Chapter 3

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Jeannie

With a few more words to Mom who was quickly fading, Leslie turned around and motioned to her husband. She looked over at me with a tired look. Her age was more evident around her eyes.

"I've been here the last two nights. I'm going home to sleep. I'll be back in the morning. Will bring something for breakfast." She hugged me. "Good to see you."

Her husband gave me another hug. It took all my strength not to jerk away from the slimy feeling that washed over me. Thank goodness the feeling was short-lived as Leslie tugged at his arm.

As I watched them leave, I couldn't help but think how much she looked like Mom. Yes, we all had features of her, including myself. But it was Leslie who looked the most like her. I nearly laughed at the irony of that.

When they had left, Mary breathed deeply. She suddenly looked ten years older than she was. She rubbed her eyes. "We have a bed they can bring in later. It's big enough that we can both sleep on it though I tend to stay up watching her as much as possible."

"I'm tired but not sure I can sleep." I watched as Mom's breathing deepened. She had fallen back asleep within minutes of receiving the pain medication. I envied her ability to just drift off and rest.

I glanced back to Mary who took her shoes off and rubbed her feet. "What was up with that deep sigh just now?"

Mary shrugged. "You know how it all is." Her voice got quiet.

Oh, I knew how it all was. I knew all too well. "Leslie?"

Mary nodded with a grimace.

I wasn't surprised at all. I could sense some tension in the room and wasn't sure about what it was all about. Leslie had the tendency to cause tension in the family quite often. I was just a little surprised that it was so strong during this time.

"What happened?" Yes, I was slightly nosey, but I also knew what pent up emotions did to one. I had dealt with it my whole life.

Mary hesitated. She wasn't one to talk about others. In fact, she bent over backwards to keep peace where she could. In that aspect, she was a lot like Dad. It didn't matter if talking about it would help. You just didn't talk about it. That was where I stepped out of the family mold. I believed in exposing issues and discussing them in hopes of fixing them going forward. I found it easy to be the black sheep of the family.

"She's been rather..." Mary broke off as though struggling to pull the right word through her reluctant mouth.

"Mean?" I suggested.

Mary gave me a reluctant smile. "Pretty much."

"What's she doing now?" It could be anything. Leslie tended to be mean in order to make herself look better, or it was in her thinking. I knew exactly what was going on. Okay, maybe not exactly, but I had a very good idea.

"I really don't want to talk bad of her." Mary pulled her legs up under her and kept her eyes on Mom.

"You're not talking bad about her. You're getting it off your chest so you don't stoop to her level." I really believed that. Not getting what bothers you off your chest, you allow it to fester and then later explode with not so good results. I had watched that for years in the family. We never talked about things that irritated us or hurt us. We swept it all under a rug where it molded and fermented and never went away.

That comment released the dam that held her pain back. I think she needed confirmation that she wasn't breaking a severe commandment.

"She is always making comments that make it sound like I'm incompetent at taking care of Mama. Not like I've been a nurse longer than her. Not like I have worked for over forty years in the profession." Mary sighed. "Just tired of hearing her going on as though she is the only one who can ever do anything right."

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