Cindy's Legacy

 Cindy's Legacy 

They read my mother's will today. I went to the attorney's office, sat across from him, and listened while he read how her property was to be divided. There weren't any surprises. She left the house to me. My older brother John got some of my father's things and my sister Joanne got a few pieces of Mom's jewelry and a cake plate that had been Grandma Ruth's. My brother Michael got a dollar. Cindy wasn’t even mentioned, but I guess Cindy died before Mom had her will made out.

When I left the lawyer's office, I went to the cemetery to visit my mother's grave. The flowers from her funeral were beginning to look pretty scraggly, and the stone she shared with my father didn't have the date of her death on it yet. The people from Memorial Art told me it would take a while for them to get that done, and it had only been a week. It always seemed weird to me to put flowers on Dad's grave and look at that stone with Mom's name and birth date on it while she was still alive, but I was grateful for it now. It was one less thing for me to worry about.

I walked over to my sister's grave. I knelt and ran my fingers over the carved granite.

Beloved Daughter

Cynthia Lynn Madlon

And beneath in smaller letters, the dates:

September 1, 1955 - July 14, 1963

Such a long time ago, but I still miss my baby sister.                        

I stood there in the sunshine for a few more minutes, then turned and left. I went back to the house I had shared with my mother. It seemed so stifling now that she was gone. I pulled the drapes back and slid the windows open to air the place out. Maybe it would help to pack up some of her things. It wasn't right that I should have to do it by myself, but as usual, I was the only one around. Just like when Mom got sick the last time. The others wouldn't even come home when I told them she was dying.

The calls I'd made kept running through my mind while I hunted for boxes to pack her stuff in. First, I’d called my older brother in Portland.

"John, I put Mom in the hospital this morning."
"Oh. What's wrong with her this time?"

"It's her heart. The doctor says she has CHF. He doesn't think she's going to get better."

"So I guess there's nothing I can do for her.”

"She’s asking to see you, John. She knows she's dying. She needs to make peace with the family."

"Geez, Linda, I don't know how I can get down there. It's tax time, and you know how busy my office is right now. There's just no way I can take off. But if there's anything I can do from here. . .”

"Would you at least try to call her? She really wants to talk to you,"

"I'll try. In the meantime, you take care of yourself. I'll try and get down after April."

Then I'd called my younger brother Michael. It had taken me a while to track him down. He had moved from the last address he'd left me, but his roommate gave me another number. When I called the Lake County Sheriff's Office, that was where I finally found him.

"Michael," I said. "What are you doing in jail?"

"Six months."

“For what?”

"I got a DUl about three months ago."

"I thought they just suspended your license for that."

"That's for the first one. This was number two. What do you want?"

"Mom's in the hospital. She's pretty sick."


"Michael, she wants to see you. She's dying."

"And I'm supposed to fix that?"

"Michael, please don't be obnoxious. Can't you just do something nice for a change'?"

"Well, gee, Linda, I’m sorry. She made my entire childhood a living hell and then kicked me out of the house on my eighteenth birthday. I wouldn't go across the street to see her. Besides, I'm a little tied up right now." The phone went dead as he slammed the receiver down.

I went to the hospital that evening to see Mom. She looked so old lying there in the dingy green hospital gown with oxygen tubes going into her nose. She opened her eyes when I sat down in the chair beside her bed.

"Did you get hold of the kids?' she asked, struggling to straighten up.

I looked at the floor. "Well, yeah."

"When are they going to be here?" she demanded.

I twisted my hands in my lap and said, “Uh, Mom, I don't know exactly when they can come. It's not really easy for John to get away from his office right now. You know, it's the middle of March, and he's right in the middle of taxes and everything."

"What about Michael and Joanne?"

"Michael’s in the middle of some project He says he can't get away for a while."

Mom grimaced as she shifted again, trying to find a comfortable spot. "Neither of my sons can take time from their busy lives for me. I guess they won't need to worry about finding time to spend any of my money when I’m gone either.” She sniffed. “Did you call Joanne?”

“I tried. I got her answering machine. I called her office, and her boss said she was out of town at some kind of convention until next week. He didn't know where to get hold of her but I left a message.”

"I'm laying here dying and they don't care. You're the only one of my children that cares enough to be here. Well, never mind. If they can't be here for me, they don't need to think they'll get anything when I'm gone. I'll call my attorney in the morning."

I sighed. Mom had threatened to cut one or another of us out of her will continually after Dad died. The only thing she owned was the house we grew up in, the one I was living in, and no one but me had any use for that.

When she passed away a month later, none of the other kids bothered to come home for her funeral. So here I was, left to dispose of the remnants of my mother's life by myself. I started in the bathroom. I was amazed at how many different kinds of pills she took. She had pills for headaches, pain pills for her back, pills for her heart, and about six other kinds that I had never seen before. As I dumped the rainbow of pills and capsules into the toilet, I remembered my father doing this same thing after she tried to kill herself with her sleeping pills when I was twelve. It hadn't stopped her. She just went back to the doctor and got more.

After I finished in the bathroom, I started sorting out the things I thought the others would want. I divided the snapshots and knickknacks between us. I only kept one picture for myself. It was a picture of the five of us, taken when I was ten. John was on one side; all ears and elbows like most twelve-year-olds. Michael was in front of him. He was about eight, and he looked angry even then. Joanne and I were sitting beside them in matching dresses. She had just lost one of her front teeth. I was holding three-year-old Cindy on my lap. It was the only picture I found of all of us together.

When I was done, the living room looked a little bare but I figured I'd get some plants to fill the empty spaces. Mom never liked plants. She said they collected too much dust. I went into Mom's bedroom. I had put off cleaning in there because I didn't know what to do with her clothes. I finally decided to box them up and send them to the Salvation Army.

I found the battered metal lock box where Mom kept her important papers underneath the Christmas decorations in the back of her closet. She had worn the key to that box on a gold chain around her neck for as long as I could remember. When she died, the nurses gave me the key with the rest of her things, and I had fastened the chain around my neck.

I carried the box into the kitchen and fixed myself a cup of instant coffee. I sat down at the table, took the key from my neck and opened the lock. Mom had stored everything in carefully alphabetized manila envelopes. I opened one and found her marriage license and wedding pictures of her and Dad. They looked so young and happy. That didn't last for long. By the time Cindy was born, Dad was drinking pretty steadily and the house was a was a battle ground more often than not.

All of us kids hated the fights, but it bothered Cindy more than the rest of us. The arguments usually started after we were in bed. Cindy would crawl into bed with me and I’d hug her tight while she put her fingers in her ears to try to block the sound. First Dad would start swearing and Mom would start screaming and throwing things at him. Then we'd hear furniture falling over and Dad would start pounding on her. After a while, Dad would go into their bedroom and pass out, snoring loudly. Mom would come into our bedroom and gather us all up to her, sobbing. “My precious little babies," she'd say, stroking our hair, "Don't be scared. I won't let him hurt you."

The next morning Dad would get up and go to work, and Mom would clean up the mess they'd made the night before. For the next few weeks, things would be calm. Dad would be apologetic. Mom would nurse her cuts and bruises and tell us, “I only stay with him for you kids. I’d leave if I could. But I can't make it with five kids. I should just take a handful of those sleeping pills the doctor gave me and go to sleep and never wake up again. But there wouldn't be anyone to take care of my babies."

I glanced around the kitchen where she'd said those words so many times over the years. She hadn't left him even after we were all grown. They'd fought until the day he died.

I looked into the box and saw one envelope lying beneath the others. It was labeled 'Cindy' and, unlike the others, it was sealed. I tore it open and dumped it onto the table. I picked up the yellowed newspaper clipping on top and read the headline: "Local Girl Succumbs in Accidental Poisoning'. It was dated July 15, 1963 and recounted how Mary Madlon had found her seven-year-old daughter in the bathroom of their rural home in a coma the day before. It said she had found an empty pill bottle beside the child, one that had held sleeping pills the doctor had prescribed for the woman. The story told how Mom had called an ambulance, but there was nothing they could do. Cindy died before they arrived. The reporter had been very sympathetic. A tragic accident, he said. Underneath the clipping, I found Cindy’s death certificate. The last thing on the table was a wrinkled piece of notebook paper. I read the childish scrawl:


 I know it herts wen Dad hits you. I don’t want you

      to hert any more. If I am ded you can mak it with the

  uthr kids. I lov you very much. Tell JoAnn and linda and John and

Mike that I lov them to.

                                                                   Your gril,


I slipped the papers back into the envelope, laid it on the bottom of the box, closed the lid and snapped the lock shut.


Henrietta   Henrietta wrote
on 5/22/2010 2:24:14 AM
Thanks, Elton. Unfortunately, it is somewhat autobiographical. Thankfully, God is always able to use what happens for the good of those who love Him, and I have been blessed with a gift of words. He has allowed me to use many things in my life as an inspiration for writing.

Elton4562   Elton4562 wrote
on 5/21/2010 3:59:37 PM
Very well written, but such a tragic story. I sure hope it isn't autobiographical. You made me feel I was right there in the house as you saw to things. My favorite aunt died a few months ago and I had the job of clearing out her lifetime collection, including medications she had bought but never taken. But she had a wonderful life with much happiness and lived to be 93 years old. Thanks for sharing your writing! Elton

Short Story
writing Henrietta
The photo is of my grandkids.
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A story I wrote several years ago. Comments, please.