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
"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