I can see the back of Mom’s head through the beveled glass, her brown fleece a sad, inferior second skin to the 18 degree reality outside. Her helmeted, matted buttery hair sans woolen hat and imaginary mittens amble down the front porch. The Bang! of the storm door interrupts the hum of my blow dryer as I try to steal five minutes to wash and dry my own hair, turning to realize Mom is outside looking for her father’s car. Sad part is, he’s never coming. Her 10 year-old self though is persistent, faithful in her minute-to-minute vigil awaiting his arrival.
She pivots to me as I open the door, motioning for her to come back inside.
“I am going home with my dad,” she blurts defiantly.
“I know, Mom, but he isn’t here yet and it’s cold outside, so c’mon. Wait in here,” I whisper channeling all my pre-K teacher friends who work magic to turn confused, struggling babies around without robbing little souls of their dignity. Only, our baby is 75.
Dad’s bulldozer of a car, with blocks of snow and a checkerboard of ice underfoot, make Mom’s decision to wait for a ride that will never come fairly easy.
“You can’t make me stay here. I HATE it here! My dad is coming to get me. My mom and dad are busy people, but they know they are always welcome.. And they will be here soooonn!” she growls– the morning has taken a turn. It’s not even 9 AM.
Mom circles me in the foyer. I continue my hustle to get her to stay put. A heavier jacket and winter hat lay neglected on the chair next to the front door. I move them, hoping to make it Mom’s idea to wear the damn things.
“Oh, here Mom. I found that hat you were looking for. It matches your brown coat you like so much,” I smile my best actress smile.
“I don’t want that ugly hat. God, it’s awful,” she says with a level of absurdity I have to applaud.
“Your dad got it for you, remember?”
She swipes it from me–likely in an attempt to get me to shut the hell up.
Three times that morning she jets down her made up runway to a car that never comes, while dad takes his dutiful place on the living room couch monitoring her movements.
“Jod, you have to be silent. Like that piece of wood over there. Don’t talk to her. Don’t make conversation. She can’t handle it. I am used to it. You are not,” Dad tells me as we watch Mom shove her frozen hands in her jean pockets as she walks the wrong way down the street.
“I wasn’t even talking to her! I was blow drying my goddamn hair when I heard the door slam. I had to talk to her to get her inside. Jesus. Christ! She will freeze to death, but ok.. I won’t talk to her for fear of agitating her, Dad,” puddles run down my face.
“It is like this everyday. She wants to go home. She hates me. She will spit at me. Her dad is coming. This is EVERY DAY, Jod. EVERY DAY,” Dad is worn out. He is right and I am SAD.
Five times that morning mom left in her sad, brown coat. Dad took his position on the couch, while I watched to see if she’d come through the back door. She did, her refrain always the same–MY DAD IS COMING TO GET ME.
To find solace, I spent the part of today reading “Rose’s Memories,” her blue bound book of memories. I’ve read and re-read most of her writing time and time again, but thought this one was especially meaningful in light of yesterday:
Even young people ten years of age can begin a love affair–mine was with Murphy Lake…
I was in sixth grade when my favorite parent, my dad died of a brain tumor. His death created a huge vacuum in my life. Murphy Lake became a comforting friend as I adjusted to no more baseball catching with my dad. No more train rides into the Loop to play office girl at his insurance company. Now, the summer became daily trips to Murphy Lake with my Mom and Uncle Johnny’s band of wonderful misfits roaming the compound. Some lived in the trailer park nearby, others were like my husband, Joe–neighborhood kids who snuck in initially–then invited to return day after glorious summer day. The lawn became a stage for juggling tumblers, while acrobatic little people posed as pretzel-like twists across the greenery. Others paying homage to Ms. Sunshine clad in all sorts of swimming suits and other garb of the time. My mother and her five kids serpentine between the frolicking guests.
She (Murphy Lake) enabled me to receive such happiness floating on my back, eyes agog with the vastness of the blue sky, assured that hers and other waters would always comfort me, even in deep sorrow.
I can see you, Mom–out there–a graceful stroke, even at ten years-old. Your flowered bathing cap protecting your long, brunette hair. Your sapphire eyes looking to heaven, likely having a private conversation with your dad.
So today and most days, I listen to hear what you are saying to yourself. Whatever your brain is conjuring up–that those memories, those conversations lead you into a love affair in your mind. That what is imagined is enough for you, Mom. Because goddamn it you deserve so much more.