Sunday, March 21, 2010

What We Leave Behind

What We Leave Behind

They were in their eighties, Mr. And Mrs. Hempstead. I came to know them while my father was a resident at the Starflower Assistant Living Center. Often when I visited my father, we would venture outside; me walking and him on his electric scooter. We would always find the Hempstead’s either in the garden or in one of the beautiful sunrooms filled with large leafy green potted plants, shelves full lined with different sizes of pots that held a large variety of blooming flowers, you could just close your eyes and smell the beauty that was all around the room.

One particular rainy day when I visited my father he did not feel like venturing out of his room so as he napped, I took a walk. I decided to go to the flower sunroom to sit and watch the rain. Upon opening the door to the room, I discovered Mrs. Hempstead sitting in a wicker rocker, gazing at the raindrops that fell upon the red tulips outside the window.

After watching her for a few minutes, I cleared my throat to get her attention. She slowly turned toward me and smiled ever so sweet, “Well hello there, sweetie come sit down beside me and lets chat”

We sat for a few minutes together neither one talking just looking out the window. After a little I caught myself gazing at her instead of the rain; she must have sensed me looking because she turned to me and smiled the sweetest smile.

“Mrs. Hempstead would you tell me what it is that you had to leave behind in order for you and Mr. Hempstead to move here?” I asked.

Her face seemed to glaze over as she began to tell me. “You know dear we really did not leave anything of importance behind. The children have sold our old home place and most of the furnishings, my husband’s old Lincoln and pick up truck were given to our grandsons, which made him very happy. I still have my beautiful jewelry that Mr. Hempsted has given me over the years; each piece brings me so many happy memories of anniversaries and Valentines Day gifts. I also have my embroidery projects, the many sets of pillow cases; I have spent hours sewing delicate flowers and birds, hoping some day they will be used by my daughters and granddaughters. You should come to our apartment sometime and see all of our many family pictures that hang on the walls. Norman and I sometimes sit for hours and talk of the memories.”

“When I close my eyes and think upon my children, I see them when they were just little things, I can still see my darling Emma in her little pink polka dot dress with a matching ribbon in her hair and those little black paten leather shoes the Easter she turned three. And George our oldest going off to his first prom wearing that starched white tuxedo with a red corsage with that sweet girl Sandy. And there is the day that our middle daughter Christy married Marty her high school sweetheart. The way she held onto Norman’s arm as they glided down the isle together still to this day sometimes causes me to tear up.”

“But Mrs. Hempsted… “

“Please dear call me Alice”

“Ok Alice. When you had to move from your home where you lived all those years with your husband and children, did you not feel like you were leaving behind your world, your life?”

‘No no sweetie, the only thing I left behind was those four walls that held all of us close to each other while it was needed, while everyone was growing up, but when the kids had grown up and left, what we had were our memories.”

“We did not leave anything behind because we brought it all with us. Everything that matters, every smile, every memory, every Christmas spent as a family in that house is up here in my head. The places you live and the places you go can’t hold what the heart was made for.”

I could tell that she was getting tired, her eyes were starting to close and her words where slowing down, rising I gently took her hand and said “Alice I want to thank you so much for sharing your heart with me.” I am so glad that you are happy and content here. We will talk again soon.

I opened the door to my dad’s little apartment careful not to wake him if he was still asleep. He was awake and smiling at me as I entered the room.

“Well how was your nap dad?” I asked.

“Good,” he said. I feel like a new man. We sat together in the little room, him watching television for a while before he caught me gazing at him. I asked, “Dad will you tell me what you left behind when mom died? What memories did you bring to this place?”


Darlene Rogers grew up in Smyrna Georgia, a rural town outside of Atlanta. She is happily married and the mother of two daughters ages 20 and 27. Darlene loves writing short stories and can’t get enough of reading. She is in the process of writing the book she wished she had when going through breast cancer.