Mom’s Favorite Photo

If you like challenges you should check this one out. The Daily Post has offered us something in the form of putting words to a picture, namely the one that heads my attempt below. If you feel man or woman enough to try join me at this link:

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/weekly-writing-challenge-a-picture-is-worth-1000-words/

Susan Greene shuffled through the door of the vintage clothing shop, her optimism immediately dashed as she quickly scanned the store for anything that might resemble the image seared into her mind. Why in the world had she agreed to this stupid charade? Oh yeah, because she was always the “fixer” the one who made things right no matter what the emotional or financial cost.

The discussion with older brother Jack had been another voice-straining screaming match over the welfare of their elderly mother. Francine Louise Delano Campani was in her eighty-seventh year of life, but her memories were scrambled by the vagaries of full onset Alzheimer’s. To her it was 1945, 1955 or 1965 from one moment to another.

Susan searched through the store for the specific type of clothing that would match the one piece of her mother’s past that could bridge the gap. For fifty-odd years Francine had worn the corners off her favorite family photo, one of her husband Harold G. Campani holding the hands of five year old Jackson Gregory and three year old Susan Lane on Easter morning April 21, 1957. It was a bright, sunny day with a cool crispness that required the new coats for Jack and Susan.

Jack had fussed incessantly with his mother about the get up she purchased at the local J.C. Penney’s department store a month prior to this day. It was a tradition in Francine’s family to sport new attire on Easter morning. For Susan it was a treat to twirl in front of the full length mirror in her parent’s bed room as she admired her brand new dress and matching coat and bonnet. By this point Harold had fully succumbed to the process, failing miserably in years past to deny his wife’s desires.

“May I help you?” a little woman said as she approached Susan while she stared blankly at the racks of clothing.

“I hope so,” Susan said, fighting the tears of desperation that accompanied a fruitless search of five stores in a two hour radius over the last six hours. “I have a real predicament.”

Susan reached into the pocket over her jacket to remove the remaining section of her mother’s favorite picture, a narrow inch strip of the treasured family photograph with a fair representation of the outfits from the waist to the knees. Francine had ripped the picture a week earlier as she flew into a rage over a demand by the nursing home staff that she use the bathroom in her room rather than the bed pan all the time. She was able to flush all but this piece of the portrait in her anger, but the day nurse saw the scrap on the floor behind the bath room door and informed Susan of the incident.

Now, with the plan to re-create the picture and the buy-in of Jack, his look-alike son Bobby and her daughter Kelsey, all she lacked was the clothing. The woman nodded slowly as she listened to Susan’s story and with a knowing nod motioned with a finger for Susan to follow her. The woman led her through a door at the rear of the shop with a large Office Personnel Only sign prominently displayed.

Susan settled into a chair offered by the grandmotherly looking woman who jerked her office phone from its cradle and punched a pre-programmed button on her phone console. She looked behind the woman to see at least two dozen pictures of children and grandchildren adorning her wall. Half were of the children, but at least that many had this woman as the focal point.

“Jenny, this is Gert. I need something real quick and I think you have it in Cadbury Place. I need a …” Susan listened as the woman described all three out fits to her comrade in the business. “Yes I will hold,” Gert said. She looked at Susan with a warm smile that can only come from the face of a grandmother in charge.

“Tell her the cost is no concern!” Susan blurted.

“We don’t operate that way dear,” Gert continued to smile as she watched the tears seep from Susan’s weary eyes. “I’m here. How long? I will send her right away.”

Gert began scribbling as she dropped the receiver into the cradle of her phone. She smiled again as she handed the directions to the store where Susan’s quest would be successful to the grateful daughter.

“Can I ask one favor? Can you send a copy of the new photo to the e-mail address at the bottom? I am curious to see what I missed with the original.”

“Mm-hmm,” was all Susan could manage as she began to gush tears.

It was two days before she could arrange to re-take the photograph at her parent’s old residence.  The new owner had a long memory, including not only his first meeting with Susan’s parent when they listed the property for sale, but also Francine’s first impression of saying she did not like those “black people” and that she would never sell to him.

Susan doggedly pleaded, offered money and promised whatever she could to get permission. Then there was the matter of the shrubs the man had ripped out not even twenty four hours after he purchased the place. Susan wondered if her mother would notice, but dared not take the chance, so she went to a local garden center to get something close just to be sure.

As she strode through the door of the Fairhaven Nursing Home, Susan clutched the folder holding the “new” old family picture. It was not a perfect replica, with obvious differences that everyone else had been to wiling to highlight. Susan could only pray her mother’s diminished memory would make these differences moot. She realized it was the first time she had ever hoped for that.

“Susie! I am so glad you are here. I have been searching everywhere for my picture, but I cannot find it!” her mother announced as she opened the door.

“I have it right here,” Susan said as she fished the newly framed photo from its holder and presented it to her mother with a flourish.

“Your father was so handsome! I loved that man from the first moment I saw him. I never realized how much Jack looked like him. “

Susan felt the first pang of guilt in her gut as she wondered if her mom meant what she thought, or if she was fooled by the ruse.

“You were so precious then! Almost as precious as now!” she reached out and grabbed Susan’s hand to start Susan’s waterworks once again.

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About Joe Owens

Can you tell from my writing I love God? I hope so because that is what I want you to know most about me. I am also a writer who loves taking on fiction prompts and crafting a story. One day you will read my work in print. Until then enjoy it here! For free!
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One Response to Mom’s Favorite Photo

  1. I really like the angle you used in this story. It’s a well-written glimpse into the life of a family dealing with alzheimer’s.

So you took time to read what I wrote and I appreciate it, but comments are even better!

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