“I’d suggest getting your affairs in order,” the doctor told the older woman.
The doc said this with no emotion. He just looked at his shoes because apparently he couldn’t bear to meet her eyes.
“Are you telling me that I’m dying?” she said.
No answer. Just a nod. Then more medical jargon.
The news hit her like a runaway boxcar. She went home and almost had a nervous breakdown. She was about to hyperventilate. She needed to think. Needed to lower her heart rate.
Must breathe. Must sit. Must keep it together. Inhale. Exhale.
Music. That’s what she needed right now. Something—anything—to distract her from the fear. She turned on the old wooden GE radio sitting in the kitchen and closed her eyes.
The music blasted through the linoleum room. Dean Martin sang about silver bells, and Der Bingle sang about dreams involving glistening treetops and white Christmases. She cried upon her enamel breakfast table.
Death. She wasn’t ready to die. She had raised four kids alone after her husband left her years ago.
She was the single mom you’ve
seen a million-and-five times in public. The mom who clips coupons from the Sunday paper, who works three jobs, who sews denim patches on the butts of Little League uniforms.
Now her children were grown and she was, what, on her way out? It was a cruel joke, she told God. Cruel and disgusting. And it was beneath him.
Her old radio crackled and hissed with static.
Then the music stopped. Then static. Then music. Then the reception was garbled with snowy interference and the receiver started picking up a station in Spanish.
She smacked the radio. Which only made her cry harder. So she smacked the radio again. And again.
The static was replaced by the voice of an obnoxious radio preacher blaring through the tweed speaker. And although she cannot recall the sermonizer’s exact…