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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)

By Celeste Duckworth


I canít believe this. Mom canít get out of bed again today either. Iím so angry.

I want to yell, ďGet out of bed and donít leave these four kids here for me to take care of.Ē But I donít. Itís hard to swallow words when youíre scared. It would be the unkindest thing to say anyway. I simply clenched my fists.

Mom has been crying for five days now and no one is telling me why. With homework, fixing dinner, and then cleaning up the house, I fall into bed every night exhausted, upset, and frightened.

Even though no one told me, I knew it was her mind not being right again. We had this happen once before and when Mom came home the last time, she shook for two months before she got better. My brother, Chuckie cried on her lap for an hour when she first came home. I cried when I saw how sad he was because she was gone.

Mom looked weird and Dad wandered through the house while he rubbed the top part of his head with the palm of his hand. I had taken to listening to the phone conversations he and Aunt Jean had to try to make sense of the dark cloud that hung over our home. A decision had been made to put Mom in the hospital again. I knew that meant that I was the mom for an undisclosed time. My fingernails were chewed to the core already. We had another brother this time, Jimmy; he was only four years old.

ďPlease God help me, I canít do all of this. Four kids all younger than I will be looking to me to receive assurance that Mom would be alright. I donít have that assurance myself how will I keep them from being as afraid as I am right now?Ē

ďPlease, Jesus help us, we are in trouble again and we all need Your help right now,Ē I prayed.

The next morning while making tons of pancakes for the boys and Debbie, I told them it wouldnít be as long as last time, but Chuckieís big brown eyes locked onto mine. No one could really know it was up to Mom how soon sheíd take to be right again. Chuckie and I both knew that. But somehow I awoke with a new hope in my heart that morning. Can a fourteen year girl hold down the fort for an undisclosed time? We were forced to find out.

My homework never let up just because I had extra to do but I noticed that Chuckie was helping me by not being such a brat and he did the laundry at least the loading part. Then Debbie and I folded and the boys put away their own clothes. The church brought dinners almost every night for a long time. That really was wonderful and they often came and did the dishes for us. Those nights I got all my homework done and we all got into bed around 8:30. I prayed a prayer of thanks for our food even after we ate it!

One new thing was added to our routine: every night we prayed for Mom to come home and for Dad to not look so tired. I let the kids all say their own prayers out loud. It seemed to relieve the quiet of Momís absence. And they all could talk about their fears then through the prayers. We had never done that before Momís being sick.

There were countless miracles along the journey but then the day came when Mom came back to us and this time, no shaking and she was really happy to see us! The whole clan ran to her out stretched arms to receive the kisses.

Finally the two younger ones ran outside to play but Mom took Chuckie and me, the two oldest aside. She put her arms around us and said, ďThank you both for doing a wonderful job of holding down the fort while I was gone. I promise Iíll never leave you kids again.Ē

She was true to her promise. The empty hole that only Momís presence could fill was satisfied until all her chickadees left the nest. Mom, home and prayer are meant to go with family. Her absence brought all five of us closer to God and Momís presence made our home complete for our family again. And I could be fourteen again.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 06/06/08
Such a touching story, and in the end warm, hot tears formed in my eyes at the way you described how "prayer, hope and home" helped you make it through the touch times. A delightful, but sad, story - but a wonderful "ending". Thanks for sharing this well written memory of home. Nice job.
Jan Ackerson 06/06/08
This story really takes the reader through all of the emotions, landing on hope...nice.

You started out in present tense, then about three paragraphs in you switched to past tense. An easy mistake to make, and easy to fix.

Beth LaBuff 06/06/08
Mental illness has to be as frightening for the family as for the victim. My heart goes out to you for the responsibility placed on you while you were so young. It's wonderful to read what your church family did to help. You grew up fast, but you did all the right things. Very nice work on this.
Ellen Dodson08/10/08
Your imagery in some areas is really powerful. For instance, when you show your Dad's anxiety with his rubbing his hair and walking rather than just telling us, I felt compassion for him. Chuckie's big brown eyes latching on to yours in a secret understanding was also powerful. And, I also liked the closing line about the necessity of prayer and mom for home. What a blessing that mom returned whole and remained that way for her children.