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A Short Story Called I Am Not Useless
A quick author's note
I have started putting up chapters of a book that I have written. Thus far, I have put up three. But I am inspired for this short story to be up. The next chapter of my story will be posted tomorrow. But for today, I will have this short story.
For once, I request that no one critique this. It is based off of an experience of a very dear friend of mine and that experience is a source of anguish and irritation--just not good feelings. Thank you.
It was the death of her mother that seemed to make a crack in the dam. Her father now found that he was alone and out of an obligation that he had been under for over sixty years and he seemed to twist the sorrowful and tragic death in a way that was expected of him. She listened as her father told her that his wife's death was because she could no longer be used by God and that He took her away because of her uselessness. That was the way things were with all the females in his life--they were useless, never amounted to anything, and did nothing for this world unlike he and his son.
His son had a successful business. And he had a power through God that healed. She had often seen him hold a person's hand while saying a prayer, shaking his hand so that the power of God left him and into the other person.
She listened as her father told her that her mother respected him so much as to not die before he gave her permission. She listened as her father told her of all the younger women he was now looking for--although she was disgusted when she realized those women were as old as her sister and he was flashing her mother's jewelry at them.
But he was old and bigoted, and she forgave him for some of the words and ignored him for the rest. Yet, in the back of her mind, one thing remind clear; he was as sexist as he had ever been and he thought that his late wife was as useless as apparently God thought she was. Her solace was the slim possibility that he would someday, before his life came to an end, realize how wretched his thoughts were and he would finally realize the worth of the people around him.
All hope for his epiphany was lost a few short years later.
His son, her brother, passed away. The brother had a rare form of cancer that was not lucrative to research. No matter how much money was tossed around, for there was nothing less than an excess of that, the cancer was advancing. The irony, as she remarked to her own daughters one day, was that a man who seemed to value nothing but money could not be saved by it. The tragedy was that the man died overseas instead of staying put and making things right with his own children.
The old man reflected on the death of his son. His son died because he ate Mexican food. His son passed on because God had seen all the good that he had done in the world and rewarded him with entrance into His arms. His son died because of how useful he was to the world.
She had regrets about her brother's passing. She remembered that he told his family that he wished they had a pet when she was born. She remembered how he belittled her family for sinning against God and reprimanding her to follow his words to cure her mentally unstable boy. She remembered how wrong he thought her in everything she did, from spankings that were originally suggested by her brother, to bringing her family to counseling when her family was falling apart. She felt nothing but sorrow for his wasted years that could have mended so many things but were spent desperately reaching for a cure he was solidly against years ago.
The death of her father's son broke open the dam and allowed the irritation, sadness, anger, regret, and disgust overflow to everyone except her father. She couldn't say anything to the man who lost his wife and son in just a few short years. She couldn't convey her frustration to her new husband, since he could never truly know. But she could confide in someone who knew everything and was viewed just as worthless--her sister.
For two hours the sisters talked one night. They reflected on how their work, nursing, was viewed as a waste of time and a worthless profession by their father. They reflected on the many times that their father snapped at them for not divorcing a bad man but then being criticized by him after divorcing. They reflected how he treated their mother with cruel words.
Once the phone call ended and she was able to release her frustrations for that day, she sat on the couch with her daughter. Her daughter could tell that she was feeling much better, but indignation arose in her heart. The daughter was the second grandchild of this man to graduate from college. The daughter was kind and tried to help someone every single day. The daughter was not useless, just like her mother and her aunt. They worked harder, smiled more often, and encouraged the love of others everyday, unlike some others in the family.
One grandson quit college to get an under-the-table education to be a mechanic. Another grandson became a pharmacist. Another grandson was just a drifter, but a family man. Two grandsons had a troubled past and the grandfather held little contact with them. The final grandson inherited his late father's business. For some reason, these grandchildren were all successful.
One granddaughter graduated college and was searching for a job, however she was viewed as wasting money because she was going to get married and become a housewife anyway. The second granddaughter had a baby out of wedlock, but needed psychiatric help. The third granddaughter was just as useless as the others because she was working and wasting money, just like the first.
The daughter, keeping quiet about all her indignation for being viewed as worthless and useless, spent some time with her mother before watching her mother go up to bed with the kindest man that she had ever met. The mother and her new husband worked hard for each other and loved each other greatly. She knew that she could rely on her husband if she needed to. He was a great, simple man. No wonder her father didn't care for him.
God was punishing all the women in the family, according to her father. They were not praying hard enough, or were just weak. Never mind that one of his own daughters was molested. Never mind one of his own daughters married horrible men. They were just stupid, even though he approved of the men who hurt his daughters before their true colors were revealed.
She thought of one of her daughters. She graduated from college. She tried her best, although was floundering just now. However, she hid a few huge secrets about her daughter from her father--her daughter was gay and not a Christian. She thought of her other daughter. She had just gotten out of a bad divorce and was finally getting her life back on track by going to school and working. But she had to hide the fact that her other daughter was also not Christian from a man who spent many years as a missionary, preaching his own version of Christianity, and convincing everyone from pastors and priests to kids with tattoos of how evil and full of sin they were. She shuddered to think what would happen to the old man if he ever found out about her daughter's secrets.
She then began to think of the things she did at work. Just recently, she spoke up to stop a co-worker from stealing narcotics. She made sure that the elderly were kept happy and as pain-free as possible as they began to die. She worked double-shifts and two different jobs just to provide for her family and her household. She was a kind, hardworking woman who received thanks from her patients and friends from the town.
This woman, who worked so hard as to ruin her back, loved her family for what they were. She had known the dark side of human nature as well as the light. Her daughters and sons loved her. Her new husband loved her. Her friends loved her. She could give advice and be a support for anyone who asked her. She had compassion and empathy. She thought of these things as she closed her eyes, her aging hand grasping her husbands and her back sore from the work of the day. Just as sleep crept on her, she whispered one sentence.
"Am I really useless?"
A smile was on her face as she finally drifted off.