Authors: Rosemary Hines
Behind Her Smile
Sandy Cove Series Book Six
Copyright © 2015 Rosemary Wesley Hines
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To my sister, Julie
My Sisters in Christ
Who faithfully wield the Sword of the Spirit
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
Lamentations 3: 22-23
It seemed as though every bone of her body ached as Joan Walker rolled over in bed and pushed herself to a sitting position. She rested on the edge of the mattress and voiced the same simple prayer she prayed every morning, “Lord, thank You for another day. Make me a blessing to someone today, and help me to see the bounty of Your gifts in the simple things around me.” She paused and then added, “And would You give my Phil a good morning hug for me, Father?” A lump formed in her throat as she thought about her husband and the sixty-five years they’d awoken together.
“That’s enough, you silly old fool,” she said aloud to herself. “You’ll see him again before you know it.”
Standing slowly and steadying herself before walking, she gradually eased her way into the bathroom. A glance in the mirror revealed she still inhabited the same eighty-nine year old body she’d gone to bed in the night before. Although a part of her heart never aged, there was no denying the years had taken a toll on the temporary tabernacle in which she moved and breathed.
A new body was sounding good right about now.
As she shuffled into her tiny kitchen a few minutes later, she saw a picture of her great granddaughter, Madison, appear on the screen of the newfangled photo frame she’d gotten for her birthday. Somehow her grandson had put a multitude of pictures into something on the back of the frame—he said he’d used his computer— and now it changed from one photo to the next in an unending slideshow.
Pausing to study sixteen-year-old Madison’s face, the photo vanished and was replaced by another. “Just like my life these days,” she said. “Seems to slip through my fingers faster and faster.” It amazed her to think that she actually had a great granddaughter, who was about the same age she’d been when she met Phil. Was it possible Maddie might meet her life partner sometime in the next year or two? Joan shook her head in amazement.
Best step up my prayers for that one
, she thought. The world had become such a complicated place, and she felt a special attachment to her precious Maddie. Tomorrow she’d be meeting with her prayer group—a cluster of five ladies who’d banded together to pray for each other and their loved ones. They fondly called themselves the Silver Sisters of the Sword, a name one of them had created for Shoreline Manor’s newsletter. The retirement community liked to feature articles about its residents, and Joan’s closest friend there, Margie, had written a short article about their group. “Prayer requests welcomed,” she’d added at the end.
A knock at the door drew her attention. Her daughter was here, Johnny on the spot, to help her get started on her day. After a couple of incidents where Joan had left a burner on after removing her teakettle, Sheila had decided her mother needed some supervision and assistance. They were in the process of looking for a daytime caregiver to handle meals, laundry, and some of Joan’s shopping. But in the meantime, Sheila was standing in the gap.
“Hi, Mom,” her daughter said cheerfully as she entered the apartment. Pausing to pet little Josie, Joan’s cat, she asked, “How’s your back today?”
“Yes. Remember, last night you said it was bothering you all day?”
Joan drew a blank. That was happening more and more recently. “I guess,” she stammered. “I have so many aches and pains these days, it’s hard to keep track,” she added with a grin. “But God is good. He keeps me going, and I can’t ask for more than that.”
Sheila returned her smile. “So what’s for breakfast today? How about scrambled eggs?” she asked, heading into the kitchen.
Joan would have loved to have pancakes or waffles, but she knew that took more work. “Eggs sound good, honey.” She rested her hands on the little dining room table and eased herself into her chair.
“I’ll start the coffee and then get them going,” Sheila replied.
Soon the aroma of freshly brewed coffee filled the air. I am blessed, Joan thought. Thank you, Father, for my sweet daughter. How I wish I could do something for her. Seems I’m not good for much these days. Sighing, she closed her eyes and rested back into her chair while she awaited breakfast.
As the two of them ate together, Sheila went over the schedule for the day. “I’ll be taking you to your doctor this morning for a follow up on your blood work and that B12 shot. Then we’ll stop by the pharmacy and pick up your refills.”
Joan nodded. Sure took a lot of effort to keep up with things.
“I thought maybe we could have a bite to eat at the Coffee Stop before we head back here,” Sheila said, and then added, “Do you need anything from the market?”
Joan considered the question for a moment, but before she could answer, her daughter had the refrigerator open and was surveying the contents. “Looks like you are low on milk. And you’re almost out of fruit. How about if we stop and pick up a few things on the way home?” She paused and then suggested, “Or I could drop you back off here and then run over there myself.”
“I hate for you to have to go to that trouble, Sheila. I’ll be fine. I can even wait in the car if need be.”
She saw the look of concern on her daughter’s face. This was the hardest part of growing old. Depending on others to do what she’d always been able to do for herself. That and missing her Phil.
Give me a good attitude, Lord. Help me not be a burden to my daughter.
“I mean it, honey. I’ll be fine,” she said, mustering up her best motherly smile. Although their roles had reversed somewhat, Sheila would always be her daughter, and Joan yearned to keep that perspective, no matter how dependent she became.
Hopefully it would be easier when they found a caregiver to help out. Then Sheila could relax and go back to just visiting, not worrying about meeting all of her needs. Besides, Joan knew that Sheila should be focused on her new marriage and Rick. Although he was very understanding, the fact that Sheila was over here so much had to take a toll on their time alone together and the relationship they were building as newlyweds.
Joan had expressed her concerns about this more than once. Each time, Sheila tried to reassure her. “It’s not like we are in our twenties, Mom. Even though we haven’t been married that long, life is different for us than it would be for a couple just starting out to build a family together. Rick’s busy with his teaching at the university, and I’m free all day.”
But Joan knew Sheila’s freedom could allow her to join Rick in his office for lunches on his busier days. Plus, with Rick’s classes primarily scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there were probably multiple opportunities he and Sheila could have spent a morning or afternoon doing something together, if it weren’t for Sheila’s care for Joan.
It would be an adjustment getting used to a stranger helping out in her home, but Joan knew it wouldn’t be for too very long. Each day required more energy than she seemed to have. Surely God would call her home soon.
Turning her attention back to the present, she asked, “How’s Maddie these days?” The look of concern on her daughter’s face told her she’d better step up her prayers for her great granddaughter. Although her tired body wasn’t good for much these days, she could always pray, and pray she would, she and the Silver Sisters together.
The clock on her cell phone showed 5:00 PM as sixteen-year-old Madison Baron stood at the bathroom mirror examining her face.
Great. Another zit.
She pulled open the drawer and grabbed some concealer from her makeup bag. Dabbing it onto the offending red bump on her chin, she tried to blend the substance. Then stepping back, she surveyed the results. Not much different.
“Maddie!” her father called from downstairs. “Hurry up! We need to get going.”
“Coming!” she called back as she dabbed once again at the zit. “Well that really helped,” she sighed with a sarcastic tone. Shaking her head at her reflection, she dropped the tube of concealer back into the drawer and closed it, flipping off the light and heading into her room to grab her purse. She checked it for the essentials—lip-gloss, a brush, some gum, and a tampon, just in case. Then she bounded down the stairs to head to the Johnson’s with her family for dinner. It was Luke’s last night before leaving for college, and his parents Ben and Kelly had invited them over for a farewell get-together.
Madison’s father, Steve, was standing at the open front door waiting for her. “Your mom and brother are already in the car,” he said, his words laced with a twinge of impatience.
She nodded and mumbled under her breath, “Sorry.” She could feel him on her heels as she hurried out to the van.
“What took you so long?” her brother Caleb asked exasperatedly.
“None of your business,” she replied without even looking his way.
“Madison,” her mother began.
“I know, I know. I’m sorry,” Madison muttered, gazing out the window and near tears. The idea of Luke leaving had seemed so distant up to this point. Now it suddenly hit her. He’d be gone until at least Thanksgiving. That was nearly three months. Instead of bumping into him in the halls at school or hanging out with him on weekends, she’d be communicating with him through texts, emails, and maybe some phone calls now and then.
She flashed back to her first year at Magnolia Middle School. The year she and Luke had really clicked. First they were friends. Then it grew into something more. She’d felt her heart begin to race when he came into the room, and even the slightest touch of his arm against hers, when they sat side-by-side, had stirred something deep within.
Then he’d moved on to high school and had shifted his treatment of her to more of a brotherly friend than a romantic interest. After she’d graduated to high school herself, she’d run into him occasionally in the halls. But not like at Magnolia. Sandy Cove High was a much larger school and freshman classes were mostly clustered at the south end of the campus. Their lunch schedules were also different. Upper classmen ate after the freshmen and sophomores and had the privilege of leaving campus for lunch if they wanted.
Although they’d shifted to being friends, Madison still felt a spark when Luke would give her a big hug or drape his arm over her shoulder as they were walking together. Too bad he didn’t feel the same.
She pulled herself back to the present as they drove into the familiar driveway that led to Ben and Kelly’s home. The twins’ bicycles were on the lawn near the front door, and a basketball sat on the porch. Madison loved the feeling of their place. It was homey and casual. Kelly had a more relaxed approach to housekeeping than her mother. Good thing since she was raising six kids. There were always toys and games scattered inside and out. But there was also a love that reached out to embrace all who entered.
“When I’m an adult, I want a house like this,” Madison said aloud.
“What, honey?” Michelle asked.
“Nothing.” She saw her mother’s puzzled expression. “I like it here. It feels so homey,” she explained.
Before Michelle could answer, the front door flew open, and the twins raced out. “They’re here!” Lilly called over her shoulder, as she and Liam ran out to greet them.
Man those kids are getting big,
Madison thought to herself, eyeing the two nine-year-olds. She’d been their babysitter at times since they were five. Pretty soon they wouldn’t need a sitter. Except for baby Laney. She was only seven months old—the surprise baby they all adored.
She spotted Luke standing in the front doorway, leaning against the jamb and watching them as he munched on something. Taking his final bite, he straightened up and ambled toward their van.
“Hey,” he greeted her, pulling her into a side hug. Then turning to Caleb, he asked, “What’s up, Cale?”
“Hi, Luke,” her eleven-year-old brother replied with a grin. “Where’s Logan?” Madison shook her head. Caleb liked to hang out with Luke’s brother, but at thirteen, Logan was moving into a new crowd and suddenly seemed much older than her brother.
“He’s in his room,” Luke replied.
Caleb nodded, tugged on the bill of his baseball cap the way he’d seen Luke do when he was on the pitcher’s mound, and then took off to find his ‘bro’, a term Logan seemed to be resisting more and more.
“Hope he doesn’t bug Logan too much,” Madison said, as she looked up at Luke. He was nearly six feet tall now, and she’d never even made it to five feet four inches.
“Logan will be fine,” Luke replied.
She could smell chocolate on his breath. “Were you eating a brownie?”