Discussion related to the topic Mildred Caruthers
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As much as I enjoy talking crickets - errr - grasshoppers - I thought it would be nice to do a serial story with a more "serious" tone.
So, from this story all four-or-six-legged talking critters are hereby banished.
Mildred peeked through the peephole on her front door. The man standing on her front steps was young, dark haired, and had a rough, unshaven look. Mildred knew that some of the young girls these days thought that was an attractive look, but to a woman of her generation, it made the man on her steps look suspicious and untrustworthy.
She made sure the chain on her door was locked in place, and then cracked the door open an inch or two - just far enough to get a better look at him, and ask him what he wanted.
The boy looked to be maybe twenty or twenty two years old and he stood with his hands clasped in front of him. As she studied him, he shifted his weight from one foot to the other, as though he was nervous or uncomfortable under her gaze.
"Hi," he said.
"I'm not buying anything," she said firmly, then wondered why she'd said that; the sleasy salesmen who came to her door day after day were always clean shaven. Whatever he was, this kid was not a salesman.
He opened his mouth to speak, but she continued, "And if you're hoping for a handout, or think you're going to rob me, trust me, you're not going to get anything."
Again the boy opened his mouth to speak, and one more time she overrode his words. "And I'm not converting, either, so if you're from one of those weirdo cults, save your breath."
Finally, the boy managed to interrupt for a word. "Gram," he said, "it's me - Julian." After a long silence he added, hesitantly, "Robert's boy?"
Mildred's suspicion turned into panic in a flash, as she realized that her memory had failed her once again. Slowly she closed the two inch gap and latched the door, then she leaned against it and shook her head - as though to shake dust out of a little used tool.
Meanwhile, her grandson stood on the front steps, wondering if she would let him in.
She sighed to her self. Her son was probably worried about her. Her grandson was probably there to send her to a home. Children are never grateful to their parents, and grandchildren are only happy when you dote on them. Maybe Julian just wanted some money, write him a check and send him away. That should be easy enough. Mildred slowly turned around and unlocked the door, opening it to her grandson.
“Oh my, Julian,” Mildred exclaimed cheerfully, “I forgot that you were coming to visit, please come in.” Mildred ushered him into the
Julian smiled up at his grandmother, he saw through her strong act. His grandmother had always been there for him, and now he would be there for her. “My fault, I didn’t get a chance to call, I need to ask your advice.” Being there for her did not mean he would strip her of her dignity. He slowly stepped into her house and a wave of memories flooded into his heart.
“Lets sit in the dining room; I just made some tea, would you like some?” Mildred smiled, leading Julian through the den and into the dining room.
“I would be delighted.” Julian smiled; his grandmother was back to her old self now. He easily slipped into his favorite chair and stole a cookie from the plate in the middle of the table. “Gram,” he spoke humbly as she set a teacup on the table in front of him. “I am worried about college this fall”
“Oh Julian,” she sighed, comforted that his intentions for visiting were so simple. “You graduated from high school with high marks and bored to death in all your classes, I know you will do fine at college.”
“Well,” Julian paused worried in thought for a moment. “I am more worried about the dorms on campus, I have never been good at dealing with the jocks in high school, and it seems that they assigned a football player as my roomy.”
“I see,” Mildred, said, mind stretching to its limits trying to think of how to console her grandson. What should she say? Her grandson came to ask her advice and she could think of nothing to say to him.
Julian saw his grandmother straining again, his mind raced; maybe he shouldn’t have come to ask for help. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so selfish.
“How about you stay here with me?” Mildred offered, finally feeling as though she was useful to someone again.
~Edited by Sylavash, Mar 1, 2008 at 9:15 PM
After Julian had left, Mildred wandered aimlessly about the house for a few minutes, touching familiar objects, stroking them with her fingertips, as though to assure and remind herself that she was in a familiar setting - or perhaps in order to assure that she would not soon forget those familiar settings.
She wondered if she had made a mistake, inviting Julian to stay with her. After all, the little home she and Robert Sr. had retired to had barely been big enough for the two of them - and they had shared a bedroom. She didn't know where Julian would sleep - on the sofa? No, that wouldn't be right. She would need to empty out her sewing room and put a bed in there. During much of the year she never used that room anyway, but the reason she didn't use it was because it was so cold and drafty, except in the summer. Poor Julian would freeze his fingers and toes off in that little room.
But it would be nice to have someone around, and Julian was enough different from his father that she might enjoy his company. Not that she didn't love Robert Jr. - it was just that lately he'd been treating her like a child, like she needed someone to tell her what to do all the time.
Julian was different from Robert in so many ways; like Robert's wife Marie, he was unsure of himself, insecure. Uncomfortable with life. If he moved in, no doubt there would be many evenings filled with awkward silence, which would be far less pleasant than the comfortable silence that now filled her home.
But at least he wouldn't try to run her life.
Maybe they could make it work. Maybe.
~Edited by Douglas, Mar 4, 2008 at 12:07 PM
The next day Julian came back with a troubled look on his face. Mildred invited him inside and gave him a cup of tea. After they were seated in the living room, she said "What's the matter?"
Julian looked deeply into his cup as if he expected it to answer for him. At long last he said "My dad doesn't want me to live here with you."
Mildred was taken aback. "Why?" She asked. "Did he give a reason?"
Julian nodded, and then slowly said, "Please understand, this is coming from him, not me."
Mildred felt a sense of foreboding coming on her. She gripped her cup of tea and nodded.
Julian continued, "He thinks that you're too old and fragile to have a young college student around, like me."
Mildred sighed, she had been afraid of this. "But you're an adult, you can make your own decisions, can't you?"
Julian nodded, "Yes, but he says that your safety is his concern. I guess he thinks I might hurt you somehow."
~Edited by Josiah T., Mar 10, 2008 at 5:14 AM
"Or," said Mildred, "He wants you to get comfortable with other people. Including athletes."
"That could be," said Julian.
"I have a idea," said Mildred, "Let's met your roommate, and then talk about it."
"That would work," Said Julian, "Collage starts tomorrow. I can get settled in today."
Thursday was shopping day. Marie always picked her up at 1:00 sharp and drove her to the local Wal*Mart to buy groceries for the week. Marie was always in a nervous twitter, making a nuisance of herself trying to be helpful. It wasn't as though Mildred was an invalid, and needed someone to help her in and out of the car, and push her shopping cart for her, and pick items off the higher shelves for her.
And then if Mildred had to visit the hopsital for blood work, Marie would sit out in the car and smoke cigarette after cigarette until the entire car was filled with a hazy malodorous fog. Now that they were halfway through October it was even worse, because Marie kept the car windows rolled up.
"There's something I'm supposed to ask you," Mildred said as her daughter-in-law chauffered her across town.
"I don't remember," she said.
And that was that. Marie never talked any more than she had to. It made Tuesdays one of the most frustrating days of the week. To sit in a car with someone who never initiated any conversation, and responded to your attempts at discussion with nothing but grunts - it was almost unbearable. Sometimes Mildred wondered why Robert had married such a nervous, twitchy woman.
Mildred turned up the radio. There was a college football game on. She hated football, and all those other violent sports with absurdly overpaid athletes.
Athletes. It was something to do with athletes. And college. Ah...
"How's Julian doing?" she asked, trying to sound casual.
She turned the radio back down. "Julian. How's he liking college?"
Marie shrugged. "Good."
"He stopped by to visit me a couple months ago, you know," Mildred said. "He was worried about school, wasn't sure he wanted to live in the dorm."
"Huh. Never mentioned it to us."
Mildred looked at her suspiciously. "Really?"
Her daughter-in-law shrugged.
"Why did Robert tell him he couldn't come live with me?" Mildred demanded.
Marie looked surprised, and Mildred could tell the shock was genuine, because surprise always loosened her tongue a bit. "Live with you? Why in the world would Julian want to come live with you? If he didn't want to live in the dorm he could just stay at home. I mean, you're not any closer to the university than we are!"
Bewildered, Mildred said, "He never mentioned it to you?"
Marie shook her head. "Not a word," she said.
~Edited by Janee, Mar 21, 2008 at 7:12 AM
Millie tried to put it out of her mind, what good would it do for her to worry about such things? It was Thanksgiving before she would see him again and she had all but forgotten the incident.
Little old Millie was bustling around in the kitchen when the door bell rang at around half past ten that Thursday morning. she took a moment to check all her pots before she went to answer the door.
"coming" she called in a voice that would never make it to the door. She tottled through the den and to the door, she hadn't been expecting company this early.
As she opened the door she gasped in astonishment at what she saw, a tall lean man stood at the door with an air of confidence that showed he was ready for anything. his brown hair was chopped short, like a bad crew cut, with a swirl of bleach blond on the top that he wore like a badge of honor.
"Hey Gram," he offhandedly commented. "Long time no see."
She gazed in astonishment as she saw the apparition of her husband speak to her. Finally he had come home to her...
‘Robert’, she gasped.
‘No, Gram. It’s me Julian.’
She took a step back and gripped a chair for support. ‘Julian?’
Gently he reached for her hand and guided her as she sat down. If this was Julian, who came calling all those months ago? Surely it wasn't this self-assured young man.
" You're not Julian" gasped Mildred " Oh Robert, where have you been? Let me make you a cup of tea.
" Gram, I'm not Robert, I'm your grandson, not your son. Remember I've just started college. I'm doing really well. I've even joined the football team."
"What are you talking about? You're not my grandson or my son. You're my darling Robert, the love of my life. Oh where have you been Robert. You need to get ready for work. What on earth have you done to your hair. I'll telephone the barber to make an appointment. Oh where did I put the number"
Julian looked at his gram in shock. He was out of his depth and didn't know what to say to his grandmother. He couldn't tell her that Robert senior, his grandad had been dead these last three years. He decided it would be kinder to let Gram believe
he was Robert for a short while.
" Don't worry" he said "I'll phone them later. Let me put the kettle on"
In the kitchen, his mind was racing. What should he do to help his beloved Gram. He hated to see the change in her. Although she was fiercely independent, he could see the signs she wasn't coping as well as she used to. The dirty dishes piled in the sink for one thing. Gram always used to keep her kitchen spic and span. He sighed and carried in the teapot and two china cups and saucers.
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