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The Visit (A Fictional Short Story)


I have a tendency to grow tired everyday as afternoon slips into evening.  As twilight approaches, I always feel the need to put my feet up and relax for a bit. As an avid reader, I love to open a book for a while and let the day’s stresses fade.  Sometimes, I get so relaxed I nod off mid-sentence on a page. It is that kind of sleep that overcomes you, and you don’t realize you fell asleep, until you wake up an hour later and notice that you drooled all over Chapter Five.

I enjoy the comfort of our sectional sofa, and the variety of ways I can relax on it. Just recently, I propped myself in a comfortable position with a copy of Stephen King’s latest novel. I was looking forward to immersing myself in his macabre world, and taking a break from a sometimes-unpleasant reality.  I pushed my glasses up the ridge of my nose, cracked open the book, and let the words stream into my consciousness.

There is always such a feeling of escapism when I read. I can experience someone else’s drama, and I don’t have to worry about my own issues. With this comes a certain relaxation and sometimes sleep.  At some point, as I wove my way into the first chapter, I shut my eyes for a moment of reflection.  Suddenly, I jerked my head off the sofa cushion to the sound of the doorbell. The sound seemed unusually loud, as I realized I was pulling myself out of a deep sleep.

Stephen and I had parted ways mid-page 34, and I had slipped into my late afternoon nap.  I rubbed my eyes with my glasses askew on my face, and tried to see what time it was. I realized that I had to have been dozing for a while because the sky was showing the fingers of night creeping across it. I struggled to awaken myself as the doorbell once again chimed loudly from the hallway. It was as if all the normal sounds, like the clock ticking or the traffic noise from the road outside our house had been muted. The only thing echoing in my ears was the insistent doorbell.

I flipped on several lights and made my way down the stairs to the entry foyer. Through the rippled glass of the front door I could make out the figure of a women pushing on the doorbell. She appeared to be holding onto a walker. I felt confused and a bit disoriented as I approached my unexpected visitor.  I turned the lock and opened the door, and a strange sort of electric current seemed to hang in the air. It made everything more vivid and my senses sharper. I smelled the evening seeping into the air, and I felt the chill of approaching night.  As if a 3D projection was being drawn into my eyesight, there on my doorstep stood my mother smiling at me holding onto her walker.

My leg muscles trembled and my mouth went dry. I grabbed for the doorjamb to keep from sliding to the floor. “Mom?” I muttered as my voice cracked.  “Hi honey,” she replied as she winked her eye at me.  This was something I remembered as her parting gesture the many times I said goodbye to her at the nursing home.

I wasn’t even conscious at first, but tears were streaming down my face, and my mom reached out and brushed one away from my cheek. I felt her hand on me, the warmth of her skin, and the smell of her signature perfume, L’air Du Temps, wafted toward me in the chilling evening air. I grabbed her hand and felt her presence surround me. She was there in the flesh and standing on my doorstep.  She was wearing the red sweater and black pants; I had seen her wear so many times at Shady Lane – a favorite outfit. I reached out and touched her face, and she smiled. I was filled with joy and amazement. Had I dreamed the last few months of grief and loss? Maybe it was all a horrible nightmare, and this was reality.

She certainly appeared to be more than an apparition.  I suddenly felt like Ebenezer Scrooge, and perhaps this image was some undigested bit of lunch, a morsel that was not agreeing with my digestion, or perhaps a vivid delusion brought on by Stephen King.  “You’re not like Jacob Marley from a Christmas Carol are you?” I asked her.  She looked at me at first as if I had hurt her feelings terribly, and then she burst into a laugh.  “Oh Vincey,” she said. “You always have such a good sense of humor. You are just like your father. He always had a joke.”

“So you are not a ghost?” I asked for reassurance. She moved closer and whispered to me, “Is it Christmas Eve?” I nodded no. “Do you see any chains?  Again I nodded no in response to her question. “I’m not floating into your bedroom, so I guess I am not haunting you.” she replied.

I still felt bewildered, but also ecstatic that she was here standing in front of me. Then it dawned on me, that she had never come to my house before of her own volition.  As this thought swirled in my head, I smelled exhaust as if a motor were running. “How did you get here?” I asked her.  “Oh, I came in the van from Shady Lane,” she said. “They offered to drive me, because I have something I want to give you, and I wanted to bring it here.”

She indicated with her arm toward the driveway like Vanna White displaying the puzzle board on “Wheel of Fortune.” At that point, I noticed just beyond the glow of the floodlights, the back of a white van with its taillights shining through a cloud of white exhaust fumes “The driver is going to wait for me, if you ever invite me in,” she said with another wink of her eye.

“Of course,” I said emphatically as I helped her maneuver the walker over the doorframe, and guided her into the house. When we were both in the foyer, she grabbed me and held me tightly. I wanted this moment to last forever. I felt all the affection and caring that a parent has for a child. The complete unconditional love that a mother feels flowed through me. I was being rejuvenated and it felt like I was being made whole again. That feeling of loss and the missing of her presence were gone.  “I love you so much,” she said into my ear. “I will always be here for you.”

“I love you too mom,” I said. We spent another moment holding onto one another, and then my mom pointed to the stairway, and asked me to help her up the steps. She wanted to go sit down in the living room.  She was always enthralled by the 65” flat screen TV on the wall, and loved watching shows in High Definition.  As I took her arm to help her keep balance on the stairs, I noticed that although she still looked frail, she seemed much stronger than I remembered.  She got to the top of the stairs, and I handed her the walker to help her forward. She stood in the hallway and looked around. “It is always so pretty here. You have a lovely home, honey. I know I raised you well, “ she said.

I followed behind her, still in a daze from what was transpiring. I had a brief thought that I should call my sister, to let her know that our mother was standing in my house and I could touch and talk to her. I was distracted from the thought as mom asked me to help her sit down on the sofa. I noticed the cushions were still indented from my impromptu nap, as I helped her from her walker.

“Can I get you anything?” I asked. She nodded toward the television, “I wish you would turn on the TV. I haven’t seen the Game Show Channel in a long time. You know I love the Match Game.”   

“Okay mom, anything you say. I just can’t believe you are here,” I replied.

I grabbed the remote, and found the Game Show Channel on the TV. Either by sheer coincidence or some type of intervention, Match Game ’77 was just coming on the air. My mom loved to watch these old episodes of this show with Gene Rayburn as the host. She would always remind me that most of the stars on the show were now dead. Which was always a highlight to watching any older television series. It was a real stimulant to the entertainment factor when you reflected on how many dead actors you were watching.

“Would you like anything else?” I inquired. “A cup of tea, or some water, anything?”

“I really can’t stay that long,” she replied. “I would love a Hershey’s kiss, if you have any,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. The Hershey’s Kiss was the Holy Grail of candy to my mom. It seemed at times that was all she survived on in the nursing home.

I went to the pantry and found a small container of Kisses that I had left as a memento to mom. I couldn’t throw them out. That would be a sacrilegious move to my mom’s memory.  I grabbed several pieces of the candy, and as I made my way back to the sofa, I grabbed my cellphone. “Here you are mom. Your favorite candy in the world,” I said. She took the candy as if I were handing her the Crown Jewels. It was such a small thing to elicit such a response of pleasure.  I guess it is true that it is always the small-unexpected things that can mean the most in any given moment.

She unwrapped the small silver candy, and placed it in her mouth. “I just love this chocolate. It is the only treat that doesn’t bother my stomach,” she said.  “I haven’t had one in awhile. I almost forgot how good they are.” She looked at me with a smile of contentment, and she patted the cushion next to her, indicating I should sit down. She took my hand and pulled it to her lips and kissed it. I felt a warm glow as if I were being infused with part of her soul.

“Do you feel that?” she asked. I nodded yes, as tears filled my eyes. “That is to bring you comfort and strength in your grief and pain. I know you are hurting and I want to give you the power to heal the pain.”

“I love you mom, “ I said as I tried to fight back the emotions building inside me. I moved closer to her, and laid my head on her shoulder. “Please, just stay. Let this moment freeze in time. I don’t want it to end. It is so hard to live each day without you, and I miss your presence. You and dad were always my safe harbor. I feel lost without you.” I cried and held her tightly.

She comforted me and raised my face to look into her eyes. “Honey, I know all the emotions you feel. I know how difficult it is to say goodbye to someone you love. I thought of your father every day after he passed, and I never stopped missing him. I learned that there are comfort in those memories, if we allow them to strengthen us, and not tear us apart.”

I wiped the tears on my face and took both her hands. All I knew was that however this was happening, I wouldn’t let her leave without me. Her words sounded like a flowery Hallmark card, and I wanted her presence with me, not her words.

“Why did you come here if you are just going to leave again? It will be too painful to again say goodbye.” I said feeling frustration and anger. “Why didn’t dad come with you if you can just pop in for a visit?” I asked.

“Well, he is always around you and your sister, when you need him. Take a look,” she said as she touched my forehead.  I felt a twinge, like static electricity on my skin, and images began to float before me.  I saw my father touching my hand as I slept, I saw him sitting next to me in the doctor’s office and standing beside me when I was receiving an MRI last year.

“You see he is there for you. Always present for support and to watch over you.”

What I had seen were real events, but I never felt that I was being accompanied by a presence or had extra support with me. It was comforting to know, but could I believe any of this? I wanted to take it in and feel less empty at the loss of both my parents. No one provides you with a handbook of how to carry on. I was never that religious. I guess I am more of a spiritual person, and I want to believe, but the skeptic always takes over.

“If I can see you, then why have I never seen dad?” I asked. “You have seen your father,” my mom said “It has been awhile and you just don’t remember. Every visit will not remain in your memory. If you have a dream and you are with a parent, it means their spirit is with you. When a parent dies your consciousness melds with theirs. Whenever you think of them or recall a memory, they exist again in the presence of love and energy. When you talk to them they hear you.”

She grabbed both my hands, and held them tightly. She told me that she heard me at night asking her to come take me with her, and that I must stop wishing my life away. “It is not time for you to think of dying. You are stronger than you give yourself credit for, and I want you to be happy and live a full life. I was eighty-nine and I lived until my body was tired, and I needed to let go.”  She leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. “It is okay to be sad, but don’t live in death,” she stated firmly.

I looked down, taking in what she was telling me, but knowing the road ahead was still difficult. There is a grieving process we must go through to survive the trauma of death. We can’t escape it, and as we grow older and approach the end ourselves, we feel its impact and the product of loss even more. It is a design we didn’t choose, but we must endure as humans.

When I glance back up to look at my mom, I noticed she was watching the TV as Charles Nelson Reilly was looking over his glasses and making a joke. She shook her head and said, “It is a shame that most of the people on this show are dead now.”

I burst out laughing at her routine observation. It was so funny to hear her say it again, and it lightened the mood of the moment. “Oh god mom, you always have said that. It is so good to hear you say it again,” I laughed. She chuckled as well, as we continued to hold hands. “Well, it is true,” she said. “They are either dead or their careers are dead. When is the last time you saw Loni Anderson on TV?"

“You have a point mom,” I told her. I noticed the candy I had given her resting in her lap. “You aren’t eating your candy.” I advised. She glanced at the watch she was wearing, and told me that she would take it with her, because she needed to go.  It was like that old imaged curfew, that she swore Shady Lane imposed, was calling to her to return before lockdown.

She said before she departed, she had brought something to give me that would let me know she was always with me. Once again, I felt I the pain of missing her.

She removed a small box from her pants pocket and held it in her hand. She appeared to be saying a blessing over it before she handed it to me.   

“The relationship between a mother and child is very special. As your mother I helped create you, and you were part of me for nine months. That special bond never goes away, and not even death can break it. I will always be part of you and your sister’s lives. When your life ends, I will be there for both of you,” she said.

She gestured toward the box she had handed me, and told me to open it. I opened the lid to reveal her diamond engagement ring. “This can’t be,” I thought to myself. I had my mother’s enagement ring in a glass jewelry dish next to my bed. She had told me she didn’t want to be buried with the ring. She wanted me to have it. I had taken it the day she passed away at the nursing home. This was my way to prove if I was part of a delusional.

“Hold on just a second,” I told my mom. I handed the box back to her, and I hurried toward the bedroom. I raced to the bed table and opened the lid of the glass container. The engagement ring was not in its place. Instead, it was now in the box she had brought with her.  None of this made sense, and maybe it was not supposed to. I walked back to the living room, and mom was still there holding the box and smiling knowingly.

“Looking for something?” she asked with almost a smirk. “I had your ring in the bedroom. In your glass dish you had next to your bed at Shady Lane. It isn’t there now.” I informed her. “How did you get it back?” I asked her.

“When was the last time you saw it?” she answered with a question.

I pondered this for a moment, and thought that I hadn’t checked the box in over a month for the ring. I couldn’t be positive it had been there. Somehow she had reclaimed it, and was presenting it back to me. I sat back down next to her and she handed the box back. “This ring is a special connection between us honey,” she said. “I wanted you to have it when I could hand it to you. Whenever you are lonely, afraid or need to feel my presence, just hold onto the ring. I never removed the ring; from the day your father placed it on my finger. It meant the world to me, as do you.”

I set the ring down on the coffee table, and we hugged again.  I felt like I had found my place in the world. I held on tightly, because I knew this would be my last chance to do so. She let go, and I felt her physical presence drawing away. She asked me to get her walker and help her back down the steps to the foyer. I did so hesitantly. I wanted to draw out her time here as long as possible. Before we started down the steps, I stopped her.

“Wait, a second,” I ordered her. I removed my cellphone from my pocket and opened the camera app. I told her I wanted to take a picture of us – a last remembrance. I held the phone out in true “Selfie” style and snapped one of us – heads together and smiling. She kissed me on the side of the face and said, “Time to go.”

I helped her down the stairs, which she managed with a new vitality. Through the door, I could see the white side panel of the van printed with Shady Lane. I opened the door, and she lifted the walker by herself and stepped out onto the doormat. She turned to me and gave me that usual wink and smile. “Remember that as you hold me in your heart, I will be part of you. As my child, as long as you live, I remain a presence in your life. This will never be easier, but the pain will dull, and you will find happiness again. I promise this, as I promised I would always be with you. Please keep the ring with you. Tell your sister I love her very much,” she concluded.

She looked at me one final time. An expression of total peace and love filled her face and she turned toward the van. I couldn’t even ask if she needed help getting to the vehicle, because I was speechless and couldn’t move from my place in the foyer. I sunk to my knees and yelled for her not to leave. I couldn’t watch the van drive off. A final wave from the window is something I couldn’t take. I reached out and closed the door. “Don’t go,” I cried. “Please don’t go, “ I pleaded.

Suddenly I felt hands clasping my arm and shaking me. “Vince! Vince!” a voice yelled in the distance. As if being pulled from a long tunnel into the light of day, I realized my partner was calling me. “Wake up you are yelling in your sleep,” he said as he shook me. I took in my surroundings and realized I was in bed. I glanced at the alarm clock and it showed that it was 3:30 AM.  “My mom was here,” I said.

My partner turned on a light and looked at me. “Vince, you were just having a bad dream. There is no one here.” He said.  “I am so sorry if the dream upset you.” He was trying to bring me back to reality, but I couldn’t settle for just a dream. There was more to it than that. I could still smell her perfume on my face, from placing my head on her shoulder.

Quickly I jumped out of bed. I picked up the jewelry dish and opened it. The dish was empty. The ring was not there in its place. “It was not just a dream,” I told my partner as I hurried out of the bedroom into the dark house. As I passed the patio window, I thought I saw red taillights at the end of the driveway. I dashed toward the front door taking two steps at a time to get outside.

I flung the door open to the loud, jarring sound of the security alarm. The alarm screeched into the night as I ran down the driveway to see if I could catch what appeared to be the white van headed toward a stop sign at the intersection of our street. “Don’t go, please!” I yelled into the still night. The vehicle accelerated through the intersection as I reached the end of the driveway. It was a white van or SUV, and it seemed to evaporate into the darkness of early morning.

Dejectedly, I made my way back to the house. My partner was standing in the doorway with a look of concern on his face. “What’s going on?” he inquired. “Are you okay? You left the alarm on, and went running into the dark. You are acting crazy.”

“It would appear that way,” I agreed. I just need a few minutes to sit down and I will explain.” I went to the living room and sat on the sofa. “My cellphone!” I exclaimed. I went to the bedroom where I always plugged my iPhone to charge.  I tapped my way into the photos on the phone, looking for the one I had snapped of Mom and I.  There was an image there, but it was just a blur of color. No evidence – nothing to explain what felt so real to me.

I went back to the living room and collapsed on the sofa. I put my head down in my hands and took a deep breath. As I was rising back up, something glistening caught my eye. The light from the hallway was reflecting off something on the coffee table.

I sprung to the light switch and gasped. There on the table’s glass top was my mom’s diamond engagement ring and a Hershey’s Kiss.

I looked at my partner and he gave me a questioning look. “Oh my god,” I said. “She was here.” I grasped the ring in my hand and felt its warmth.

She had visited.


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