Tuesday, March 06, 2012

The Visitor_I

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The is the first of three draft installments for my draft of short story, The Visitor. The final version will be posted here or offered as a free BlogInPrint novella. 

On that blustery day at the end of an otherwise mild March, I made a fire and sat near its warmth holding a hot cup of tea for added measure of comfort. The doorbell interrupted the rare solitude I'd managed to make for myself.
     I went to the door and opened to see, through the glass, a woman probably in her mid-thirties, of neat and professional appearance and a hint of familiarity. Instead of turning away, thinking it a sales call, I caught myself realizing the stranger's somewhat unsettling likeness to Ruth, bringing reminders of what seemed a lifetime ago. 
    I stared at her while pushing the glass door halfway open. At the same time the visitor spoke: "Hello, my name is Catherine Wells Frank. I think you knew...my grandmother?"
    "You're Ruth's granddaughter?" I replied, exchanging one question with another and thereby answering her. She nodded, told me her name, and that she was in the area on business.
    My manners left me and I kept looking into her eyes as if keeping her as a likeness of long ago. 
     "Yes, I knew your grandmother," I said, and she nodded, then waited, standing there, looking at me through the glass. Immediately, I awoke from the surprise. 
     "Please, come in," I opened the door, and she stepped inside.  
     She refused a cup of tea or anything to drink, but she did accept a seat near the fire. She only was curious, she said, for she had heard of me and my family for a long time and was in the area, so why not stop by. She knew that I had known her grandmother. She was right about that. I had known her grandmother possibly as well or better than her own family had. Our paths had kept crossing that closely, by routine and by choice.

"I can't explain why I looked you up," she explained, "but I'm in this area from time to time...working with surgeons at Pennsylvania Hospital."

"Well, then, tell me about yourself," I said, and I was eager to hear. I had had no contact with Ruth's family since her death 10 years before.

Catherine spoke first about why she was in the area and her connection with medical diagnostics and equipment design and testing. It sounded interesting, and so we talked briefly about her experiences, then family news. It did not surprise me when she included events of note where she had grown up, where I had met Ruth.

She told me about learning to play the piano at Grandmother Ruth's.

"I loved playing Bach. I know people laugh at that, but I still get a thrill when I recognize a Bach Two-Part Invention without being told what it is!"

"There's a piano in another room. Would you like to play?"

Catherine blushed, then giggled. 

"I'm am so very rusty, got out of touch, probably my 'Chopsticks' now would make our ears shriek...But thank you for the offer."

That sounded so like Ruth, her quiet, subtle fun.

I laughed with Catherine and prompted, coming down from a good chuckle: "You should write," I said.

"I do," she said. "I get so much material from doctors telling me about patients' comments and questions. They're not mean but hit the nail on the head. I send them to a couple of journals, insider stuff, and some are cartooned as well. It's fun."

She launched into a couple of quick examples. Then looked at me seriously.

"Enough about me, tell me about your family," she urged. "I only know what we last heard from you, after Grandmother died."

"You are so like Ruth!" I said, remembering Ruth's little stories and also her drawings. Then, I told Catherine about my husband's death, the five grandchildren living nearby. I felt such rapport with the young woman sitting before me. I felt blessed in a rare way, with the mixture of past and present that we shared. Was this going to become a sort of friendship, between us, I wondered? Ruth would almost have danced to hear such a thing!

"I have two sons, as you may know, and a daughter who is married...no children...yet," I added, smiling and trying to convey my hope. "She is in the medical profession, too. A surgeon. That's her photo behind you, on the table over there." I indicated the elaborate French antique that Elizabeth had given to her father and me in her second year of medical practice. Elizabeth's wedding photo was there.

"That's Dr. Ransom! She's not your daughter!" Catherine exclaimed, then caught herself before saying more. I felt she had lots more to say.
I objected, glaring at her: "Yes! She is my daughter!"
"That cannot be so," she said. "I don't understand."

She rushed to add that she had seen Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, now a well-known, break-through neurosurgeon. Their paths had crossed at professional awards ceremonies and conferences.

"My research relates to neurological diseases," she added. "But," she insisted, "She cannot be your daughter!"
How rude she was, how unlike Ruth, and how angry she was making me!

"I think you should leave," I said, trying to hold back my temper...almost failing.

She seemed not to have heard me and tried to turn the subject to my sons and grandchildren.

I could not cooperate, my thoughts churning. Why is she so angry? 

Maybe she was not mentally all there. Why had I allowed this stranger into my home?
Those ideas ran through my mind while she talked on and on about new topics, such as a book she was writing, speaking engagements, successful projects, and I wondered, then, if perhaps she was in competition with Elizabeth's achievements.

The visit could not last long, given its odd turn. When I stood and indicated I had an appointment, she said only, "So do I."

The oddity grew when our paths crossed again at an evening event two nights later. Catherine tried to smile at me and I tried not to frown at her or make a worse face. She walked over to me, but all I could think of was my daughter and this woman's strangeness. Only the connection with her grandmother, Ruth, if there really was one, prevented me from ignoring her. h

She tried to be friendly, but when someone joined us she introduced me mentioned nothing about our brief history through her grandmother...and beyond.

Her friend, in another surprising coincidence, turned to her, excited: "Did you know that Dr. Ransom might be able to speak at that Johns Hopkins symposium?"
Catherine nodded, saying nothing in response. Her friend looked puzzled and stood with us, silently. Nervously, she left us, alone again. 

Catherine bothered me the next week, showing up as before, without a phone call. I saw her through the front window as I walked to the door. I gazed at  her through the glass door and then, after brief hesitation, I opened it.
"I was in the area again," she said, "and I thought to drop by."
"Oh, Elizabeth is coming by soon. You can officially meet her."

I was being very bad, as Elizabeth would say, for it was not true. I wanted to see Catherine's reaction.

Her face appeared to freeze, then relax enough for her mouth to form the words, "I should leave, then."

"Why not come in for a few minutes," I offered. What other kind of test could I give her, I wondered. Our family history is well-known, more than her family's in fact, and I wondered if she did not like to think of Elizabeth as being connected from a somewhat historic family, albeit from generations past. If jealousy was her problem, the news that Elizabeth was connected to our family could be the reason for her odd behavior.

She did not stay long. I cut our visit very short, with no excuse. The wedge that had appeared earlier had grown larger and harder from my perspective. It made no sense to allow her to remain any longer in my home, a woman who rejected my connection with my own daughter. It would make no sense to invite her in, and I did not want to do it. It would be wrong, because it would mean that I disrespected my daughter as who she is, in the family. What if _____  arrived as we were talking? I would embrace her, introduce her more familiarly, in person, and I knew in my heart that our guest was capable of saying something insulting, an exclamation of disbelief.
Our family is close, open to all, except in this kind of instance. Discord, disagreement, and eventually arguing would ensue, I felt then. I had rarely turned away anyone before this, yet I knew it is right to do so now. It would be dishonest to do otherwise. She distrusted me, I disliked her.     

This experience was wrenching, and my thoughts returned to it often. Then, it occurred to me just this morning that that experience is like a glimmer of insight into the mind of God. People deny that Jesus is His Son. That helped me calm myself. I felt so protective of my three children, now two men and a young woman. I felt especially protective toward my daughter, and she toward us.
I am so very human. Yet, I see now a new way perhaps to understand God and His insistence that Jesus be accepted as His Son. I am a mother, a parent in an unusual, yes...an unusual family.

I had often felt that God seemed stern by insisting that Jesus be acknowledged as who He is. This experience was opening my eyes about that. And, it was over. I would forget it eventually and move on.

The Visitor is a short story installment. Next: The Visitor Part II_The visitor returns, unchanged *
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Copyright (c)2012 Opinari Writers 

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