A Shoulder to Cry On (Short Story)

It has always been Mom for me out there. Whenever I needed comfort or encouragement it was her I turned to. When she held me in her soft hands and looked at me with her kind, gentle eyes, I knew everything would be alright.

Sure Dad was there but he was too busy working and I didn’t see much of him. Even when he retired he would be immersed in his books and we didn’t really connect much.

When I topped in my class in high school it was my Mom I first came to with the news. When my girlfriend told me she was moving away I wept on my Mom’s shoulder like a baby. She always had words to comfort me and to make me feel hopeful again. When I was stuck in some writing assignment I would look to her for inspiration.

I got my first job and moved into an apartment nearby. I don’t know who needed who more but I had to stay close to her. I would see her every day on my way home from work or call her if I got late.

I started to notice small changes in her. We would be talking about someone who lived in our neighborhood and was moving away and she couldn’t remember her name even though she had been a good friend. Or we would be remembering the holidays we took together and she couldn’t recall where it was that we were in a boat on a river.  I talked to Dad about it but he just told me it happens with age. But I was worried. I took her to a doctor and they did some tests. They told me what I had dreaded all along, that it was Alzheimer’s and it was just going to get worse.

The pace with which she deteriorated frightened me. She would have mood swings and not recognize people who would call her. She had trouble writing and reading. Dad was there with her but he had his own health problems. I was scared that she would soon not be able to look after herself. I knew how frustrating it was for her. She had always been a strongly independent woman.

One day I was getting late at office and she called me. “Is everything OK?” I asked her. I quickly wound up my work and headed for home. She was sitting in the lounge with the excited look of a child. The place was decorated with a banner and balloons and my favorite chocolate and mocha cake was sitting on the table. I couldn’t believe she had remembered my birthday when she was forgetting so many important things. “Some things can’t be forgotten” she told me in reply to the surprised look on my face. We ate cake and she badgered me about getting married and giving her grandchildren and for a while everything was like normal again.

She died a few days later quietly in her sleep. She didn’t wait to be dependent on anyone. I wished she had waited for her grandchildren. I’ll always regret that I couldn’t give her that.


This story is in response to The Speakeasy #144. The challenge was to write fiction or poetry and include the sentence “Some things can’t be forgotten” and a reference to the song Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. I referred to the lyrics of the song “Picture yourself in a boat on a river” in my story.

22 thoughts on “A Shoulder to Cry On (Short Story)

  1. Yeah, I have to agree with Lea – what a terribly sad story! Poignant, but terribly sad. Alzheimer’s disease falls into a small category of things that can really break me up. Tough story to read, but it must have been well written because it had a powerful effect. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. This was heartbreaking. Alzheimer’s has touched our family, and I worry about my own mom, too.

    The bright spot was the remembrance of her birthday, and I like how you tied in the prompt sentence with that. Rather than dwell on her dying soon after, I’m choosing to focus on the beautiful birthday surprise 🙂

    • The birthday surprise certainly was the bright spot, even in her illness she was there for her son. Doesn’t it often happen that parents end up giving much more for their children than what their children can do for them? I guess she went before she could become a burden for anybody.

  3. Alzheimer’s is such a hard disease for everyone involved. You did a great job illustrating that in your story. It’s very sad, but I think I would prefer to leave this world while I can still remember who my loved ones are and before I become a burden on them.

    • Yes I’ve heard my elders praying that they go when on their feet and not dependent on anyone. That’s what I tried to portray here. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. This is a touching story. I hope I never have to experience that kind of heartbreak and regret. I liked how the birthday surprise capped off her life in a bittersweet moment of clarity. Well done!

  5. You just made me emotional…I have never been this close to my mother an I’ve always wished to get that Love everyone is proud of ! Your story touched my heart Zainab !

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