to argue about.
Sybil was staring out mom’s bay window focusing on the ever growing cloud of steam and smoke. I not willing to enter was standing at the doorway, I leaned my head to where it rested on the doorjamb. I loved to watch my nice doing her thing, it was like a window to my past and my childhood now lost. She was dressed for the funeral in a pair of slacks a vest that even had a jacket and it fit as it was made for her curves and knowing her mother my older sister Emily, it would have been tailored made and cut to show off. A power suit I heard Sybil say at the funeral dinner. That is what Emily would have called it too my big sis the stock broker.
I watched as Sybil stopped in midair, standing on the ball of her feet I watched her slowly sink her heals back to the floor. She picked up her cell phone from her suit jacket pocket and on speed dial she pressed send then raised the phone to her ear. “Hello! Yes this is Sybil Sims; I am calling from my Aunts home on old paint road”. The voice on the other end must have said something like they knew where she was calling from because my nice acknowledge, “yes that’s right, I mean correct. From my Grandmothers bedroom window I am watching the beginning of a forest fire. I believe my Aunt Carol watched the lighting strike about 5 minutes ago and it’s rapidly getting bigger”, she paused, “what? Oh I’m sorry I am looking south towards Sisters”. The conservation officer had known about the blaze and things had been set into motion already the fire tower spotted it and because of the dry lighting in the area they were on close watches.
Sybil was 13 she had loved the forest, the nature of it all was part of her life, and furthermore she was truly born in the right state. I didn’t know then but had always suspected that one day she would become a conservationist.
I turned from the door as Sybil turned to watch me step from view. Not far down the hall I heard her speaking to what sounded like one of her friends. I stopped and leaned with my back to the wall and sunk down to the floor, just three feet from my mother’s room. From the first floor I could hear laughter from my father come up from the open stairway. I heard my father laughing, again forcefully this time; at some lame joke I suppose. Probably something stupid my brother-in-law said no doubt. “Humph Sybil’s father is such an A_”, I said lowly. I never finished it you know that word how undignified; to actually think it, and really mean it and yet still just couldn’t bring myself to ever use bad language. I leaned my head into my knees as I brought them up; I closed my eyes.
BY K C SOMMERS
©APRIL 4, 2012
I must have fallen asleep as I had done many times before in that same position three feet from my mother’s door. “Carol, Carol! Whispered chants of my name brought me back from sleep. It was my eighteen year old niece Sybil. Mom wants to know if you’re ready”.
“Hum! Yea”, clearing my throat. “Yes almost, I need to fix my face. I hated warring makeup, yet five years older since last burying a parent I may have needed it.
Dad, dad, now my father had passed away at seventy two he seemed to be in the best of shape better than most men his age. Playing Golf almost every day for the past five years, he even died doing what he loved most, golfing. On the nineteenth hole after playing my turn he turned to my sister and me, and then said. “Girls, you know I love you, but I am giving up golf, this is my last hole he putted and sank his last putt from twelve feet away. “I’m tired girls; I want to see your mother”. Then he sat down next to the nineteenth cup and stopped breathing.
I stood up from my favorite spot since mom past away and walked to the door way of my parent’s room. When Mom had gotten sick, Dad moved into the room next to mine that put him between mom and me with and adjoining door to a shared bath. Having southern exposure dad and grand-pa built bay windows for the five bedrooms on the second floor of our home each had a window seat that I loved to look out on to the natural beauty that our Lord had provided.
Now as I stepped into what I sometimes call my mother’s room I look around and remember when they shared the room and then remembered the last few months when I came back home to help dad with her. He had moved at her request; the bed into the middle of the room so that mom could look out the window onto ranch she loved so dear.
The bed, well the bed had been moved back now and my father had moved back into their room. When my little sister Trish and I stayed there from time to check in on him and wash his dishes and cloths. Well let’s say staying all night, it was a chore to sleep. We both have discussed the crying and low talking we heard from my parent’s room. I suspected he was praying, maybe he was, but Trish thought he was talking to mom.
I loved my dad, and my mom both but I knew my father loved my mother so much it hurt him deeply when she past.
I wondered if I ever loved my mom as much as he did. You see I have never once cried since my mom past away.
Sybil followed me into my parent’s room. Grown and beautiful my eighteen year old niece had taken my hand and lovingly squeezed it. “Are you all right”, she had asked the very same question five years prior in the same manner on the same occasion yet this time it was my father that is gone now and I was standing in their room looking out the same window that they looked from every day as my parents.
“The black is almost gone”.
“What”? I asked
“The blacken trees, well at least here they are. Up by Sisters the trees are standing dead. My professor said they might not come back in our life time. Hundred year old trees gone in one afternoon, all from lighting, you know”? Sybil sighed.
“Your grand-ma loved those trees; it was like she took them with her when she died”.
“Yea, I thought that too, I remembered that morning when the rain came and the lighting struck the trees and sometime after we had dinner the fire burned out at great grand-pa’s fire break”. Sybil replied.
“Look”, Sybil said solemnly. “It’s raining again”!
“Ms. Williams”, pause. “Ms. Williams”!
“Yes Mr. Herne”. I looked up from my student’s papers and then finally into his appealing blue eyes. “May I do something for you”?
“No”, he replied in an ungrateful tone as to, why should he be bothered with anything to do with her. “You have a phone call waiting for you in the Deans office. You should learn to keep your personal business at home where it belongs. I suppose you have a cell phone”?
Was that a question? He knew I had one he called it almost every day complaining about one thing or another. He acted like he was the Dean instead of being head of the maintenance department on campus. I made the mistake of letting him connect with me at a school function over Christmas break. I was just trying to be nice to the, ugh, well man. He was a creep, paunchy, then the dirt. He was filthy every time I seen him, and did I say creepy, but his eyes were the bluest of blue I had ever seen.
“Contacts”, a female voice said.
“Ahh”! I screamed, “What, huh, what”?
It was Karen the Social Science Professor, we were best of friends on campus. “His eyes he has blue contacts, you knew that didn’t you”?
“What, what huh, what, yea of course, how-how, how did you know, I mean how do you know”? I shuddered and stammered.
“You know last Christmas? Well”! She sings songs.
“Yuck, him”? I exclaimed in pretend discussed, we laughed. “Ok, I got to know how far, did you, you know”?
“Later you have an important phone call in the Dean’s secretary’s office”. She pulled me up out of my desk chair and pushed me down the hall to the golf cart waiting at the entrance to my building.
“Come on get in, its long distance”. Karen pushed again.
Long distance no one has long distance anymore, just pick up a cell phone and push in the number and presto your connected no charge. Then I thought about my big brother he was ten years older than me. He never had anything to do with my family he ran off right after high school. He didn’t even come to our parents funerals. Never called, he never cared. I had four siblings, one brother from Dad's first wife and two sisters from my mother, making me the middle sister of the three girls. Frank or Frank junior by name and title never fit in. when I matured I figured it was because he lost his mom early on and never got over it and my mother was no substitute in his mind. They fought no more than kids do with their parents for that matter.