"Do you remember that Thanksgiving dinner when you left the turkey on the table and the dog jumped up and ran away with it? And Scott just told us to get dressed and he took us to get a Chinese dinner?"
"Yes, Mom, I remember."
"Scott was so handsome, he had so many girlfriends in high school. I mean he was so popular, class president and head of the student council. You were so lucky, Jenna to be married to a man like that."
"Yes, Mom, I know."
"I miss him so much. It's so unfair for a parent to have to bury her child. At least I have you, to help me remember him. It's almost like he's still here, a little bit. Of course, a daughter-in-law isn't the same as a child, but you're a good girl to come visit me like this."
"I'm glad it makes you happy Mom. It's getting late, I have to be going now."
"Will you come back tomorrow? And bring Scott with you."
"Scott can't come, Mom, you know that."
The old woman's face went blank, as if she was trying to remember something, then sullen as the words sank in. Jenna kissed her good bye, and started to walk out of her room. The distinct smell of death and disinfectant wafted through the hallways of the assisted living facility. Jenna heard the old woman call out after her, followed by sobbing.
"You got your girl. I hope you're happy!"
Jenna let out a sigh and shook her head, doing her best to dislodge the accusation. As she waited for the elevator another woman appeared next to her, offering a sympathetic smile.
"It's not easy, is it?"
"No, not easy at all."
"You're good to visit. So many of the residents don't have any one. I'm sure your mother-in-law appreciates it in her own way."
Jenna laughed. She didn't think her mother did. She fiddled with her purse.
"Were you married long? It's so hard losing a spouse."
Jenna shook her head and rolled her eyes.
"My husband is still alive. That woman isn't my mother-in-law, she's my mother."
The other woman looked confused.
"I'm sorry, I thought she said you were her daughter-in-law."
Jenna started to shake her head back and forth. What was the point of explaining all this to a to a total stranger?
"I'm my mother's first born. She wanted a boy first, but her mother-in-law wanted a girl. She gave my mother a beautiful pink layette set for Christmas, and my mother refused to take it home. When I was born in February my grandmother went to visit my mother in the hospital, and when she peeked her head into my mother's room, my mother screamed, 'You got your girl, I hope you're happy' and then burst into tears."
The other woman was still trying to wrap her brain around such irrational thinking.
"But who's Scott?"
The elevator door slid open. Jenna walked in and pressed the down button.
"Scott was supposed to be my name if I was a boy. My mother thinks he's dead. I finally bring her some joy because I remind her of someone who never existed."
The elevator door slid close. The sound of sobs still echoed down the hallway.