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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Critique/Review (for writers) (05/06/10)

TITLE: Sweet Simplicity
By Kimberly Russell


My car knows the route so well, I barely have to intervene.

How will I get to my assigned parking place today? Often I take different paths in order to mix things up a bit. Anything to break up the monotonous routine.

By the way: The parking spot isn't really assigned-I just like to think so. And I grouse whenever someone else uses it.

Ever polite, I nod to those I pass. I wonder about their story but often the details are written on their faces. Some frozen with shock, others saddened by resignation, occasional sobbing. I am familiar with it all-I too have lived it.

A myriad of hallways escort me to my destination yet there is no escaping the dreaded bulletin board. Despite the pain it usually brings, the draw is too strong to be ignored. One list names the recent arrivals, many whom I recognize since it's a small town.

I hold my breath and give cursory attention to the other list, hoping no one familiar appears there. In Memoriam...

For once, no names. It is a good day.

Soon I stroll into her room, noting that nothing has changed since yesterday. While I'm a lover of routine, this particular one has unnerved even me. I reach down to kiss her forehead and ask how she is.

"'Bout the same."

The usual response.

We chit chat a little. Often it is a struggle to fill the empty minutes. Usually I click through my mind enroute, desperately trying to come up with something to talk about. I share tidbits from work that she doesn't understand and silly things my pets have done. Of course, the weather is a faithful standby. Not that it makes any difference: She won't leave her room and has no interest in anything outside it.

The nursing home, specifically a ten by twelve area, has become her world. By choice, she came here two years ago to will herself to die. Much to her distress, it has not happened yet.

I've processed all the stages of grief that the experts say I should. While they may be geared more toward a suffered loss, the way I see it, I'm already there. My sisters and I have spent the last several years trying to assure her that there were other options. She couldn't-or wouldn't-see them. Maybe in her stubbornness, she didn't want to. It's irrelevant. I have grieved.

Not just the loss of my mom but the pain and anger of her unwillingness to try. I've lost respect, acted out in anger, and after a final spectacular meltdown, finally moved into acceptance, grudgingly agreeing that she had the right to make choices I didn't agree with but could do absolutely nothing about.

So I come. It's the right thing to do.

I situate myself on the bed for the longest twenty minutes of my day. Sometimes we watch television. Chat about the family. Admire the latest bouquet of flowers I've brought. I can always kill a few minutes fussing over them but it passes quickly.

The best days? To see her eyes light up when I hand her something I've written.

I could go into all the psychobabble about the support of our parents, how I felt unloved as a child, and the many hoops I've jumped through over the years in order to gain approval. I've certainly tried everything and for the most part, had little success. Since my father is no longer with us, I've been able to put my issues with him to rest. My mother and I have reversed roles and settled into a comfortable waiting. It is a relationship without a lot of depth yet contains a sweet simplicity.

It took many months for me to muster up the courage to tell her that I was a writer. Predictably, at first she was skeptical and somewhat negative but as time passed, she became enthusiastic and supportive-to the point of getting after me if I don't spend enough time at my craft.

So I hand her my offering and wait. She takes a long time to read the short article, crippled hand shaking in a bird-like clutch. At last she finishes and looks up at me.

"That was cute."

No editor, publisher, or critic could ever give higher praise. I need nothing more.

And I will be back tomorrow.

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This article has been read 763 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Beth LaBuff 05/15/10
The mysteriousness of your beginning really pulls your reader in. Then as the reader becomes enlightened as to your setting we also become emotionally drawn to your MC. Your ending is heart-warming. Skillful writing here!
Brenda Shipman 05/16/10
Oh, I loved this. So tender, honest, transparent, raw and yet so sweet. You get nothing but rave reviews from me!
Colin Swann05/17/10
Really enjoyed this very interesting story. Thanks
Connie Dixon05/17/10
Loved your title. And your descriptions were so realistic. I was with you all the way in this bittersweet story. So much truth here. Good job!
Jan Ackerson 05/17/10
I love this one! I kept waiting for the topic, and then there it was, with a heartbreaking, lump-in-the-throat inducing simplicity at the very end. Wow...so, so good.
AnneRene' Capp05/17/10
Yes, you had me intrigued from the get-go and I was able to put myself in your place throughout the entire story. This is not only deeply touching but simply sweet as well :)
Linda Germain 05/17/10
It's amazing how one small positive acknowledgement from a family member can be so treasured. Beautifully done!
Ann Grover05/17/10
Lovely... and sweet and simple... hit topic right on. Well-written. (Tiny red ink: exchange hyphens for dashes.)
Lyn Churchyard05/17/10
I read, and read some more and wondered where the topic was. But one phrase stood out, one that a lot of writers know so well and the many hoops I've jumped through over the years in order to gain approval. That in itself is a critique of us, but to have a parent give a positive comment on something we write is bliss. Sweet simplicity indeed. Well done.
Sara Harricharan 05/19/10
This is beautiful---I really, really like it. I can relate to it so well and I know the feeling when you hear the one phrase from the critic you prize the most "That's Cute" was just the right ending there--and I loved your opening line! There's plenty of good emotion and excellent detail to make the trip and MC appear as exhausted and mindless, yet you tie it together in the end with a lovely heartstring. I LOVED it! Kudos to you--this is a favorite of mine this week! ^_^
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/19/10
I imagine many will identify with the feeling of the MC, and that's what draws readers. You identify yourself very well with the sentence: So I come; it's the right thing to do. Your ending is most appropriate. Well done.
Carole Robishaw 05/19/10
Very touching, and a great ending.
Kate Oliver Webb 05/19/10
This is warm, real, and quite poignant. I enjoyed reading it, was totally drawn into the relationship and rejoiced at the ending. Beautiful story; thanks for sharing it.
Kristi Peifer05/19/10
I think everyone else has the comments nailed--wonderful work! I have a family member who has been where you are. Would you mind if I shared it?
Marita Thelander 05/19/10
Wow, Kim...I think this is your best entry ever. I really liked everything about it. Nicely done. If I were you, I'd keep that hairdryer around.
Sara Harricharan 05/20/10
WOOT!!!! An EC!!! Super happy for ya! *happy dancin* ^_^ I knew this was a good one!
Beth LaBuff 05/20/10
It's wonderful to see this on the EC list. Super congratulations!
Catrina Bradley 05/20/10
The way you drew me in slowly, and ever increasingly, was Masterful! The voice is comfortable and fresh at the same time. Your talents really shine in this piece. Congrats, my friend!
Yvonne Blake 05/20/10
Great story! I think we all want our mother's/father's approval more than high praise of anyone else.
Congratulations on your EC!
Kimberly Russell05/20/10
Just wanted to say a great big "Thanks" to all my wonderful FW friends. Your encouragement and kind words mean the world to me. Have started to share this with my family (made one sister burst into tears!) but won't be able to with Mom. That's ok-- she got an extra special bouquet of flowers to celebrate even though she didn't realize what for! Love you all!
Lynda Lee Schab 05/21/10
I absolutely love this, Kim! So raw and seeping with emotion, yet your attitude and attempts to lighten the gravity of the situation is amazing. CONGRATS on this well-deserved placing!