by E.C. Myers
The images faded from the screen and silence filled the room, broken only by the sound of Anna's respirator. Her grandson Billy pulled the headset off and returned it to its cradle.
"Was that really how it was?" Billy asked.
"That's where that scar on your knee came from," Anna said. "I cleaned the scrape, bandaged it--"
"--and baked us cookies." He slid out of his seat. "I had forgotten," he added thoughtfully.
"You were young," she said sadly. "But now the memory is yours." Already she was forgetting what she had just passed to him--one of her favorites.
"Billy, say 'thank you,'" Teresa urged.
Anna did not always approve of her daughter-in-law, but she had given her something to remember as well: the moment Anna had first seen her grandson, nestled in his mother's arms. It was then that she had truly accepted Teresa into her family, and her heart.
"Thank you, Gram."
Confined to the hospital, Anna had reminisced about the people she loved and moments shared with them, ordering her thoughts in preparation for this day. She had remembered the bad along with the good, but the good memories were clearer in her mind. Those were the ones she wanted to hold onto the most, so those were the ones she had chosen to give--and in the giving, lose for herself.
"John?" she said.
John scowled. "Not me, Ma. I never wanted any part of this." The eldest of her three boys, he was the independent one, the rebellious one, the one she tried to love more than the others because he needed it the most.
"You're the last, and there isn't much time left." She had already been through this with his brothers and their families, and dozens of her closest friends, in the past few days. She had waited until the last possible moment, because she couldn't bear to be without the comforting memories she cherished. She felt so empty from what she had lost already, but in some ways the forgetting actually made it easier for her to say goodbye.
"Keep your memories, Ma, and I'll keep mine."
"But this one is special. This is the one I know you've wanted for a long time."
John had asked for stories about his birth father when he was young, as soon as he realized he was different from his brothers. He asked less frequently as he got older, until finally he stopped speaking to her altogether. He resented her for keeping them to herself, but she had wanted something of her own, so she jealously guarded her love for his father.
"I'm sorry. I've kept him from you for too long. Let me try to fix it, before it's too late."
John looked at her intently. He walked to her bed slowly and slid the headset into place.
"It's time to meet your father," she said as the screen came to life
and the memories came, then slipped away from her.
To hear this story as read by the author, click Audio.
E.C. Myers considers his writing an ongoing experiment in sleep deprivation, the products of which have been sold to publications such as flashquake, Son and Foe, and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers' Workshop and a member of the excellent writing groups Altered Fluid and Fangs of God.
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"Bequeathal" © 2007 E.C. Myers. Used by permission
of the author.
Raven Electrick © 2000-2007 Karen A. Romanko.