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May 20, 2024

Transitions 03

By Sand Pilarski

Three: My Father's Study

My haven room. It was the only room in the mansion that I felt to be truly mine. It wasn't in Cellblock 209, where my older sister could ransack it at will (I don't need to mention Marca, do I?); it was in my mother's and Uncle Bodie's wing, right by the hallway, so it would not disturb them overmuch. Aunt Sully had returned to her home in Riverton for the rest of the week, and there was that grace-filled time before bedtime when no one wanted to know what kids were up to, and no adult appeared with baleful eye to pounce upon the Five and what they might be doing that would offend society, religion, or the household.

Women pregnancy older, I typed into the computer in my father's office, which only I used. A few years after my father died, I asked to have that place as my own, and to my surprise, my mother agreed. I think she was glad to not have to clean it out or re-allocate it for other purposes. When I took it over, it was filthy with dust, the only parts of it clean where the accounts manager worked when he came once a quarter to check things out.

Those were things that my father used to take care of on his own. He ran the estate, from top to bottom, from wages paid to house staff (he admonished us never to call them "help" or "servants") to the investment of the interest paid on investments. He maintained a network of People, entertaining them at our house, going to attend social functions at other People's houses, meeting with government officials and with local city and university personnel, tirelessly maintaining his family's estate and political position.

When my father's office was turned over to me, I used to open drawers and file cabinets and look at the contents and read them, not understanding what they said, but replacing them carefully and exactly. It was my way of daily visiting my father's grave, and my only consolation. I missed him so much, even after six years.

In fact, I'm not sure that I don't miss him more now than I did when I was eight. Back then, Death didn't have a lot of reality to me, and I kept somehow expecting that I'd walk past Papa's office door and he'd be in there on the phone, or a limo would pull up the drive and Redell would hurry down the steps to open the door and shake my father's hand, saying, "Welcome home, Sir!"

I was twelve when I found my father's journal, hidden in the back of a shelf of books on gardening and land management. After one look at its contents, I took it to my room and hid it behind my shoe box in my closet. (I could have put it between my mattress and box springs, but we occasionally searched each other's rooms out of spite, and the mattress and box springs venue had become passe very quickly as a secret hiding place.) There was a sense that, if Papa had kept his journal hidden, I should follow suit. And then I just waited for Mom to go off for a long day of shopping and appointments, locked my door, and opened the journal to the last entry. It was the week before he died.

"The disappointment and guilt I feel are so heavy on my chest that it hurts to take a deep breath. I never realized that Jesse's mother would be so distraught with grief as to give up her life. It simply never occurred to me that anyone could do such a thing. I know literature is full of accounts of people turning their faces to the wall and dying, but I always dismissed that as romanticizing of common illnesses. Jesse and Sully both have told me that their mother chose her own end as she chose her own life; that she had always acted on her own opinions without regard to anyone else. But during a time of grief, things are different. Some people need more support than others, even if they do not know how to ask for it. Sully asked me for my advice about her mother ... relying on my past knowledge of the woman's indomitable nature and natural healthiness, I tut-tutted Sully's worry. I was a fool, and now the woman is dead. How will I answer for my foolhardiness before the throne of God? I can imagine God saying, I gave you wealth beyond measure, a family filled with peace, and children that any king would envy. Yet you could not rise to take care of your wife's mother? Is not the life of one old woman just as precious to me as the lives of your children are to you?

"God forgive me."

That day that I read his final journal entry I knew what his being dead meant, that he was never, ever coming back.

After I took over his office as my own (the accounts manager still came in there to check on stuff), I rearranged one of the bookshelves to hold my school texts and my favorite books, and put Papa's journal behind them. I wasn't sure exactly why I didn't want to share the diary with my sisters and brother; at the time I rationalized it by telling myself that Marca had enough stress in her life, Oesha didn't need more tears, and the younger twins would not understand.

I started keeping a journal of my own, and I hid that beside my father's, behind the favorite books. Sometimes I would read one of his entries, and then write about what I thought of his thoughts. I only read one entry of his at a time; I had to be pretty circumspect about when I took the journal out. All of us kids were attuned to each other's habits and if I had acted in a suspicious manner, the rest would have been on to me like bloodhounds on a scent, discovered my secret treasure, and given me no peace when I chose to commune with my father's words.

Perhaps that was selfishness, but I think not, not completely.

Once I was given permission to use the office, (although denied permission to move my bed and dresser in there) I asked Redell to make sure that it was cleaned along with the rest of the house on a regular basis. The room had been locked and abandoned (except for Mr. Accounts Manager) until I grew interested in it; I wanted it open and part of the house again.

Much to my surprise, when I approached Redell with the request that I would like a computer in my father's office as well as the one in my room, he acceded without an argument or an authorization from my mother. I don't know that she was even aware of the presence of the new machine.

I think that when I took over my father's study, there was a kind of change in how I was treated. Redell accepted my request for a new computer without question; my mother turned over possession of the room to me almost with gratitude. She cared nothing about how the estate was run, and left everything up to Redell and some financial advisor, whom Redell suspected of incompetence. That was something I'd overheard one evening a year or two before, and Aunt Sully had been called in to examine the evidence, and then the financial advisor had been fired.

The new one passed Aunt Sully's vetting, Redell's approval, and the test of time. He was still pretty condescending when I asked him about his work, but then I was a mere kid, and he was a professional. I decided then that some day I would acquire Aunt Sully's skill as an accountant, along with my goal to be a poet and writer of significant fiction.

At least he was professional enough to show me his accounts, though I didn't understand them at the time. That Aunt Sully was breathing hot sulfurous breaths over his shoulder like a dragon encouraged him to be kind to me. There was so damn much to be learned. School was bad enough, without Estate Management dumped on me as well.

After one such session, I had griped to Aunt Sully. "Why isn't Marca the one to look at this? She's the oldest."

"Because Marca won't. What Marca is going to do with her life is a mystery." Aunt Sully had reached out and ruffled my hair. "Owen. The estate will be your responsibility. It's like a miniature town that has to be governed, for the good of all its inhabitants.

Her words gave me an instant stomach-ache. "Not me," I said to her. "I don't think I want the responsibility."

Her pale brow wrinkled. "Responsibility is a burden. But it doesn't always have to be hateful. Sometimes the burden is okay to carry."

"Will you be here to help carry it?" I asked.

She laughed, but her laughter had a bitter edge to it. "I already am."

I took my office.

Women pregnancy older ... The first paragraph on a relevant site (I like the word "relevant" -- makes me sound like I know what I'm talking about) had to do with more women nowadays having babies when they're older than thirty five. Weird. I didn't think of my mom as "older." Yadda, yadda. More professional women put off having children until later, it said, but that wasn't Mom's case. She must have just wanted to have a baby with Uncle Bodie; that was understandable enough. And then it said that having a baby when a woman is older is fine, as long as her health is good. Mom's health was great. She was lean and muscular, and her hair hadn't even started to gray yet. Visitors were in awe of her beauty. Her opponents on the tennis court knew they would lose. So I needn't be worried about her having a baby. I wonder if Aunt Sully knows about this site, I asked myself. The next paragraph made me jump: it said that older women have a more likely chance of having twins. Maybe we were in for two babies, not one!

Then came a paragraph about older women having a greater chance of getting diabetes or high blood pressure, and that they should have regular checkups. I was sure that Mom would do that, so that wasn't too bad. A little scary, but nothing to worry a lot about.

But the article went on to describe Down's syndrome, and how older women's babies were more likely to be born with Down's syndrome. At age 40, there was a 1-in-100 chance; and at 45, the chances were 1-in-30. Mom was 43. I wonder if Mom knows about this? I began to feel uneasy again.

When I began to struggle with the terms "placenta previa" and "ectopic" I knew it was time to quit. I jumped to the article's conclusion, which said that it was quite possible for an older woman to have a healthy pregnancy and baby. There were a lot of links to more information, but I heard a loud thump and Kelsa laughing. Someone was going to come along the hallway any minute. I went to the computer settings and deleted the history of the things I had been looking at.

Aunt Sully must have seen this site about older women and babies, or else she knew about those kind of things long ago. I had every intention of concocting some kind of lead in to get her to talk to me about the risks Mom was taking, without my clever aunt grilling me on where I was getting my information and why.

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-03-02
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