Copyright is held by the author.
“. . . YEAH, 451 Bradbury Avenue.”
“So, you found someone?” asked Lauren, as she reached the bottom of the stairs.
Logan was standing in the entryway looking out through the sidelights which surrounded the front door. He turned to face his twin sister. “Yeah, I found a doc. We’re second on the list of house calls. Shouldn’t be too long,” replied Logan. Lauren gave him the evil eye. “What was I to do?” he whined, “it’s all I could manage on such short notice.”
“I just hate to see Nana Toby in this condition.”
“Me too. If you’re not satisfied, have at it,” he said, holding out his phone.
“When is Rachel getting here?”
“You got the text when I did. It would take a while for her to get her luggage, find a ride, and then there’s the traffic between the airport and here,” Logan said, checking his phone, “so I would say she should be arriving any time now. Why don’t you go sit with Nana Toby until Rachel gets here? I’ll stay in the front room and keep an eye out for her.”
Lauren brushed by her brother and walked along the paneled hall toward the rear of the house. She paused long enough to check her appearance in the big mirror, smoothing her grey hair. Nana Toby always stressed being well groomed. Arriving at the door to Nana Toby’s room, she knocked lightly. “Nana Toby?” There was no response. She knocked again. “Nana Toby?”
Lauren entered the tiny, sparsely furnished room. Nana Toby was lying on the daybed. “How are you, Nana Toby?”
“I-I-I am fine,” She said, raising her right arm in a jerky motion. She beckoned Lauren over. Nana Toby’s right foot was cocked at an unnatural angle. It twitched in rhythm with her arm.
“That’s good,” Lauren said, kissing Nana Toby on the forehead. The familiar aroma of lavender and fresh baked cookies filled her nostrils. She pulled a chair next to the daybed.
“Is th-th-th-that you Rachel?” Nana Toby’s eyelids fluttered over her blue eyes.
“It’s Lauren, Nana Toby. Rachel is on her way. I’ll see she comes in to see you as soon as she gets here.” She sat down and took Nana Toby’s shaking hand. “Your hand is cold. Are you sure you’re fine?”
“Your hand f-f-f-feels hot. Are you sure you’re ok-k-k-kay?” Her eyelids continued to flutter. “Why don’t I-I-I-I fix you some hot ch-ch-chocolate. Just the th-th-thing to warm up my little girl on a w-w-w-winter’s day.”
“Nana Toby, it’s the middle of June,” Lauren whispered. She brushed away a tear, then stroked Nana Toby’s fine auburn hair.
“Y-Y-Yes, I know. How a-a-a-about some lem-m-m-monade?”
“Maybe later. Right now you need to lie still and build back some energy. You’ll feel better then.”
“I feel b-b-better right now,” said Nana Toby.
Logan poked his head in the door. “Rachel texted. She’s less than five minutes out.”
“Rach-ch-ch-chel coming here?” asked Nana Toby.
“Yes, Nana Toby, she’s coming to see you. Remember? I told you she was on the way. Wait here while Logan and I go greet her. Then she’ll be in to see you.” Lauren turned to Logan. “Go.” Lauren placed Nana Toby’s hand at her side then followed Logan to front door to wait for Rachel to arrive.
“Rachel wanted to know why I didn’t take Nana Toby in,” said Logan.
“Well, why didn’t you?”
“I was afraid that if we took her in, she would never come out. It’s bad enough to see her in this state; but I couldn’t send her away from here. She has taken care of us of over sixty years. This has been her home for 60 years. I can’t think of her in a strange place at the end, I can’t. I doubt you could do it either.”
“You’re right. Maybe it’s not a bad as we think. Maybe the doc can get her back on her feet.”
“Do electric toads jump over the rainbow?” asked Logan. A small car rolled into the driveway. “I bet this is Rachel.”
The passenger door opened, and Rachel stepped out. Leaning on her cane, she looked at her brother and sister standing on the porch of their childhood home. The house looked the same as when she was a child 65 years ago. She waved. Laura and Logan went out to greet her.
Hugs were exchanged, then Logan picked up Rachel’s suitcase and followed his sisters up the sidewalk. Inside, he set the suitcase at the base of the stairs and puffed, “What did you pack in this? bowling balls?”
“Just some undies and a toothbrush,” quipped Rachel. “I think your age is catching up with you little brother.”
“Those undies must be woven with lead thread,” he laughed, “I’ll take it up to your old room later.”
“So how is she doing?” asked Rachel. “You two were pretty tight lipped when you called.”
“I’m afraid she’s not too well.”
“She’s fallen down several times in the last few days,” said Lauren, “her right arm and leg are twitching, and she has started to stutter.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this when you called?” said Rachel. “Sounds like she’s pretty bad off.”
“We wanted you to see for yourself before any decisions were made,” replied Logan.
“Doesn’t sound like there are many options to pursue at this point,” replied Rachel.
“There may not be,” said Lauren, “but as I see it, there is no need to make a hasty decision. The doc will be here soon and the least we can do is wait until Nana Toby has had an examination before we decide anything.”
“I’m not saying we should make a decision this minute,” huffed Rachel. “I just think we have to face facts. She’s been with us what – probably 65 years? That’s a long time even for her. You can’t expect her to be around forever.”
“This is precisely why we didn’t want to have this conversation over the phone,” said Logan. “You were never as close to her as we are.”
“And what do you mean by that?” snarled Rachel.
“You were always comparing Nanna to Mom. It was like Nana Toby could never quite live up to your memories of Mom,” said Lauren.
“I was ten years old when Mom died,” said Rachel. “You two were just infants and had no real memories of her. Dad couldn’t handle raising us on his own, so he arranged for Nana Toby to come and live with us. You two hardly missed a beat when she came. It was different for me. I missed Mom and I wasn’t going to let anyone replace her. I know now how loving Nana Toby was – is – but as a child, I was angry and confused. I couldn’t understand why Mom had died, why she left me. I was desperately trying to keep the memory of her fresh in my mind. That’s why there was so much friction between Nana Toby and me. I viewed her as an imposter, and I was angry with Dad for bringing her into our home. I was also angry with you both as you seemed so close to Nana Toby — so willing to accept her.” Rachel dug a tissue from her pocket and dabbed at her eyes.
“I never realized you were contending with that,” said Lauren. She hugged Rachel, struggling to hold back her own tears.
“Nor I,” added Logan, joining the hug.
They remained embraced for a few moments before Rachel said, “Best go see her now before the doc arrives. Where is she?”
“In her room,” said Lauren.
“That old closet. I would think in this big old house, you could have found her a decent room. At least one with a window.”
“It’s the way she wanted it. You know she always had no use for material things.”
Rachel walked along the paneled wall. Her fingers traced the surface of the polished wood. Lauren and Logan followed. At the big mirror, Rachel checked her appearance. She used her tissue to dab away the remains of her tears, then smoothed her blouse. “You know,” she said, “Nana Toby always emphasized being well groomed. She said it was a sign of character and pride in oneself.” They continued down the hall until they came to the doorway. Rachel could see Nana Toby on the daybed.
“Nana Toby,” she called. “May I come in?”
“Y-Y-Y-Yes child, come in.”
“You go. We’ll stay here,” said Logan nudging Rachel’s shoulder. Rachel entered and sat down in the chair next to Nana Toby.
“Who i-i-is this?” Nana Toby asked reaching out, arm jerking as if she were wiping a spot from the wall.
“It’s Rachel, Nana Toby.” She leaned forward enfolding the shaking hand in her own. “It’s good to see you.”
“Rachel, d-d-d-dear Rachel, so you h-h-have come. Did they c-c-call you? Oh, of course they d-d-did.”
“They’re worried about you. Now that I see you, I am worried too. Someone is coming to examine you. You won’t mind, will you?” The doorbell rang.
“Is it a-a-a-a doc? Of c-c-c-course it is. N-no, I don’t mind. I can t-t-tell you. I know someth-th-thing is not right. I-I-I didn’t let on with the tw-tw-tw-twins. They’re s-s-s-so much younger than-n-n-n you and I don’t th-th-think they’ll underst-t-t-tand what’s happening. I didn’t w-w-w-want to up-p-p-pset them.”
“I understand, Nana Toby.”
Lauren popped her head in. “Rachel, that was the doorbell. That’ll be you-know-who. Logan went to bring them back.”
“She knows,” said Rachel. She kissed Nana Toby on the forehead. “Nana Toby, the doc is here.”
“Ok-k-kay. I’d l-l-like to be exa-m-m-m-mined in priv-v-vate.”
“Of course, we’ll wait outside.”
“And R-R-R-Rachel, no matter wh-wh-what happens, d-d-don’t let them t-t-t-take me.” Nana Toby’s eyelids quit fluttering and her arm fell limp. She lay still on the daybed.
“Lauren, quick. Get Logan and come in here,” called Rachel.
“But Logan’s here with the doc.”
“The doc can wait in the hall. I need the two of you. Now.”
Logan appeared in the doorway with a woman in white coat. She carried a large kit. “What’s going on?”
“Logan, ask the doc to wait a minute. I need you and Lauren come in and shut the door behind you.”
Logan turned to the doc. “Can you give us a minute?”
“Sure, you’re the customer.”
Leaving the doc in the hall, the twins joined Rachel at Nana Toby’s bed.
“Is she… is she gone?” Lauren asked.
“I don’t know,” said Rachel. “One moment she was talking with me then the next she just fell silent.”
Logan took Nana Toby’s hand and held it to his cheek. “She’s so cold.” Tears welled up in his eyes.
“The last thing she said was no matter what happens not to let them take her.”
“Of course we won’t let them take her,” said Lauren.
Logan felt a slight twitch in Nana Toby’s hand. “Wait!” he exclaimed. “I felt her move.”
Rachel stroked her forehead. “Can you hear me?”
Nana Toby’s eyes fluttered. “Who is th-th-there?”
“It’s us, Nana Toby. Rachel and Lauren and Logan.”
“Oh y-y-yes. My ch-ch-ch-children. M-M-My sweet ch-ch-children who I love s-s-so much. Thank y-y-y-you so very m-m-much for giv-v-ving me such a w-w-w-wonderful life.”
“Oh no,” sniffed Lauren. “We should be thanking you. I love you Nana Toby.”
“Me too,” added Logan.
“As do I,” said Rachel.
“Th-th-thank you my sweet dears. Is the d-d-doc here?”
“Yes she is,” said Logan.
“Then it’s t-t-t-time.”
“Come on,” said Rachel, “she wants to be examined in private.” Each of them kissed Nana Toby on the forehead before leaving.
45 minutes later, the doc emerged from the room. Logan, Lauren, and Rachel were waiting in the hall.
“What can you tell us?” asked Rachel.
“I ran a full set of diagnostics. Well, as full as I could, given her circumstances. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done. She won’t take a charge. Unfortunately, I drained her last reserves running the diagnostics. Even if she could have taken a charge, everything else is worn out and you can’t get replacement parts. Frankly, I’ve never worked on a Toynbee A.I. Caregiver Deluxe. They were considered top-of-the-line bots, able to feel and express emotions. She might have been the last unit in service. Toynbee was a small indie manufacturer. There were probably less than 100 Deluxe models produced before the company went out of business about 50 years ago.” The doc paused before continuing. “Anyway, BotDoc can take her in if you want.”
“No, that won’t be necessary,” said Rachel. “She will stay with us — always.”