Alexis was glad to have her mother home, though she didn’t like having the woman-in-white running the household. She was surprised when the woman began giving Eileen, orders and treating the faithful woman like a servant. Alexis remembered how much Nana and Eileen used to argue over how much salt to put in the gravy. Eileen never let Alexis’ Nana, give her orders about how to run the Archies’ household, back when Nana was a frequent visitor to the farm. Alexis’ mother would have never ever given Eileen an order. If anything Eileen tended to give orders to the Archies. It bothered Alexis that this woman-in-white was always bustling into the kitchen and telling Eileen what Genevieve could and couldn’t have for meals.
Alexis was perplexed. Why did her father and Eileen let the woman stay? It seemed to Alexis that the woman-in-white really overstayed her welcome. Alexis remembered when one of her father’s second cousins and family stopped for a visit on there way to California, and outstayed their welcome. She remembered hiding under the azalea bush next to the veranda, and overhearing her father have a heart to heart talk with his second cousin, suggesting that it was time for him and his family to move on.
Sitting on the low concrete steps leading from the kitchen door one afternoon, haven been shooed out of the parlor by the Woman-in-white, Alexis pondered the rule her father informed his cousin about, “After three days, house guest, like fish begin to smell and should be tossed out.” Alexis could count to ten, and she knew it that the woman-in-white was at the farm for a lot longer than ten days.
“Hey pumpkin, what are you just sitting there for?” asked Kelly, as he approached from the barn. “I thought you were going to go read with your mother when you finished your chores.”
“Woman-in-white, chased me out!” Alexis informed her father, putting all her anger and disappointment into those few words.
“Her name is Mrs. Callahan, Alexis.” Kelly corrected her, knowing that Alexis’ dislike of the nurse would keep her from calling her by her proper name. He kept hoping that Alexis would accept the woman’s presence, if not like her. “Baby, I know you don’t like the nurse, but your mother is very weak and needs her help.”
“Mommy’s been sick for a long time,” said Alexis, “longer than seven days.”
“Seven days? Why seven days Alexis?” asked Kelly puzzled.
“When I get sick you tell me that I will get over it in seven days, and I am always over it in seven days!” said Alexis, adamantly.
“Oh, I see. Well, it is because when you get sick, it is always a cold. Colds run their course in a week. Remember when you ate something that turned and you were so sick, and I told you it would be over in it three days? Well, different illnesses take different times to run their course. Your mother has undergone a very major surgery. After the surgery, she got a bad infection, and more surgery was needed. She went through an awful lot in a very short time. Her body had a very hard time handling it, so it is going to take a long time for your mother to heal. In the meantime try to have patience with Mrs. Callahan, she is a good woman.”
“I will try Daddy, but she started stinking after three days,” said Alexis, smiling sweetly up at her father expecting him to laugh.
“Uh …, well, I can’t say I noticed that,” said Kelly, deciding not to get into what his daughter meant by that statement.
Slowly things around the Archie house became more normal. First Alexis’ mother began to spend part of the day out of the bed and sitting up in Kelly’s large comfortable chair that he moved from his office into the sitting room. Then Genevieve took to sitting on the veranda. After a while, being more mobile on the ground floor of the house, she began, with the assistance of her nurse to make forays to the second floor, sometimes just to bath, and other times to make vague attempts at painting, but ending up sitting in her rocking chair in the studio, and looking at the unfinished canvas.
One day Alexis was playing out in the pecan orchard when she saw the big truck show up again. By the time she reached the house to find out what they were delivering that time, she found the men hauling the motorized bed out of the house. One of the kids that she and Woody played with told her about things like this, so she went in search of her father.
“Daddy, I am sorry,” said Alexis, when she found her father standing on the veranda watching the bed being loaded.
“Sorry for what honey? Have you done something you shouldn’t have been doing?” asked Kelly, feeling joyful to see the hospital bed leaving.
“No, I am sorry you rand out of money for Mommy’s bed,” said Alexis gravely, knowing from her friend that when a parent ran out of money, people came and took things away.
“Oh, I see. Well, let me explain it too you. We didn’t buy the bed. We just rented it. You know, like when we rent a car at Nana’s? When we are finished with it. We give it back,” explained Kelly.
“We are done with the bed? Where is Mommy going to sleep?” asked Alexis with concern.
“Well, this is a happy day. Your Mommy is well enough to sleep in our bedroom again. So at night she will be right down the hall from you again.” Kelly informed her, his face filled with joy.
“I am happy,” said Alexis, and waved at the departing truck. “Bye-Bye bed! Don’t come back!”
The next big milestone came one morning when Alexis found Eileen helping her mother to go downstairs for lunch. “Where is woman-in-white?” asked Alexis, using the reference that her parents hadn’t been able to break her from using.
“Mrs. Callahan has gone away, dear. I no longer need her,” said Genevieve triumphantly. “Eileen’s is all the help I need now.”
“And Daddy?” asked Alexis, worried that if her mother didn’t need her father, he would go too.
“Of course, I will always need your father,” said Genevieve, a sunny smile spreading over her still haggard face.
Not long after the nurse had left the Archies’ home Kelly found Genevieve sitting in the glider on the front porch looking out at her car, which she had last been in the night that Kelly drove her to the hospital. Looking toward the sound of the opening door, she smiled sadly at her husband saying, “Well, dear, I haven’t gotten much use out of my new car have I?”
“Sweetheart, please don’t think about that. Just focus on the future. You are here with us, alive, and you will be able to drive again soon. You are getting so strong,” said Kelly fighting back the tears, thinking about how his wife was struggling to become well again.
“I think first, I want you to drive me about some. I think I am ready to go into town,” said Genevieve. “I just want to do some normal things. Let’s go eat at the diner and do some shopping for Eileen.”
Kelly knew that his wife was back to normal, and that it wouldn’t be too much longer before she was dashing around in her sedan, with the trunk full of paintings for the art shows in the nearby towns.