April was dying. She was old and sick with Alzheimer’s. Her children understood that her timer was close to buzzing. They’d already made plans for her funeral, which was relatively painless because they figured she ought to be buried next to their father.
Liz, the youngest of the four, often wondered if that was the right spot for their mother, beside their father. Randy had not been a good father let alone husband. April had loathed him, so it bothered Liz, thinking of her mother spending the rest of time buried next to him.
To this day, the ritual was still ingrained in Liz. Daddy would come home late, stinking of booze, and the race was on. He’d binge drink for the rest of the night, fight with April, get violent with the kids or his wife, and finally pass out. She could still picture his dead eyes-they were so empty when he was on a bender.
Early in the morning he’d rise, quietly dress, and skulk out of the house. The family wouldn’t see him again for a week. Defeated by his beloved liquor, he’d return home and lay up in bed until he was feeling human again.
When he’d fallen sick, April’s hatred for him was more than she could refrain from displaying. A man dying of cancer wasn’t much of a threat anymore, so she stopped being scared. She hated him for not dying sooner. He did die, though, and when Liz attended the viewing, it dawned on her that her father was a complete stranger.
Now it was Mommy who was up to meet the reaper. She didn’t even recognize her children anymore. She was easily confused and scared, and Liz would sometimes cry herself to sleep after one of these emotional episodes.
Sometimes she wasn’t scared, though. Sometimes, she just thought herself thirty years younger.
On one of these occasions, Liz spontaneously asked, “Where’s your husband?”
April rubbed her nose with a wrinkled hand.
“He’s gone,” she snapped.
“Oh? Where did he go?”
The old lady sighed.
“Straight to hell, I s’pose.”
A cold knot formed in Liz’s gut.
“Y-you mean to say, he passed?”
April nodded briskly and barked a laugh.
“Yes, I saw to it that the bastard went.”
The cold knot grew inside of Liz.
“Wh…what do you mean? He died of cancer, right?”
April glared at her daughter with sharp, shrewd eyes.
“He was sick, sure to God, but I helped him go. I thought about hitting him over the head with a hammer, but, Lord help me, I don’t think I could’ve buried him all by myself. Will you fetch me some tea? I’m mighty thirsty.”
In the kitchen, as Liz filled a glass with ice, she thought about how her mother was a complete stranger.