She Shall Live On
by Eric J. Kregel
|part 2 of 4|
“Seriously, it was difficult. But we human beings are adaptive, learning how to survive without certain things. We move on, we live on when people leave us. I miss my wife, Jane, but I wouldn’t trade losing her for the world. It made me a lot more aware of Breton, a lot more aware of people in general. I use the illustration about someone who loses their eyesight and their sense of hearing is heightened. Losing my wife, my high-school sweetheart, was...”
“Mari died when Thandie was seven.” Randall chirped this, cutting off Kendrid’s musing.
Kendrid turned, wanting to point at the cabinets referencing Mari. He stopped himself from asking, “Oh, the little woman in the cabinet?” Instead, he turned and nodded.
“Yes, she died of cancer. It was very difficult losing her. She did everything. I don’t think I ever changed Thandie once. She brought Thandie everywhere, on all of her news stories. She read to Thandie and she did her news show. I cooked and cleaned, but only set to her instructions. She was very particular.”
“It sounds like it was a hard transition.”
“She made it easy. She videotaped herself for Thandie. If she hadn’t, we would have lost her completely.” He rose, striking the table of dishes.
“We saw one of those before dinner.” Clumsily, he pointed to his son. “Remember?” Breton didn’t move, staring at Thandie. “How many messages did she leave?”
“Oh, the catalog registers about 452 six-hour tapes and over 18,000 messages. Some are much longer than the one you got. Around the end, most of the messages are just her talking to the camera from the hospital bed. The one you saw was during the first couple months of her filming. She loved being in front of the camera and this was her way of leaving something behind for Thandie.
“During her 11-month fight with cancer, she spent a lot of time on her messages. She would labor over these messages, oftentimes skipping sleep or eating. She really took it up as a labor of love. For Thandie.”
“And have you watched many of them?”
“We watch her messages every day. With her face shining through the screen, she never has left us.”
“Interesting,” Kendrid remarked this mostly to himself.
In the car ride back to their home, Breton broke the silence by mumbling, “I don’t know how to ask this, so I may ask this wrong.”
“Ask and be wrong, son.”
“Is Thandie weird?”
Is Thandie weird? Kendrid thought. I can see why my son would be attracted to her. Pretty, blonde little girl. She got her looks from her mom, a television person. Television people, who are scarce in Alberta, are such strange people. They remind me of unicorns, gently prancing through someone’s garden. They look like they don’t belong in places like the suburbs or in grocery stores. But you see these television people, these magnificently beautiful people, and there they are. Thandie’s mom was a television person. And Thandie, for all purposes, looks just like one too.
Is Thandie weird? How can I explain to my son that grief does different things to different people? It’s weird to have grief, on any level, so those who have it are weird. And our grief came out entirely different than Randall’s grief. How can I explain this to a kid who’s, well, fallen in love with a unicorn?
“Define weird, Breton.”
The boy squirmed, already having a difficult time taking. “Well, she’s forced to watch a bunch of videotapes of her dead mother. That’s weird, right?”
“It’s weird to lose a mom. It shouldn’t happen. So, yeah, she’s weird.”
“But she watches videos every night. She’s done this for 10 years. That’s weird.”
My son isn’t as dumb as he looks.
“Who turns on the tape? Is it her or her father?”
“I dunno. But she watches them. I like her but I’m worried. You know, all of that psychological stuff.”
“I see. Well, what are you most comfortable with? Do you like her?”
“Do you like spending time with her?”
“Then spend time with her. Don’t be like our Old Man and over-think this one.”
“It’s just weird.”
“Yeah, it is. Just weird.”
* * *
Mari looked into the camera, wondering if it was on. She nodded and began, “I have five rules concerning finding a spouse. These rules should be followed after High School. During the next eleven years, just date to have fun. Don’t get a boyfriend. Only date someone you intend to marry and since you can’t marry in High School, don’t even bother. Just have fun with friends.
As you have heard from my other recorded messages, I don’t believe that girls should be exclusive to one man unless they intend to marry them. Courtship, my dear. Dating is dead, but courtship is a way where your father and I can be involved with your marital decisions.”
Mari sat in her hospital bed, with most of her hair lost. She wore a pale blue paper gown, exposing her pale skin. Her eyes were crimson, with a faint hint of her once green eyes. She lost considerable weight, resembling a skeleton hanging in a science classroom.
“But if you find someone you want to commit your life to, make certain of five things:
Marry those of your faith. You have been raised as an Evangelical, Protestant Christian. If you want more information on your faith, consult tapes 111-151. I’ve seen too many relationships tear people when individuals try to marry outside of their tribe.
Make sure he comes from a household with both parents. A boy raised by divorced parents will only divorce you...more than likely.
Does he have a purpose for his life? What is he on Earth for? A man without a purpose should not be considered as a spouse. A man needs to know where he’s and then who he’s taking with him, not the other way around.
Does he fit into your purpose? In order to create your own life’s purpose, see message 234 on tape 59.
Finally, what does his father look like? Not just how the father behaves, but what he actually looks like. Is he overweight? Is he bald? How does he dress? Look to the father to foresee what kind of man you shall marry.”
She smiled. The message ended.
* * *
Thandie wrapped her scarf around her face, tucking it into her wool cap. She zipped up her jacket and left for the cold, outside world of Canada. For the first few moments, the warmth of her house lingered around her, only to be replaced by the stinging, sharp cold air.
She left the walkway that wrapped around the side of the house, leading to the sidewalk. As she reached the sidewalk, she heard her name called out.
She turned around. A woman popped out of a white van. She wore a very nice jacket, full of fur and leather. She wore an awful lot of make-up, tipping Thandie off that she was involved, somehow, with Mari’s media world.
“Excuse me, Thandie? Thandie St. John?”
Through the fabric of her scarf, she responded, “Yes?”
The blond woman shivered. “I knew your mother, Mari. She was an inspiration to me. When I started at City News was when she was anchoring the news. She was a very dear person to me. We were thinking, back at the station, of doing a follow up story on her life.”
“Would it be possible if we could interview you? We want follow up on her plan, when she made all of the video messages for you. You know, see how they’ve helped you and raised you. Would it be possible if my camera man can take some shots with you and then we could do a...”
“I’m busy right now. I’m going to see a friend of mine. I don’t have time right now.”
“It will only take a few moments...”
“No, I don’t think so. Not now.” She took three steps backwards, away from the van.
“Then when? Could we come by tomorrow?”
“No. Busy then. Can’t.”
“When? You name the time. We’ll work around your schedule, I more than understand. A seventeen year old girl can be really busy.”
“I don’t do interviews.” She backed up two more steps. “I don’t like cameras. I can’t. I won’t. Sorry.”
The blond woman bit her lower lip. Her voice raised a bit. “Your mother inspired millions of women, not just in Canada but throughout the States. She taught many women how to be better mothers, take charge of their homes and lives. I think it would be unfair to these women not to show how her hard work has paid off.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to talk about my mum.”
“But you have an obligation to women throughout the continent to tell her story.”
“Her story has already been told, plenty of times. I’m sorry, but I don’t...”
“Listen, quit thinking of yourself. Your mother’s story must live on...”
Thandie closed her eyes, turned, and ran away from the white van. The blond woman ran three steps after her and called her name out. Thandie paid no attention, running to Breton’s house. When she left the cul de sac, she stopped running.
Her head sunk down to her knees. She covered her face. In her private world, she cried.
* * *
Breton figured Thandie was tired that day. She spoke and was her usual, warm self. But something was different. He couldn’t put his finger on it, other than it was an off day. They spent the day reading old children’s books to each other. She giggled, he laughed. Something, somehow, was funny.
Everyone should be allowed to have an off day, he told himself, reminding himself more of his dad than anything else.
She ate dinner over at his house. Kendrid served cheese potatoes, some fish he caught near Vernon, in B.C., and some squash. During the meal, Kendrid made the kids laugh by mispronouncing the name of one of their favorite bands.
The laughter seemed to unleash a flood of laughs from Thandie, since she couldn’t stop. She turned red, hiding her face. The little girl, thin as a rail, looked as though she would be knocked over by the force of air from her laughs. But she didn’t. Instead, her heaves and snorts encouraged the two males to continue in their laughter.
When things settled, Kendrid wiped a tear from his eye and mentioned, “You’re quite good a laughing.”
“How so?” she inquired.
“It’s infectious. You find something funny, laugh, and the whole room wants to join you. It’s like some psychic power or something.”
Kendrid burst a smile and admitted, “I know it sounds silly, but it’s a nice treat to hear some laugh with such skill. You’re, in the full sense of the word, a joy.”
Thandie crinkled her nose, trying receive his compliment. Not sure what it meant or how to take it, she simply thanked him and continued in her meal.
After dinner, the kids went into what Kendrid called the front room. The front room’s main feature was the front door and, along with the front door, it was never really used. Beautiful furniture, nice pictures, and a collection of empty space and sound. Hanging over their antique couch, rested a painting of Breton’s mother.
Thandie discovered it, stepping back as if to take it in and treating it as if it hung in a museum. She whispered, “Is that her? Your mum?”
“Yeah, that was her.”
Thandie’s eyes drank in the picture of Breton’s mum, scanning side to side of the frame to capture every color and image. The painting was of her sitting in a chair, in front of a lush red curtain. She did not smile, but wore a stern expression. Not of anger, but more of strength and determination. She wore a jewel green dress, her hair tied tightly in a bun. She radiated Breton’s blue, almost white, eyes. Her hands were fists, readied on her lap.
“She was beautiful.”
Breton considered her comment. “Yeah, she was. She was twenty-six when she had this painting done of her. It was a first year anniversary gift.”
“Ever miss her?”
Breton thought about that question, wearing a lost expression while thinking. Finally, he admitted, “I never knew her. She’s more of a story than a person. Dad will tell stories about her, but she’s kind of like a character in those tales. You know, it’s like knowing Zorro or Superman: you know them, but you wouldn’t count them as family.”
Copyright © 2010 by Eric J. Kregel