Edna was so excited! It was a monday, and she said the Diner would only be open the next 4 days, then would be closed for 4 whole days, for what she called thanksgiving. Edna was so looking forward to that time, just to stay at home and relax. I could see that she was coming to relish that, relaxing at the house, more and more.
And, honestly, Edna had been, well, under the weather, she said. That was last week, and she took the extra step of having one of the local ladies ask the Doc to come check her out. Well, that was last wednesday, and that night… Edna said she was just having one of her spells. I didn’t know what that even meant. She just explained that occasionally she would just get very weak. I had to wrap her arm around my neck and just about carry her to even get her home.
The Doc stopped by a little later, soon after we were home. Of course, Edna wanted to be in bed soon as we were in the door. And Edna had a lot of respect for the Doc. She didn’t call him anything else, so I guess I can’t either. Edna said he was a docter after the old way. She laughed, and said he was more concerned about getting a body healthy, rather than just popping them some pilles to deal with the problem at hand, so they could feel better again, to get them out of his office, and hopefully get their money. She didn’t seem real pleased with the way most doctors were, I guess. But none of that made any sense to me.
The Doc came by, and it was dark, but I had a few lights on in Edna’s bedroom. The porch light was on too. The Doc came in, and asked Edna a few questions, and checked Edna out, I guess, and none of what he said or did made any sense to me either. When he was done, he put his stuff back in his bag. “Edna, are you ready?” he asked calmly. Edna smiled. “Yes I am.” This absolutely didn’t make any sense to me at all…
Edna was tired, and quickly fell asleep. “Try to keep her calm Maude, even though that is a tall order for this woman!” Doc said this to me with a chuckle. Then he left.
Well, that following monday, Edna came to the Diner with me like we always did. She seemed to be doing fine. But first thing, she gave me the pen and little tablet she always wrote orders on, smiled, and said “Maude let’s see how you do with my job!” Well, I tried. For the next hour, I tried to do what Edna always made look so simple. It was terrifying for me, to have to smile, to have to talk to people. Edna took over as the lunch rush turned into a rush. Later in the day she just said calmly “Maude, you need a little more practice at that!” Edna thought briefly, then she said “Well, this is a short week for us, so maybe tomorrow…” The order up bell pulled her away. Edna seemed fine the rest of the day. We walked home like we normally did, and Edna and I talked for an hour maybe. Well, Edna wanted to be in her bed. Her rocking chair was in there, so I sat in that and just listened. Edna talked. This was Edna in her element. Edna loved this, talking to me, talking about her past, her Ed… Soon, she was falling asleep. She had me turn the lights out, then she asked me for a hug (I was crying softly, it wasn’t short). Then she fell asleep.
I was beat, and fell asleep too. The next morning, I was up and ready. Then I realized I had not seen Edna at all. I knocked on her door. She called me in. “Maude, go ahead, open the Diner. I’ll be along in a little while. Just stay away from those piranha” she said, then she chuckled. But she had said all of that very quietly.
I kneeled down next to her bed. “Edna, are you ok…” I asked also quietly. Tears were forming in my eyes. Edna said quietly “Honey, I’m fine. I just need a little more rest. Our 4 days off can’t come soon enough for me.” But it was clear that her attention was immediately pulled elsewhere. She looked clearly beyond me, then got the most wondrous smile on her face. “They are coming for me!” she said, still quietly, but clearly with joy. I was so confused… Edna looked back at me. “Maude, be a good girl and go serve our tiny town. I’m fine, I’ll be along.”
I hugged Edna again, left, then walked slowly into town, to the Diner. And with each step I took, I cried more. Edna’s part of the job terrified me… And, Edna sounded so weak, I didn’t think she could do it, not today… I was just… I didn’t know what to do…
I walked into the Diner, and basically fell apart right there and cried. I was pretty sure it was a bunch of the local ladies, Edna’s friends, who surrounded me on the spot. One of them carefully guided me into their car, and we drove quickly back to Ed and Edna’s house. I unlocked the door, and we went straight into her room. Everyone started crying right away. One of them used to be a nurse, and checked her. “She’s gone… home…” We all cried after that. The only person I really cared about… the only person who really cared about me… Edna was dead… I cried buckets… And it hurt fiercely…
The Doc came back, checked her again, and filled out some papers. The sheriff was there too. Later in the day, one of Edna’s friends, Delores was her name, I think, asked me to spend the night at her house. Her husband was out of town (he was a truck driver), and she had a guest room. She said it was probably not a good idea for me to be alone right now. I agreed. The ambulance came and they took Edna’s body around lunch time, then we locked everything up, and I went to Delores’ house for the night. I cried the whole time. I increasingly failed to acknowledge what was going on around me, and I just don’t remember.
Well, I do remember that the sheriff came over to Delores’ house the next day, to see me. Delores said I needed to listen carefully, so I tried. I was still sniffling a little. The sheriff said “Maude, we went through Edna’s will. She had it done up proper maybe a month ago. Maude, she left everything to you… the Diner, the farm-house and all that land. We couldn’t find any bank accounts or anything like that. And I guess she and Ed had no children. But everything Edna had, she left to you, Maude. It is all yours now. You just need to sign these forms, and we will be done with this.” Delores pointed to where I should sign, and I just did. I printed “M A U D E” I didn’t know what else to do… I was a mess… The sheriff had what he needed, then he left. I went back into Delores’ guest room and just cried. My head was pounding because I had been crying so much, so I tried to just cried softly. But my heart was aching so deeply… I felt like my life had been ripped away… And I didn’t even have it very long, from what I could remember. I cried myself to sleep that night.
The funeral was the next day. Delores and another lady took me back to Ed and Edna’s house, well, I guess it was my house now. They wanted to find some more appropriate clothes for the funeral, which they did. They asked that I shower quickly, and get them on. Then they waited while I put a new piece of twine in my hair so my head only hurt, well, not as much.
I… My head would only let me cry softly. I did that all day… People saying things in a big building that was absolutely packed with people. I guess they were here because of Edna. She had touched a lot of lives, someone said. Well, she had rescued me. And I wanted to cry hard when I heard that, but I just couldn’t. My angry head wouldn’t let me…
Later, I guess Edna was in some fancy wood box, and we all met at a different place, and put that box… We put Edna… into the ground, and they covered… that box… with dirt… I did cry buckets… It hurt fiercely, but… Edna was really gone…
I cried the rest of the day… I was around a lot of Edna’s friends some of the time, and they took turns coming up and hugging me, and they were crying too. But I ended up back at Delores’ house. She fed me some dinner, which I ate as I sniffled. And I cried myself to sleep again that night, quietly.
The next day, I think I was cried out. I said that quietly to Delores that morning. She agreed and said that all of Edna’s friends probably were. Well, I only then realized that Delores had spent the last few days crying too. Delores fed me breakfast. I was starved, and ate all of it. Then she said she would come, and stay as long as I wanted, but that I needed to go back to the farm-house, which was my house now. I am glad she waited until after I ate, because I started crying again. I understood that it didn’t really matter if I was ready or not. That farm house was… I didn’t have anything else, any place else…
Delores drove me back out to my new house. She watched as I let myself in. The first thing I did was to close the door to Edna’s room. I just couldn’t… Then I walked out to the front porch, and sat down on the top step. Delores sat next to me. It was quiet for a few minutes. Then Delores said this.
“Maude, you need to move past this. Maybe you didn’t, couldn’t tell, but we watched Edna slowly get weaker. She knew this was coming, she knew her time was coming, and we did too…”
It was quiet for a minute maybe as Delores thought some more.
“And I know it will be hard for you, at first, but you need to keep the Diner going. I think Edna realized the role that her little Diner plays in the life of this town. Edna told us all, more than once… She wanted the Diner to keep going, and she was sure you could do that. The cook knew this was coming too. He is on disability, and so can’t work, but he loves to cook. He wants to continue cooking for the people of this town too.”
I was crying softly. “Doing what Edna did, that is so scary to me. I just don’t know…”
Delores smiled. “Maude, I have watched you. It will be hard at first, but you can do it.”
“But what about those bad men… Edna protected me…” I protested as I cried.
“The sheriff has agreed to have a deputy stop by the Diner every day. Just let him know if any of those men give you problems” Delores said reassuringly.
Well, it would probably be too late by then, but still… It was quiet a minute. Delores said this.
“Maude, Edna was trying to prepare you to take over for her. That is what she wanted for you. At least try.”
Then she hugged me. Then I realized that Edna was not here to hug me anymore. I would miss that.
Delores got up and said quietly. “The Diner will be closed until next monday. Get some rest, relax. On monday morning, a bunch of us will be there to help you if needed… Edna would have wanted us to do that.”
Delores, sniffling herself, got up and walked to her car and drove off.
I just sat on the front porch. I think I sat there the rest of the afternoon.
And I only found this out later. Edna was 98. She had died on she and Ed’s wedding anniversary. Delores said Edna was with Ed now. Delores smiled when she said that. I didn’t have anybody here with me, not even my adopted mom… I felt so alone…
1. Maude: Beginnings is copyright 2017 by Shysage.