“Ring,” the telephone on the oak nightstand sang loudly. It was in the morning. An odd time for calls.
“Hello?” muttered the sleepy woman in the bed, rubbing a diamond-clad hand across her eyes.
“Mrs. Jana Gray?” said the compassionate, yet official sounding voice on the other end. “I’m really sorry to tell you this, but there’s been an accident.”
“Yes...this is Mrs. Gray. An accident? What type of accident?” Jana Gray replied, sitting straight up in the four-poster oak bed.
“Ma’am, your husband and son have been in a terrible car accident. We found your name in your husband’s wallet. Please come down to Sharel Memorial Hospital right away.”
“Uh...yes...I’ll be right there,” Jana said, feeling acidity panic rise in her throat. Then slamming the phone down, she leaped out of bed and begin snatching clothes out of the closet as she struggled to get dressed. “Oh my God, Oh my God, Nooo...!” she screamed into the quiet house.
That scream traveled down the hall and penetrated the ears of Kristin Gray – Jana’s new daughter-in-law. Fearing the worst, Kristin jumped out of bed and sprinted towards her in-laws’ bedroom.
“Mama Gray, what’s wrong?” Kristin asked, perusing the room quickly. Not only were clothes scattered everywhere, but Jana was standing in the middle of the room sobbing uncontrollably with a blue t-shirt pulled over her black silk nightgown, a pair of green corduroys underneath, and one leather penny loafer on her right foot.
“Kristin, its Sam and Jr. They’ve been in an accident and...we have to go...go to the hospital. Oh, God!” Jana barely got out in between sobs.
Suddenly, a horrible sinking feeling settled into the bottom of Kristin’s stomach as her mind struggled to digest those words. Her new husband had to be all right. They’d just come back from their honeymoon and it was three weeks before they would be sharing their first Christmas together. This can’t be happening.
* * *
But it was happening. Over the next few weeks it had only gotten worse. Both of the Gray men died in that accident. They’d been on their way home from a business trip when an 18-wheeler had crossed the median and struck their car, killing them both instantly.
Then there were the funeral arrangements and subsequent burial expenses. On top of that, the lack of adequate insurance caused the two women to have to make another one of the hardest decisions in their lives. They had to sell their husbands’ pride and joy – The Graybot Computer business. That Christmas neither woman celebrated. They felt as if they had nothing left to celebrate.
Months later after the flow of friends and family trickled down to a tiny stream, Kristin and Jana began to discuss what they were going to do next. They met in the cozy gray and black den of the three-bedroom house to talk. Instead of sitting on the sofa with her daughter-in-law the way she usually does, Jana sat in her husband’s beloved gray leather recliner. It made her feel closer to him somehow.
“Kristin, I’ve been thinking of moving back to Southa Augusta. We hardly have any savings left to maintain this house and I don’t want to hold up your life any longer.” Jana rubbed the smooth armrests in comfort, wishing that she were rubbing her husband’s arms instead. God, I miss that man.
Kristin leaned her head back on the black leather sofa, quietly pondering what her mother-in-law had said. Finally she spoke. “Mama Gray, you’re not holding up my life at all. I love being here with you. Besides, being around you makes me feel closer to Sammy,” she said, echoing Jana’s previous unspoken feelings.
“No, dear, you have to start thinking about your own future. You were only married to my son for one month and it’s been five months since he died. You’re too young to be a widow, you can remarry and have children,” Jana insisted, trying to give her daughter-in-law what she considered to be a logical solution out of their current situation.
“I’m not leaving you, Mama Gray. And I can’t even think about marrying anyone else right now. I’ve loved Sammy since college and that month we had together is enough to last a lifetime,” Kristin persisted. As she abruptly sat up, the blue jeans she wore made the familiar swishing sound against the leather couch.
“Kristin, you have to be realistic. We can’t continue the way things are now. Back home, I own a three-bedroom house and some property that I can live on. I also have plenty of relatives to help out with things. And you, you have family here, Kristin. I’m sure that they’ll help you adjust to a new life,” Jana said as she adjusted the footrest to elevate her tired feet. She had been power walking in the mall earlier that day.
“Mama Gray, this is the last time I’m going to say this. I’m not leaving you! Now we can leave this house and this state, but we are leaving together. Besides, you know that my family and I aren’t very close. Plus, it’s been really hard for me to find steady work here, because the computer market in this region is so saturated right now.” Kristin shook her head decisively, her eyes two determined slits. “No, my best option is to just move with you to Southa Augusta and try to make a fresh start there.”
Then Kristin looked at Jana and announced with more courage than she felt. “Have I made myself clear?”
A stunned Jana nodded and smiled with approval as her daughter-in-law moved to hug her. Then as she returned Kristin’s warm embrace, tears welled up in her eyes. “Sammy always said you had fiery underneath that calm exterior and he was right. I’d love for you to move back to
* * *
Two months later the new widows moved to
One of the major limitations was their small budget. It afforded them little room for massive renovations. However, they did what they could with what they had. Jana and Kristin spent days scrubbing floors, painting walls, cleaning appliances and washing windows until finally the house was in livable condition again.
Staying busy with the house helped them both to continue the healing process in their lives. Although Jana now lived among her own relatives again, she would have felt lost in that big old house without Kristin. She was glad that her insistent daughter-in-law had decided to come with her.
© 2007 by Suprina Frazier