“Carly, Carly, have you found your dress yet?”
Carly looked at her mother and squeezed her frail hand.
“Yes, ma, I have. I think I told you this last week. How do you feel today? Any pain?”
Her mother chuckled, but it sounded more like a wheeze.
“I’m very proud of you, Carly. You’re going to be the most beautiful bride in the world.”
Carly smiled at her mother.
“And you’re going to be the most beautiful mother of the bride the world has ever seen.”
Her mother tried to smile back but the pain turned the expression into a grimace. She coughed deeply, struggling to breathe. Carly reached for the oxygen mask and placed it over her mother’s nose. The older woman’s breathing eventually steadied and then she drifted off to sleep. Carly sat beside her for a while, just staring at her. She was overwhelmed with grief. She was watching her mother die to lung cancer right in front of her eyes. When her father moved her mother from the hospital and brought her home, she knew it would be painful. She just didn’t expect it to be this hard.
The live-in nurse popped her head in.
“Your father is looking for you. He’s in the kitchen.”
Carly got up, kissed her sleeping mother on the forehead and went looking for her father.
Jonas Odoom looked up from the stew he was stirring.
“I’m making okro stew. Can you believe that? I haven’t done this in 30 years. Your mother used to live only on my cooking. I don’t know if she can eat this, but I’m going to try.”
Carly sat on a stool at the breakfast table and looked silently at her father. He was such a good man. He’d retired early, just to stay home and look after his wife. He poured every single dime he’d saved to get his wife the best care possible. 40 years of marriage, and he acted like they’d been married only a day. Carly wondered if she and Glenn would have the same relationship.
“Are you okay, Carly? Is everything on track? Are you getting anything done to the dress?”
“I just asked that they let out the seams a few inches, just in case I eat too much of your food within the next couple of weeks. I’m picking it up today.” Her parents didn’t know she was pregnant. No one knew except Glenn and they preferred to keep it that way.
“Everything is on track,” she added.
“Oh great. I was worried there for a minute. Your mother is looking forward to it. She tried on her dress yesterday. She looked beautiful in it.”
Carly closed her eyes, forcing back tears.
“Daddy, seriously, Glenn and I wouldn’t mind a small ceremony here in the house. I am really not comfortable with forcing mother to attend a church ceremony.”
“Forcing her? Carly, your mother has wanted this for how many years now? Since you hit puberty?”
Jonas laughed at his own joke. Carly was silent. He stopped laughing, turned the fire under the pot off and then sat across from his daughter.
“Your mother wants you to be married in a church, and she wants to be right there, sitting in the front row. This is her dream, Carly. This is all she wants. She’s very proud of you. So don’t worry about her. Just concentrate on getting married. And remember, sweetie, we’re very proud of you. Glenn is a good man.”
He squeezed her hand and went back to his stew. Carly got up slowly. Glenn was a good man. She had to remember that. She had to shake off her jitters.