Friday, March 6, 2009


“You aren’t going, are you?” The small voice pleaded and the large young eyes filled with tears.

“Monica, dear”, her mother replied, leaning over and gently prying the little girl’s hand from her skirt. “We’ve talked about all this. I need you to be brave. I’ll be back for you soon.”

“But…but…Momma, please.” The little girl threw herself around her mother’s neck, burying her face in her shoulder and sobbing.

“Monica, baby…” the mother began, but a neatly dressed attendant stepped in and began prying Monica’s arms loose.

“It’s all right, Ms. Anderson, we’ll take care of her”, the worker reassured her with a sympathetic smile. “It’s a common occurrence. She’ll be over it in no time.” Applying a bit more force, she managed to pull Monica away.

“Please, Momma, please!” Monica cried, wiggling to escape the worker’s arms.

“I’ll be back soon, baby”, her mother reassured her, patting her cheek and turning away.

“Please, Momma!” the cries faded away as the mother briskly walked out to the hallway where her friend awaited her. As the door of the center closed behind her, cutting off Monica’s cries, she reached up to wipe a tear away from her eye.

“You okay?” asked her friend.

“It’s just – hard, sometimes”, the mother replied, fishing in her purse for a tissue.

“Now, Julia”, the friend said. “We’ve been over this so many times. You know you have to do this, for yourself and for Monica.”

“I know, I know”, the mother replied, waving her tissue and nodding. “But that doesn’t make it less difficult now and then.”

“Look”, her friend replied, deciding that a firm hand was needed at the moment. “Of course it’s difficult. But doing what’s right even when it’s difficult makes you stronger. It’s tough for both of you, but eventually Monica will see that you’re doing what is necessary, and she’ll respect you for it. Then she’ll grow up into a strong woman like you are.”

Julia smiled a little at encouragement. “I – I just don’t feel very strong right now.”

“You will”, her friend said, patting her shoulder. “After all, it’s not like you’re neglecting her. You’ve done your research. This is the most highly rated and recommended day care in town. She’ll get plenty of attention and stimulus – probably better than you could give her. She’ll be with children of her own age, and they’ve got plenty of games and activities. It’ll free you up to do what you do best, and you’ll both benefit.”

Julia sighed. “I know you’re right, and we have been over all this. Just getting a little – sentimental, I guess.” She straightened her suit jacket and turned to check her look in a hallway mirror. “Do I look all right?”
“Almost”, the friend said, taking out a tissue and patting dry the damp spot on Julia’s shoulder. “There. Ready to go?”

Back inside the center, the day care worker was trying distraction.
“Come on, Monica, would you like to come watch the video? Everyone’s watching.”

Though Monica had ceased crying, she pulled her hand from the worker’s and ran – not toward the door through which her mother had departed, but to a window overlooking the parking lot. Clambering up on the bookshelf beneath it, she looked out to where she could see her mother get into the white minivan with her friend and pull away. Monica just sat there, looking out the window, for a long time.


“You aren’t going, are you?” the frail voice pleaded as the rheumy eyes misted up.

“Mother, please – we’ve discussed all this”, the daughter patted the older woman’s hand. “It’s almost your suppertime, and I need to be going.”
“But – you just got here”, the elderly woman pleaded, taking her daughter’s hand and clinging tightly. “I thought – can’t you at least stay for supper?”

The daughter gave a halfhearted smile as one of the attendants stepped in and began tucking the wraps in around the wheelchair. “Now, mother…” the daughter began, but the attendant gave her an understanding smile.

“We’ll take care of her, Ms. Anderson. This – happens all the time.”
The daughter stood and picked up her purse while the attendant busied herself with her charge.

“Monica!” the elderly woman cried, reaching out a feeble hand.
“Now, mother”, Monica reassured her as she stepped toward the door. “I’ll be back before you know it. A couple of days.” The attendant gave an understanding nod and pulled the wheelchair back.

“Monica!” the mother cried again, leaning forward so far that the attendant had to put a hand on her shoulder to keep her from toppling from the chair.
“Bye, Mom! See you soon!” Monica said cheerfully, waving as she swept through the door into the hallway to where her companion waited. She paused briefly on the far side of the door to gather her composure, brushing a tear away with the back of her hand.
“You okay?” asked her companion.

“Yeah. It’s just – yeah, I’m fine. That’s just a little hard sometimes”, Monica replied.

“Monica, don’t beat yourself up. We’ve been all over this so many times. Sure, it may seem hard at first, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s the best thing for both of you.”

“Oh, I know, I know”, Monica said in a wavering voice. “We have been all over it, and I don’t want to go over it again. But she’s my mother.”

“And she’d want you to live your own life”, her friend persisted. “After all, it’s not like you’re neglecting her. This is the finest care facility in the city, and you were lucky to be able to get her in. You certainly wouldn’t be able to afford it without your career. Besides, you can come see her anytime you want – and it’s not like she’ll be alone. There are all sorts of people her age here, and their activity calendar is jammed. And the cafeteria is highly recommended.”

“Yeah”, Monica smiled. “Mom wanted me to stay for dinner.”

“Oh”, her friend grimaced. “Well, maybe not that highly. I’ve a better option, if you’re free.”

“Sure”, Monica replied, smiling in earnest now.

Back in the room, the attendant was trying to distract her charge. “Would you like to come down to the common room, Ms. Anderson?”

“No”, came the reply. The old woman just pointed to the window, as she usually did. The attendant sighed.

“Again, Ms. Anderson? Are you sure you don’t want to come down?”
There was not response but the pointed finger, so the attendant conceded. Wheeling the mother over to the window, she gave the wraps one final tuck and went to depart.

“Remember, the station is 14, Ms. Anderson. Please dial us if there’s anything you need.”

The old woman didn’t respond, but just sat looking out the window at the parking lot where she could see her daughter and her companion get into the white car and drive away. After they had gone, she just sat there looking for a long, long time.

"Necessity" is a short story by Roger Thomas, author of The Last Ugly Person: And Other Stories

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