Triad Magazine

A Hillsborough Community College Student Publication since 1978.

Half A Stick of Gum

by Edwin M. Kelley
Mom always made powdered milk for herself, stirring it in a glass at the supper
table, while the rest of us had regular. And she always took the heel of bread. She
showed me how to take a stick of gum and break it in half, then you’d have twice as
She was a nurse so she was elected to take care of my sister, who had a brain
tumor and unsuccessful surgery to correct it. This was the sixties and they didn’t
know much. After eighteen months half-paralyzed, hobbling around like a stroke
patient, reduced from the honor roll to semi-retarded, Sharon finally died. She was
sixteen, I was eleven and Bill was three.
After I grew up I wondered if, as Mom drove around Hillsborough County,
between home healthcare visits, if she ever pulled off the road and cried, doubting
her faith in God and the church, examining her life, wondering what she did wrong to
deserve a dead child.
Dad ran a carpet crew and from an early age I rode along, learning how a man is
supposed to behave. These were the men of World War II and it was understood that
when they pulled up to a job they weren’t leaving until it was done, and done right. It
was work but you’re allowed to like your work, and they must have told a thousand
Mom and Dad had a happy retirement in the small north Louisiana town they
came from. One day when she was seventy-six, Mom told Dad she had a backache
and went in to lie down. When he checked on her a few minutes later she was gone,
abdominal aneurysm.
I was forty-five but I cried like a child, and my brother and I were glad to let
our wonderful cousins plan the service. Half the people in town came to pay their
respects. Back at Mom and Dad’s I found these things she left behind: an unfinished
crossword, a Sunday school lesson with notes in the margin, a prayer list with my
name on it, and half a stick of gum.

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