up straighter in the big green faux-leather chair, Anna peered
toward the bed where the emaciated figure of Lincoln Cole lay.
After pulling at the cover, the blue eyes closed again as he once
more sank into the blessed relief of a restless morphine-induced
slumber. Watching him a moment longer, Anna soon eased her tired
body back into the chair before closing her eyes in a sleepless
She had been here in this room for three days and nights. Someone
had to be here, and she was the only one left. Maybe this was
her reason for being born--to take care of the great man, she
thought in an almost resigned manner. She managed only a half
smile at the irony. Anna Cole, AKA Mrs. Lincoln R. Cole, Jr.,
his greatest disappointment in life, was now the only family he
owned. Of course, Lincoln Cole would never admit to such a weakness,
that of being disappointed. He would never show any regard or
thanks for her efforts to care for him, either.
a tall dark-haired woman of no special beauty, thought of the
first day she met her father-in-law. Of course, she had seen him
in the office before, even spoke briefly on the phone to him many
times. It was all to do with business, though, because her boss,
Jim Everett, was Lincoln Coles attorney.
Unfortunately for the wealthy Delta landowner, she met his son,
Link, at a wedding reception one day. Liking each other, even
drawn one to the other for no particular reason, they began to
date. After a few months, the relationship turned serious.
Hearing rumors of a possible engagement, Lincoln Cole arrogantly
walked into the law office one day and announced that he would
be taking her to lunch. Any excuse that Anna might have made in
order to decline his invitation was swept away by her bosss
had not been an enjoyable experience. Everything seemed to have
been going well until he found out that she was a widow and unable
to have children of her own. It was not her state of widowhood
that made her ineligible. In fact, to his way of thinking, her
first husbands death in the service of his country was a
plus in her favor. Her plain appearance didnt even come
into play, he assured her in his usual plain spoken and high-acting
way. No! Her inability to provide a bloodline heir and carry on
the family name was the disqualifier. Adoption was not an option,
he had informed her.
mouths dry. The mumbled complaint came from the bed,
and Anna was snatched back to the present. She hurried to her
feet before reaching for the ice pitcher.
this will help, she said, as she raised the cup of ice chips
to his dry and cracked lips.
he looked at her in a hooded manner, she thought that she briefly
saw something different in his eyes. Though she was unable to
give it a name, it was an expression that shed seen several
times since he had been admitted to the hospital and placed in
you never thought that you would have an old man like me to care
for when you married Link. His words were more of a statement
than a question.
I had known the future, I would have insisted that Link not go
on that business trip, but I didnt and he died. She
said this as she always said it--starkly, cruelly, as if to pound
into her own brain the reality of her loss. Sometimes, she still
could not believe it though it would be eight years in July that
Link had crashed his small plane while flying over the Piney Woods
Lincoln Cole said nothing, just closed his eyes as they glazed
over with the familiar pain.
Changing the subject, Anna picked up a get well card
from family friends and began to read the standard cheery sounding
Lincoln shook his head, causing one side of the oxygen tubing
to come loose from behind his ear, displacing the cannula from
one nostril and decreasing his already compromised intake.
are you here? He asked this with characteristic abruptness,
causing Anna to steel herself for a verbal confrontation.
my husbands father. Im doing it for him, she
said, as she put the tubing back in place.
Links dead, so he wont know if you walk away.
As he spoke, some of the old fire lit up his blue eyes, but it
just as quickly turned once more to that new and unnamed look
before disappearing into some secret dwelling place. Jane,
Angela, and Harvey are all dead. No one will know if you walk
away. No one living would blame you, Mrs. Cole.
He had always called her that with derision, as if to remind her
that she was an imposter, that she had stolen the place belonging
to the forever unknown mother of his unborn grandchildren. Now,
here in the isolated confines of this room, the name sounded like
any other name or title--without the usual veiled meaning.
the blame that has come my way has come from you, Mr. Cole.
Unlike her father-in-law, Anna had always addressed him in a formal
but respectful manner.
knew that it wasnt going to be easy when you married Link
against my wishes," he replied. "Im an old man
now, and my son and daughter are dead along with the only grandchild
that Ill ever have.
winced when she thought of little Angela who died before she had
ever lived, just a baby. She died along with her mother and father
in a head-on auto crash a year after Links death.
Link had left children, I would not now be dying without family,
Anna sighed, defeated that even now everything still came back
to this. It seemed as if her whole life, past and future, was
rejected by this flaw, a flaw that he had invented and judged
to be fatal and unforgivable.
you think that I chose to be barren? That I would not be happier
with his children at my side, now that he is gone? The question
came from deep inside her, causing a tearing pain with its asking.
Lincoln began to cough, his breathing becoming more labored. Just
before Anna pushed the button to summon his nurse, she, at last,
recognized the new strange expression in his eyes. It was the
look of fear.
He began to settle down again after the nurse suctioned him and
administered more pain medication.
disease, caused by years of smoking, was the reason for the pain,
but the lack of oxygen was worst of all. The room, once more,
became still and his breathing slowed somewhat. The morphine had
done its job, but it seemed to take more these days to keep him
Looking at the now sleeping face that looked so much like that
of her husband, Anna reached her pale hand out and smoothed the
white hair back from his forehead.
doing it because you are family, Lincoln Cole. There are no other
reasons. It is so simple, you see, she told the sleeping
form, before once more taking her watchful place in the chair.
Her place, she thought with resolution at long last. It was not
the place of some ghost of a woman that had never even existed,
but it was her place. It had always been her place.
Griffith Brown is a retired nurse living in Canton, Mississippi.
Besides writing for Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal,
she has written for USADEEPSOUTH. She has also authored,
compiled, and published The Scofield Letters: Texas Pioneers,
a history that is based on some old family letters.
Gilda Griffith Brown