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And the Beat Goes On

By Sandra Lumley


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    Three  days after Sherry's hysterectomy she stood sniveling outside the

hospital's exit waiting for her husband to pick her up. Upstairs in her room

she'd refused almost hysterically the wheelchair the nurses tried to put her

in.  She'd been in such a panic to leave  she'd left her nightgown, on pulling

her  jeans on underneath it. Frantically she'd stuffed the nighttie down into the

pants,leaving a good portion of the lacy hem hanging out. She'd tried to comb

her hair but was so upset she couldn't and she really didn't care. Now the  same

nurse bristled beside her clearly offended by this woman's stupid obstinacy

ignoring her sorry  state of dishevelment.  Sherry had to sign a form stating

that if she died or injured herself or anyone while leaving  the hospital she

would take  full responsibility.  She'd wanted to explain that she was resisting

some sudden bewildering helplessness that  had engulfed her fiercely right after

the operation but she couldn't speak through the knot of undone crying trapped

inside her throat. She stood there trying to act like nothing was wrong

squinting up the driveway waiting for Jim's grumbling pick-up to arrive; and,

blessedly there it came. Screeching it halted in front of her and there was

Jim smiling through the windshield.  But  the smile vanished  when  he glanced

at the nurse's rigid angry face. He slammed out of the truck and hurried around

to the passengers side to open the door so Sherry could get in. He looked at her

then tried to stuff some more of the nighttime into her jeans. "Is everything okay 

honey?" he asked looking questioningly at  her tangled hair then worriedly at

the nurse.  Sherry nodded still trying desperately not to cry and climbed up

into the seat with Jim and the nurse  sort of pushing her upward from behind.

    Driving home she glanced at her husband's profile  with  pudding eyes. He

was absorbed in his driving but smiled reassuringly over at her every few

minutes. Neither of them had perceived the operation as anything other  than a

way to make her feel better. But after the surgery  when she truly realized she

would never have another baby it had hit her like a wall.  She had thought it

through and accepted it but she'd been upset and on the verge of tears since

right after the surgery.  She and Jim decided long ago that their family was

complete as it was and they had their  hands full with the two children they

already had. She simply could not understand  this grief. Never mind that her

doctor had mumbled something about over reacting for a while because of hormonal

changes.  What it really meant was that she was getting old. It meant that she

was no longer a complete female. She was doomed to join the ranks of pot bellied

make-up-less women  that didn't care.  Again she glanced at Jim with worried

tear filled eyes.

"No more babies  Jim," she sniffled.

"I know honey," he answered absently then beamed a genuinely glad to see you're

coming home smile while awkwardly patting her  knee. Tremulously Sherry  smiled

back wondering how long it would take for the small but angry  red scar to fade

off of her already pregnancy stretch marked stomach.  Suddenly  she couldn't not

cry anymore and hiccoughed out a huge sob. Jim turned an alarmed surprised face

toward her.

"Are you  okay," he asked with his  thick dark brows ramming together above his

eyes.  Sherry sniffled nodding still not able to speak over the puzzling

frustration she couldn't swallow.

    At home she stumbled down out of the truck  collapsing into Jim's lifted

arms and he buckled under her recovering just  in  time to keep them both from

being sprawled flat out on the driveway.

"Sorry  Honey," he grunted pushing her jerkily onto her feet.

"Mom," their fifteen year old  daughter Sarah yelled racing down the front porch

stairs with her best blue dress balled against her chest.  The screen door

slammed boomingly  behind her just as  Danny  their  ten year old opened it

again and scampered through it hollering.  

"Ma, hey ma!"  His  shaggy no-brand dog crashed around the side of the house

barking wildly and clamped onto his sock.  But Danny kept running  toward his

mother dragging the sliding growling dog.

"Wait a minute," Jim barked from behind  Sherry where he was mincingly trying to

pace himself to her slow hesitant steps.

"Hey  wait a minute will  you?  She's not even in the house yet. Give her a

break," he  yelled at the kids.  "What's wrong with  you?  Get back!  Let her

breathe for Pete's sake."  With  Jim trying to hold on to her, the kids jumping

up and down around her and  the dog  licking  her anyplace  he could Sherry went

into the house.

    "What happened to the bedroom?" She asked as she staggered into it feeling

weary  enough to drop right where  she was.  She wasn't sure how much longer she

could hold back the crying jag she knew was coming and she didn't want to have

it in front of everyone.   Her  hair  was frizzily blowsed around her

un-made-up face and  she'd kept her floppy  slippers on for the trip home from

the hospital.  Jim had brought traveling clothes to her last night. He'd pieced

together a playful denim cover-all and a lace blouse that was  kept for only

special times..  As it had turned out it hadn't  really mattered. 

''This is a special time," he'd told her when  she'd complained.  "You  know I

never noticed how much heavier you've gotten," he said now from behind her. It

was  his offended machismo reacting to his inability to held her steady in the

driveway. She'd known it was coming.  She looked sadly down at her well rounded

hips. "Yes," she mumbled putting them firmly out of her mind.  She headed for

the bed and flopped  down  onto  it too tired and sore to push  off  Jim's worn

rumpled night  clothes or straighten the rolled up cotton comforter that was now

knotted in her back.

    "You rest Honey," her husband soothed gazing at her  helplessly.  "The kids

and  I are going to  take care of you for a change. "Hey,"  he  said as though

he had just been inspired. "You don't look right.  I'll get you a clean

nightgown. Stay right where you are. Don't move," he commanded going to the

bureau. Opening a drawer he yanked out a faded purple nighttime and some old

yellow pajama bottoms. After handing them to her he swatted pointlessly at the

knot of crumpled quilt. Sherry lay  there watching him feeling like a lump.

"How about a nice warm bath," he asked not waiting for an answered.  "Sarah,

Danny! Get in here and help your mother," he yelled. Both children appeared

immediately in the bedroom doorway flushed and giggling with Danny's dog

circling them excitedly.  Suddenly the dog noticed that  Sherry was sprawled on

the bed and sprang joyously  onto it slobbering wet licks all over her face.

Danny and Sarah followed bouncing themselves down beside her encouraging their

dog. "Pug missed you mom," Danny  said. Sherry  wiped her wet face with the side

of her arm. "Your mother  needs a bath not a wrestling match," Jim said. "Go run

some water into the tub Sarah and do it now!" he ordered. 

"Come on dad," Sarah whined rising from the heap of tangled blankets surrounding

sherry. "I'm fixing her a tray." With that their daughter scurried out the

bedroom  door with the dog whose ears had somehow folded themselves inside out

against his head trotting after her. 

"My basketball's stuck on the air compressor dad," Danny pleaded. "It'll blow up

if I  don't get out to the garage."  Then looking guilty but determined  he also

left.   Sherry smiled suddenly  realizing she was glad to be  home. 

"I'd better  go see what those two are  up to. I've been after them every minute

to  keep them from messing up the house." Sherry nodded  studiously ignoring the

piles of clothing scattered on the floor. Two  empty cookie packages lay on the

night  table and underneath Jim's reading lamp.  It's shade was tilted toward

his balled up pillow.  Mis-matched  shoes lay here and there and every  picture

in the room hung off  center. The  smile fell off Sherry's face and she  sighed.

She rose from the bed and changed her clothes. "I'll bathe later she decided.

    In a  somewhat neater bed and the clean nightie  and pajama bottoms she felt

a little less like crying and was glad  when  Sarah brought her luncheon tray.

The  tray  was her  daughter's loose leaf notebook cover and her wrinkled blue

dress hung limply inside the crook of her arm.

"We forgot to get juice mom," she said proudly laying the cardboard tray on

Sherry's legs. "But there's some orange soda to go  with your sandwich. The

sandwich appeared  to have been cut  with a saw but there were two  chocolate

cupcakes dripping dark luscious crumbs on a saucer beside it. Sarah eased

herself conspiratorially  down onto the edge of her mother's bed and laid the

blue wrinkled dress on  her lap. "Do you feel well enough to sew mom?" she asked

seriously. "I really need this dress for  Friday night. It's vital."  Sherry

looked into her  daughters wide blue eyes so like her own and took the dress.

"You really have to start  doing this stuff yourself Sarah or you wont know

anything when you're grown." Just then Danny jumped through the bedroom doorway

bouncing his basket ball on the carpet then off the top of the bureau. His grey

white sneakers had come untied and the laces jumped around spastically.  "Ugh,"

Sara said wrinkling her nose at her brother. Then Jim's solid frame suddenly

filled the just vacated doorway. He held a half  finished grocery list looking

puzzled.  "Honey?' he began and Sherry's crying jag crashed and exploded.  "Get

out," she screamed at all of them through huge gasping sobs. "Don't you   know I

can't do all of this right now?" she blubbered.  "I   don't have the energy. I'm 

tired. Just get out and let me eat my sawed up sandwich. Furious tears stormed

out of her eyes blurring these demandingly lovable three into shimmering watery

rainbow'd blurs.  Shocked Jim looked at his daughter who looked back at her

father questioningly. Danny  shrugged and bounced his basket ball off the wall.

"Quit that Buddy," Jim barked. Danny  caught the ball  and held it tight to his

chest looking lost and sad.  "Come on you guys," Jim said softly leading the way

to the door. "She needs some space." "I can sew this myself mom," Sarah said

grabbing her dress and following her dad and  brother. "In a minute Jim poked

his head back into the room.  "Go ahead and cry  Honey," he  whispered.   "The

doctor told me you might get a little crazy after this operation.  Just remember

I  love you. Okay?"  When the room had cleared and was quiet Sherry sniffled

self pityingly for a bit thinking how nice solitude could be.  Then she decided

a hysterectomy hadn't ruined her world. In fact it hadn't changed anything in it

in anyway.  She didn't really want another  baby either.    Fat or skinny

she'd have her hands full  raising of the  two she  already had.  Sherry started


the end