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Bedtime Contemporary Creative Nonfiction

“He fell again,” my husband mouths to me, then returns to his phone call with his-brother-who-I-cannot-stand. “No, no. I’m right here. I can be there in twenty minutes.”

Of course he’s going out in an ice storm in the middle of the night. Of course he’s the one my father-in-law calls, a man who patently favors my husband’s inept older brother and overindulges his younger one. Of course he’s riding to the rescue. That’s what martyrs do. 

My husband paces, phone still in hand. “Did the doctors say anything else—what caused the fall?” 

Dehydration, I say to myself. Your father never drinks anything but coffee and whiskey, oftentimes together.

“He has a urinary tract infection, too?” My husband looks shocked that his father’s poor lifestyle choices have had a negative impact on his health. 

Of course he has a UTI. Primarily brought on by dehydration, I want to say, but at this point in our marriage, we’ve had too many conversations about the same things. I’ve learned it’s better to say nothing. Eggshells can only be walked on for so long.

My husband hangs up the phone and starts to get dressed.

“Sorry I woke you up,” he apologizes, but the apology is insincere. He wants me to commiserate with him, but I’m not playing this game at 3:00 a.m. I have my own problems. We have our own problems.

“I have to get up and change the sheets anyway,” I mutter. 

“Night sweats?”

“Yup,” I pull off a pillow case. It’s drenched.

“Maybe try hormone therapy?”

Maybe go to hell, I want to say, but I conjure up an icy smile which looks suspiciously like a grimace. No, I don’t need any more synthetic hormones floating through my body, thank you. Remember how I spent twenty years on the pill because you wouldn’t get a vasectomy?

“I love you,” he says, giving me a perfunctory kiss.

“I love you, too,” I reply, wondering for a second if I really do. 

He leaves for the hospital. 

I luxuriate in his absence until 4:17 a.m.

“Mom! MOM!”

My eyes open before the second time my name is called. My name. My name has been Mom for over three decades. Even my husband calls me Mom. 

It’s our youngest. She’s weeping, mascara and eyeliner running down her puffy face in black rivulets. She’s blubbering, incomprehensible and hysterical.

“What—what’s going on?” I say, getting out of bed, finding a robe, knocking over a glass of water. 

“Mom, I wrecked the car . . . I. Wrecked. The. Car.” She caterwauls, falling into my arms. She smells of alcohol, tobacco, and my perfume, which disappeared from my vanity last month. And why cigarettes? Why can’t she just vape like her iditoic peers?

“Slow down. Tell me what happened.”

I hand her a box of tissues and she blows her nose. 

I wait, wrapping a thick fleece blanket around myself. After my perimenopausal night sweats, I expect to get the chills—and they arrive as advertised. 

“Okay, don’t get mad,” she starts. 

This preface to her confession is when I know it’s going to be expensive.

“Are you all right?”

“I’m all right, but the car is t-totaled!” A new round of sobbing begins. 

I pat her on the back, wondering if I can put her in a warm bath then go downstairs to eat a pint of ice cream. Any flavor. Doesn't matter. 

“Tell me exactly what happened,” I pull back, looking into her tragic, raccoon eyes. I note she has a new facial piercing. I ignore it (for now) and affix a look of genuine concern. 

“Okay, Mom,” she sniffs dramatically. “So I backed into a car at Taco Bell. And then the driver was really mean to me—he yelled! So I left, but I ran over his foot.”

I raise my eyebrows and start counting the felonies. 

“On the way home, a cop followed me. He pulled me over. I waited until he was out of his car—then I took off!”

“You. took. off.”

“I was scared because I had been drinking—” her lower lip trembles. “And then I hit the sign.”

“What sign?”

“The sign outside our subdivision. The Walnut Grove sign.”

That’s a brick wall. You ran the car into a brick wall?”

“Uh-huh,” she cries. She buries her face into my chest, wiping her nose on my nightgown like a five year old. The thought of strangling her seems very appealing.

“Darling, I’m going to need you to take a shower and go to bed. When dad gets home, I’ll talk to him. We’ll sort it out. Just go to bed now, all right?”

“Uh-huh,” she blubbers. “I’m sorry, mom,” she apologizes, but the apology is insincere. She is sorry she got caught. 

When she leaves, I lay down on the bedroom floor instead of making up the bed. I gather most of the pillows in a heap and briefly consider making a pillow fort. How nice it would be to have someone else to deal with aging parents and adult children. 

I sulk, staring at the ceiling. 

I’m in the sandwich generation, my mother complained one afternoon when I came home from school. I didn’t know what she meant and asked her to make me a ham and swiss. I had wondered why she burst into both tears and laughter at my request.

Now I know. I am in between two generations whose incessant needs make me wonder who I am.

“Every woman in her fifties wants to run away,” my mother told me before she died. “And the ones who don’t are few and far between.”

“I think I hate everyone,” I confessed to her. “Especially men.”

Menstruation. Menopause. Mental breakdown. You see a trend?”

We laughed.

“Running away is easy. Fighting is much harder,” she said, lifting my chin, looking into my eyes to see if I was listening. “And I didn’t raise any wimps.”

The bedroom door opens, jostles me awake.

“Honey, why are you on the floor?” my husband asks, eyes bloodshot and weary. 

I stand up and reach my arms around him, grateful for his presence. “I was down there getting a new perspective on life.”

“Then you’re feeling better? No more hot flashes tonight? No more chills?”

“Oh, they’ll be back.”

“Are you sure I can’t get you anything for your troubles?” he grins, and I wonder how he missed our car decorating the entrance to the neighborhood. 

“Probably a good lawyer or two,” I smile, kissing him lightly on the lips. 


February 22, 2022 02:07

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67 comments

18:58 Feb 22, 2022

I feel tired just reading this... I always found forming a family something too complicated and requires an endless supply of patience that I surely don't have. Thank you for proving me right. Too much shit!

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19:15 Feb 22, 2022

Give yourself 10-15 years :)

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Maggie Gibbs
12:39 Feb 22, 2022

I don’t have adult children yet (they’re still little), but boy did I feel this one. There are many days where I just want to disappear into the floor. Maybe people would walk right past me and not see me or say “Mom” for the 20 millionth time in the day.

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13:12 Feb 22, 2022

I don't mind the "Mom's," but the "MoooooOooOoooOoooooOOoom's" make me eat a bag of chips.

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02:02 Mar 20, 2022

And somehow I have been drawn back to reading another one of your stories, Deidra. Your way with words never ceases to impress me. {“Menstruation. Menopause. Mental breakdown. You see a trend?” We laughed.} That was my favourite part of this story. Thank you for the amazing read :)

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Heather C
22:15 Mar 03, 2022

Deidra, I enjoyed this story so much. The tone, the dialogue…so very real; introspective yet to the point. Awesome. Love your style.

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Fortunatus Eze
21:09 Mar 03, 2022

Interesting piece

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Sue Hunter
02:04 Mar 03, 2022

I loved this story, especially the line "Now I know. I am in between two generations whose incessant needs make me wonder who I am." Great work! Witty but also serious.

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Zack Powell
04:49 Mar 01, 2022

How this didn't end up on the "Recommended Stories" list is actually baffling. This is humorous, touching, and true-to-life at once. I just don't understand. Really, this was so, so good. I have neither a husband nor children, and this piece makes me so relieved for that. So much stuff you have to keep up (and put up) with. Especially (I assume) being a mom and being so inextricably tied to that title, as the narrator mentioned, and I love that you brought that point up. Speaking of the narrator, so sassy! I love the voice you wrote for th...

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Daniel R. Hayes
20:47 Feb 25, 2022

Hi Deidra, this was another great story! I was actually able to relate to this one. You never cease to amaze me with your wonderful prose. I also loved the internal thoughts here! Great job as always!!! :)

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Shea West
04:40 Feb 22, 2022

You did just tell me the other day that raising adult children is the worst... You can tell this mother is beyond exasperation when her adult kids comes home from possible multiple felonies and she's like, "Meh, just go to bed." Bathroom floor perspective is a thing. So is closet sitting and pantry hiding. My favorite line: “And I didn’t raise any wimps.”

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K. Antonio
11:08 Feb 22, 2022

Not even gonna lie that sometimes when I need to be responsible, I'll sit or lie down on the floor with a joint and wait for the motivation to kick in. :D Sometimes when I need to write I do the same thing or start pacing around the house talking in gibberish. Like I've said, existing can be exhausting.

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12:12 Feb 22, 2022

Raising adult children is the best of times and the worst of times (stealing from Charlie Dickens, the philandering hack.) Trust me, there are worst things than a couple of felonies... :) And all the MC's mother's quotes are directly attributed to my mother who survived 6 horrible children :)

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12:14 Feb 22, 2022

And K, total mood. And as long as existence can be viewed ironically . . .? That's another reason to get out of bed (or off the floor). The absurdity is thrilling.

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