In My Time of Dying

April 15, 2012 at 9:19 PM | Posted in Fiction | 3 Comments
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This is my real entry, I suppose. No one likes poetry. Whatev. No splatter fiction, no horror, no science fiction or fantasy. Just–I don’t know what you would call it. Did one of you once tell me I could write romance novels? Ugh.
To see more stories about death, hotwire a hearse and drive slowly over here:
Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: Death is on the Table

The spacious, well-appointed house seemed bare and quiet.  The midday sun dappled on the plants through the patio window, but the curtains on the front of the house were dark and fully drawn; they formed a barrier to the outside world.
Linda sat at the dining room table.  Calm, still, and red-eyed.  Her cigarette burned down in her hand, and she was lost in thought.
Her thoughts bounced back and forth without meaning:  the last twenty years, the last week–the last year.  Alternately smiling briefly and cursing quietly to herself, she pondered.
And waited.
The children were gone, as were the grandchildren.  For once, it seemed, she was alone.  Finally alone.  Ever since childhood, she had never been alone.  Her first child came along when she herself was still one, at fourteen.  Then another at fifteen.  Between the babies and taking care of her parents, she was never alone.
When her first two children were teens, she got married and got pregnant again.  Then again, some years later.  Her youngest was now a teenager, but in fifty years of life, she had never been alone.  Until now.
She hadn’t felt alone this last year, after her husband had left her.  Abandoned, yes, but not alone.  Her oldest son and his kids moved in to fill the void.  But now…Now her thoughts turned to him.  I can’t believe the son of a bitch is really gone.
Her thoughts turned to the bitter night that he had left, and she begged him not to go.  Later, she would wish that she hadn’t done that, hadn’t begged.  She wasn’t the begging type.  But she did, for him.  Still he left.
Linda wondered if she had done something differently, if she had been different, better–if she could have done something, somehow, and that would have changed the events of the last week–
Was it her fault?
She swallowed hard and choked, and put out the mostly unsmoked cigarette.  Glancing absentmindedly at the clock, she realized the time didn’t register with her, and she had to look again.  Three o’clock.  She should be here soon.
The front door was open a crack; from beyond she heard a car pull up, shut off.  But she didn’t hear a door.  Hmm.  I can imagine this is hard for her.  It’s hard for us all.  I hope she knows that.
After a long time, she finally heard a car door open and close.  She had dreaded this moment for so long, but now she was numb.  She heard the footsteps on the drive and then on the porch, and then a light rapping on the door.  A voice called out.
“Hello–?”

Kim had dreamt of this meeting, and dreaded it.  Not dreams so much as nightmares.  But she always thought Bryan would be there to protect her, to keep his ex-wife away from her.
Oh, Bryan, why did you leave me?
She had thought–hoped, wished–that they would be together forever, that they would grow old together, spend twenty or more years together.  The one thing that she thought would make her life worth living–she thought she would grow old with Bryan.
Tears streamed down her cheeks, uncontrollably.  His life was over, but it seemed to her…that so was hers.
Before any funeral planning could happen, this meeting had to happen.  She was technically just the girlfriend; legally, a fiancé meant nothing.  The ex-wife held all the power.  She had all the history, she had the children, she had the family connection.  All that Kim had was his heart.
Fiat currency now.
Kim sat in the driveway of her fiancé’s ex-wife’s house.  This had been his house, too.  For many years.  She saw many things that were reminiscent of his touch, his style.  Bryan did that landscaping.  Bryan laid those bricks in that pattern.  What else is left of his legacy?
Oh, Lord…what am I going to do?
She couldn’t bear to ponder the answer.  Well, as Bryan would say, “Let’s get moving.  We’re burning daylight here.”  Kim snorted a laugh and cried at the same time.  Slowly, her head lowered to the steering wheel.
A few minutes later, she felt as though she was watching herself get out of the car—Bryan’s car!—and walk to the front door.
Kim stood before the front door.  There was no screen door.  Curious.  Maybe because this was a newer house?  Screen doors were an option that homeowners would add later.  This house was only five years old.  After they bought it, that’s when things began to fall apart between he and Linda.  Although Bryan would say, “It may not have always been bad, but it was rarely good between us.”
Kim thought of the day Bryan said that.  They had recently met, and his divorce was in the bitter throes of mediation.  She saw something special in him, something that he obviously didn’t see in himself:  he was a good man.  He had a good disposition and a merry shine to his eyes that didn’t hide his pain, but put it all away for another day.
She thought of his beautiful, bright blue eyes, and wished only that she could—
Put it all away for another day.
It was then Kim paid attention to her surroundings.  She had spent the last 48 hours walking in a dreamland.  Had it really been that long ago?  Two days?  Time was vindictive.  The more time that passed, the more distance there seemed to be between the life she had, and this new thing, whatever it was going to be.
Back to the here and now.  Here and now.  Here we are, here and now.  Christ, am I at her door?  Kim looked at it, noticing with curiosity that it seemed to be partially opened.  I can see that.  I can see not caring right now if you closed the door behind you…
Kim knocked on the door quietly and it opened a little more.
“Hello?”

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Been Such a Long Time

March 10, 2011 at 11:39 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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And several things may have contributed to why I haven’t written in a while.  There, just that one sentence–and now I am off and running.  I think.
So much has happened in the last three months, and yet there is so little to tell.  In December my Aunt passed away, and right before Christmas Detroit fell on the ice and broke her hip.  She has been laid up for the past three months, and is only recently able to start trying to put weight on it.
I…oh, hell–it doesn’t matter.  I’m writing this crap for myself anyway.  It was (and still is) a fucking lot to deal with.  I have to do everything, including shit I’m not good at, like laundry and cleaning.  I appreciate more and more what she has done now that I have to do it.
Of course I had a great line for it, because I needed one to get me through.  People would ask how she’s doing, and I would explain the whole ordeal, and how the doctor told her not to put any weight on her hip.  “And even though he didn’t tell me specifically,” I would add, “I’m sure I’m not supposed to put any weight on it either.”  I pause innocently, waiting for my audience to catch on.
But that’s what I had to endure as well:  No sex.  It’s been very hard to go without.  I have these symptoms:
*Cranky and irritable
*No desire to write or do creative work
*Did I mention cranky and irritable?
And I wasn’t sure if it was because of the lack of sex or because of the increase in dosage for my ADD medication.  I seem to have leveled out on the crankiness–
Either that, or–like my new sexless life–I’ve come to accept it as part of my life now.
But I really didn’t want the medication to affect my creativity, because other than that this new dose is really working for me, I think.  Maybe I was just too focused on all the other tasks at hand to write?  I hope so.  I never gave up the desire, it just always got pushed to the back burner.  Plus, even though I wasn’t getting any, I sure was looking at a large amount of porn.
The specific porn in a guy’s collection sure does say something about his personality–
And let’s leave it at that.
The first weekend of January, our dog picked up a stray dog.  Yeah, our dog had a dog.  I didn’t have time and Detroit wasn’t able to look for the owners, so we kept her for about three days while it was really cold.  Then her son saw a sign in the neighborhood, so we returned her.  They were happy to have her back, but it did make us think that another dog is what our dog needs.
We were having a meeting in the living room, the whole house–the whole family.  Detroit’s family.  I guess they are mine, because they live in my house.  But dammit, I don’t want to admit or have to accept the oldest son, The Troll.
I had planned this meeting after the new year to talk about new responsibilities and what I wanted out of the boys, and also some different ways to shop for groceries and plan meals.  The meeting got interupted, so I didn’t get to finish and go off on them.  Detroit’s mom got a call.  Her sister in Michigan was very ill.
She went up to stay with her for several weeks–or stay with another sister and visit the sick one in the hospital.  Then she came home, and then spent three or four days with Detroit’s sister while she recovered from lap-band surgery.  That’s the thing where they squeeze off part of your stomach when you’re too much of a fat-ass and have no self-control and just keep shoveling food down your throat.  They should have installed the lap band about a cubit higher, at her mouth.  That would solve several problems:  It would keep her from eating, and she wouldn’t be able to talk, either.  Fuck, she is annoying.
Shortly after that–about a week ago–Bonnie’s (Detroit’s mom) sister passed away.  Away we trek up to Michigan.
I had high hopes of using some of my time off that I tried to accumulate to get some things done around the house.  Instead, the three days I built up were used on this, and I have nothing again, until next month.  I accrue 11.25 hours per month, which comes to about 17 days per year, or three weeks.  This doesn’t include all the holidays we are off and paid for.  I have a pretty sweet gig.
We go to Michigan.  They pack some bags, and I have to haul them.  It’s Detroit, recovering from a broken hip, and using a walker.  It’s her sister, recovering from her minor surgery and suffering from a severe personality disorder.  And it’s their mother, a short, waddly old sedentary woman with diabetes and other problems.  And me, driving the gimp-mobile.
It wasn’t a bad visit, as trips-for-funerals go–for me.  Detroit got sick Thursday and couldn’t go to the funeral (she was there for the previous evening for the wake.)  She was able to leverage her illness quite cunningly, I thought.  Her mother had planned–without consulting us–for us to stay there through Sunday, and leave Sunday morning, driving the ten hours back.  Detroit said she would rather be sick at home, and wanted to leave.
And that was fine with me, even though I was meeting more of her family and hopefully endearing myself to them…or at least not creeping them out too much.  To be fair, they are her relatives, not mine, so it’s perfectly okay for me to flirt with her hot cousins.
Right?
But we didn’t leave Friday, we left Saturday morning instead.  Friday I got to taste the star of local cuisine:  a steak sammich at Tony’s.  But it’s not a steak sammich.  It’s a burger, or a hoagie.  It’s a large oblong burger on toasted Italian bread with cheese and pizza sauce on it.  It’s a pizza burger.
It was purty goddamn awesome.
I also got to see the sights of Saginaw, Michigan:  Deteriorating slums, a vacant downtown, and roads that could use some putty, or crack-fill, or rock, or something.  Fuck, fill the holes with spaghetti and meatballs for all I care.  Just fill them.
Saturday morning we prepared to leave.  Meaning, I packed our bags, Detroit’s mom and sister packed theirs, and they sat there and watched me while I loaded up the van in the falling snow.  Then I herded their asses out to the van, got them in it, closed the doors, and we left.  It snowed all through Michigan, and somewhere in northern Indiana it turned to rain.  By Indy it had stopped.
I was glad to have Sunday off and at home; the road was not kind to my body, especially my knees.  I did nada but lay on the couch, then nap, then eat, then lay on the couch some more.  It was a busy day.

I feel a little out of practice at writing here, and I’m wondering how I’m supposed to make this interesting or funny.  Fuck it.  Live isn’t always interesting or funny.  Sometimes it’s just life.

Bobby McGee

January 10, 2011 at 10:07 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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In the middle of December, during one of Detroit’s hospital stays, my Aunt Gloria passed away.
I’m not sure how much I want to go into this.  It’s more than just a backdrop to a story.  Aunt Gloria is one of my dad’s sisters, and married to Uncle Joe, the coolest of uncles.
About fifteen years ago, Aunt Gloria had got sick, and she had a kidney transplant.  Her brother Junior gave her a kidney.  Junior is the youngest of the group.  He passed away in 2005, due to a stroke or a heart attack.  They think it might have been related to medication he was on, but I don’t know the whole story.
Aunt Gloria had been fine for quite a while, but sometime in 2004 she had a stroke, a big one.  Uncle Joe had–just recently, I think–retired from his construction job.  And now he was on to another difficult job:  taking care of his invalid wife.
Aunt Gloria had been a vibrant, active, cheerful and alive woman until this, smart and sarcastic and warm and funny.  And now?  Now she was a shadow of what she had been.
One whole side of her body did not cooperate well, including her brain.  She hallucinated and had bizarre thoughts and speech.  Sometimes I swear she was just fine, and acting crazy to fuck with people.  I know I would.  Hell, I intend to.
Something like this completely changes your life–hers and his.  Joe never complained, that I saw.  He was strong and…maybe detached.  Maybe that helped him deal with getting her up, getting her dressed, getting her to the bathroom, getting her cleaned and fed, and keeping her cigarettes and coffee on her right side, where she could see them.
Maybe you don’t want your friends to see you like this, if it happens to you.  But if you have a friend who has known you for over forty years, I don’t think it matters.  Maybe a visit from your closest and dearest and bestest friend in the whole fucking world might be all the difference between just existing and having a bit hope left in your life.
So when I found out–and it was just hints and allusions that I had to piece together–that her friend Diane essentially abandoned my aunt, I was kinda fucking mad.  For Diane’s purposes, Gloria ceased to exist.  Ain’t that some shit?
I got out to see Aunt Gloria when I could, and it wasn’t much.  When we lived down the street from them, we saw them fairly often.  My daughter would go up to see her and spend time with her both before and after the stroke.  My daughter is sweetheart, with a heart of gold.  She really cares about people.  I’m sure she didn’t get it from me.
Diane had some kids, and one of them was roughly my age, named Bobby.  Bobby was friends with my cousins that were about my age, before I moved here.  So much so that even though I was family, since I was new in town, I was the outsider, not him.  His mom and Gloria were tight–she was like an aunt, and Bobby was like a cousin.
Years go by, and of course this happens.  And then Aunt Gloria died.  I managed to get both Mitchell and Miranda there to pay there respects.  It was a rare thing, my family seeing my son, akin to a Bigfoot sighting and drawing the same gawking looks.
I was walking around, seeing family, and reintroducing my kids to them.  Whaddaya know, Diane was there.  And her son, Bobby.
Despite the years, he looked the same.  Almost as tall as me, with a skinny build.  The years had added little to his frame.  Same dirty blond hair with a bowl cut.
I had nothing against him, so I engaged him in conversation.  Everything he said just bothered me.  Some of it made me outright cringe.  Some of it made me want to punch the mother-fucker in the face.
“Bobby.  What’s up, man?”  We shook hands.
“Not much.  Living and working.”
“Cool.  Married?  Kids?  What’s the story?”  I kids were right behind me.
“Divorced.  Happily divorced.”
He didn’t ask about me or mine.  This was going no where, then a thought occurred to me.  “Hey, I know someone, this girl I work with you might know from back in the day–”  I told him her name.  It’s this girl Kim–yet another Kim in my life–that I’ve become friends with, and at that time was giving a ride to work until she could get a car.
“Oh, *her*?”  He waved his hand dismissively.  “What a bitch.  She’s a whore.”  Again, my kids were right behind me.
“Dude, she’s a friend of mine.”
I don’t remember the exact words or order that he said them.  Essentially, his ex-wife is my friend Kim’s sister…so he knows her more than I thought.  However, being divorced from her family I’m sure hasn’t tarnished his opinion.  Not only that, but his “best friend” is Kim’s ex-husband.
He had heard, too about her different problems–from the prism of her ex-husband, she is obviously all to blame.  And he had heard that her fiance John had killed himself in August.
Bobby said, “If I was going to end up marrying her, I’d shoot myself in the face, too.”

Seriously?  Can you believe a mother-fucker would say something this callous?  What if I knew him?  What if, through her, I was acquainted with him?  We were planning to get together…until that happened.
I was so mad, but I had to maintain a semblance of decorum.  This is my aunt’s goddamn funeral, and here was this fucker, who–honestly, I was hardly more than a passing acquaintance with–was saying the worst kind of horrible shit about someone who is a friend of mine.  What the fuck is his problem?
“Dude–look, she’s a friend of mine.  I like her.”
He didn’t back off.  “Well, you shouldn’t be.  Everything she says is a fucking lie.  She’s a whore.”
I honestly don’t know how I got out of that conversation.  I think I just walked away.
Let’s dissect this a little, shall we?  First of all, in a divorce situation, there are always two sides.  I don’t know either one, actually.  But what do YOU say to someone who happens to bring up in conversation someone that you don’t like?
Unless the person bringing it up is a close friend, I’m going to just casually dust over it with a “Yeah, I don’t really know them,” and change the subject.  What I’m not going to do, because I HAVE FUCKING MANNERS, is trash talk someone right to the face of a friend of theirs.  In addition to having manners, I’m also not stupid.  What if the other person decides to take a swing at me because of it?
Because I almost did.  If we weren’t at a funeral, for fuck’s sake, I would have.
Seriously, what does he expect?  I’m friends with her and I work with her–hell, I give her a ride to work–and this is the first time I’ve seen his ridiculous ass in over 15 years.  On his word I should shun all contact with her? And then what?  Become his BFF?
Not bloody likely.

And my friend Kim does have a checkered past–she’s been around.  She’s talked about it to me, and perhaps that’s something she shouldn’t do is be so open about her past with EVERYONE–but she is honest about it.  And she is trying to change.  She had changed, for her fiance, until his death put her life into the shitter.  I felt that she needed a friend, and I even told her that:  “You could use a friend that isn’t trying to get into your pants.”
I was just a friend to her–am just a friend–someone she can vent to, cry on once in a while, and joke and share emails.  And I try to guide her in the right direction, help her make better decisions.  I’ve seen her work through some problems and slowly try to get her life in order.  Just think of me as a freelance social worker.
Later at the funeral, after my kids and I had made the rounds and ended up in the basement where the food was, we began the process of saying our goodbyes and heading out.  Bobby was still there, standing with some other people that I said goodbye to.
I tried to avoid him, but ended up halfheartedly shaking hands with him as he gave me a parting shot.  Something about, “Next time bring some pizza for the rest of us; you seem to have had enough.”
Oh, so a jab at me about my career as well as a fat joke.  You’re a fucking prize, asshole.
And I can’t help but wonder–what kind of mother raises an asshole like that?  Oh, the same kind of mother that abandons her life-long best friend in her time of need.  That’s what kind of mother raises an asshole like that.

The Year Of Living Dangerously

December 20, 2010 at 9:45 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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2010 has a been a rough, rough year on us here at the homestead.  I’m not complaining, I’m just going to enumerate them.  I’m not blaming anyone–whose fault would it be?  And I’m not looking for sympathy, either.  Not for this devil, anyway.
We started off in January–New Year’s weekend, in fact.  That was when our beloved dog Mac died.  That was hard.  The first dog I ever really liked, the one that showed me what it was to have a dog.
Shortly after that–and this ran all the way through the spring–Kim was having a problem with her shoulder.  She went to physical therapy, which didn’t work.  So she had shoulder surgery, and then more physical therapy after that.
I’d like to say it was an uneventful summer…oh, except I got my car repossessed.
One of my good friends had a death–her fiance committed suicide.  Worse for her, I know.  But it was a tragedy, and it continues to touch our lives, as I help her cope, give her a ride to work, and hear people talk behind her back about what a whore she is.
In the fall, we were going to go to a memorial service for one of her uncles up in Michigan.  However, that was Kim’s first Crohn’s flare-up and her first time in the hospital.
A few weeks later, she was in the hospital again.  This time it seemed worse, the flare-up.  This was all September-October.
In November, Kim’s boss died in a car accident.
In December, the same night she went into the hospital again, my Aunt Gloria died.
And now this.
Kim fell on the ice yesterday and broker her hip.  She had surgery, and she’ll be off her legs for 6-8 weeks.
Of course some little things–I started a part time job and quit, and started another one.  Always a little stress there.  My oldest  granddaughter moved to Texas.  At first she thought she was pregnant, but she’s not.  She’s still getting married.  My oldest grandson is in drug rehab.  Another grandson broke his jaw in September.
My daughter was having anxiety problems, and chipped a couple of teeth–we just got those fixed at the dentist.
I have some financial problems and some tax problems–the usual–  Hell, I had to make the decision to let the car get repo’d in order to keep the house.  I’m trying to get some answers for my sister about a judgment against her and filing for bankruptcy.  Et cetera, ad nauseaum, ad infinitum…

On the one hand, there’s not much else that can go wrong this year.  On the other hand, there’s still time left…

Old Money

April 30, 2010 at 4:34 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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  We went to Sue’s mom’s funeral.
  Following the map directions, I managed to get out of my own neighborhood okay.  How did we ever manage before MapQuest?  I get on the inner-belt–that’s 170 for you out-of-towners–and we are immediately in a traffic backup.
  It’s early enough on a Tuesday morning–just after the morning rush hour–and it’s raining or drizzling lightly.  We’re going a direction that shouldn’t be backed up right now.  Detroit has that look on her face because she thinks I should have listened to her and went straight down Lindbergh to the Southwest corner of Fuck-All, but I know I’m right here.
  There is an accident up ahead, and it actually affects both the north- and south-bound lanes.  When we got up to it, it looked like two cars from either side slid down the grassy median and into each other.  That was my impression, and I’m sure it’s wrong.
  But before we get to that point–that glorious point in the traffic where it opens back up and the stallions can once again run free–we are inching along on our two lanes, all of us together.
  Except for the occasional asshole that comes barreling down the shoulder to get around it, because they are special.  A couple of cars come down the shoulder, and they get by.  A third car comes down, and a big SUV about three cars in front of us pulls out onto the shoulder in front of him.
  And stops.  And stays there.
  The car can’t go around him because next to the shoulder is a rail because we’re on a long viaduct/overpass.  After that, there is a steep drop off.
  The car honks his horn.  The SUV just sits there, inching along with everyone else.
  We did notice an Obama bumper sticker on the car, and we laughed.  The guy is a typical liberal dipshit fucknut, and this is a perfect metaphor for the liberal elite philosophy:  The rules and the lanes are for the masses, they must be kept in line.  But I am a special case, so these rules don’t apply to me–
  –like the libs in Hollywood who drive around in their Hummers and private jets talking about how we the little people should all conserve energy and save the planet.
  –ditto Al Gore
  –Obama appointees and other libs in Congress who think we should all pay more taxes but haven’t filed themselves in a few years.
  –any other hypocrisy you can think of.
  So it was funny to see him get thwarted.  The guy in the SUV had nothing to fear, because this Obama supporter is not going to have a concealed-carry–he’s not packing heat.  If the SUV had had a Bush-Cheney bumper sticker, that would have been perfect, and awesome.  And even more hilarious.
  Eventually the grassy side leveled out, and the car got around.  In another hundred yards, we were through the accident and we could all get through, so Har-har on him.  I know others, like us, wanted to cheer the guy in the SUV.

  Later, we arrive at the church for the mass.  We’re about the first ones there, and Detroit said that some were at the funeral home this morning, bringing the party here for the mass next, and then on to the cemetery after that, and then everyone goes to someone’s house to eat and drink.  A funeral is like an overly somber pub crawl.
  When we arrived at the church there was an old couple in front of us.  The woman looked thin, but not frail–but on the verge of it–with a classic strength.  The man was smiling and friendly, and looked liked he had had a stroke.  He slurred his speech and favored one side.
  After they talked to the priest for a moment, we introduced ourselves.  They are the Donius’s.
  If you recall, the former CEO of the bank I work at is a Donius.  That is their son.  The old man–Walter–was CEO before that.  I told them that it’s just not the same without their son around.  The culture that Walter created and his son enhanced has made it one of the best places in St Louis to work.
  Mrs D–I never did catch her name, and perhaps it was best to be formal with her–thanked me.  Detroit had just said that we were friends of Sue’s.  Mrs D said she has known Sue since she was this high–and held her hand about two and a half feet above the floor.
  We gradually drifted away, having nothing more to talk about.  I’m sure they were nice enough people.  Walter certainly is.  I have trouble hearing, and it’s hard to focus on someone who slurs, especially if I didn’t take my medicine that morning.  So, I know–the problem was mine, not his.
  Detroit noticed (as women do) the size of the rock on Mrs D’s finger.  Well, yeah.  These people were money.  The bank has been in the family for nigh on 90 years or more, and these people have a tradition of money.  The aura of Mrs D said, with understated class, "Old Money."
  We took our seats, and the ritual thus began.  I’m not Catholic, so following a Catholic Mass is somewhat foreign to me.  I recognize some of the words, but that was it.  But for Detroit, who is a…
  Christ, I’m not sure what she is.  Some kinda pagan/heathen/Earth Mother worshipper or something.  I’m going to miss her when she goes to Hell.
  Anyway, it had to seem odd to her as well, I imagine.  But as stylized and ritualized and…odd as it was, there was some comfort in it.  Comfort for me in the fact that everyone is grasping at straws as if they think they know the Mind of God and all these odd things are what God wants.
  The rituals have a purpose:  they give you time to contemplate and a soothing atmosphere and comfort in repetition, and aid with the closure.  These things are not for God, and not for the deceased, but for the living.
  We tried, Detroit and I, to keep up with the mythos, but it seemed that everyone but us knew the hymns by heart (Where were they?  In the hymn book?  What numbers?  Don’t you even want us to try?–I guess not), and when to stand and when to sit, and when to get a cracker and take a sip of wine and backwash.
  She and I agreed that we shouldn’t take the communion, probably for different reasons.  She, because she’s not a Christian; and me, because I’m not a Catholic.  It’s not as subtle of a difference as you think.  For her it was escaping an inconvenience; for me it was avoiding sacrilege.
  During one of our up-and-downs, I happened to glance back a few rows, and caught a glimpse of Mrs D.  She had a far-away look behind her red eyes, and her face seemed over-whelmed by grief.
  I had time to contemplate all of this, and some realizations slowly crept over me.
  Mrs D said she had known Sue "since she was this big."  Sue is…let’s just say roughly my age.  Mrs D and Sue’s mom have been friends for over forty years, then, by a conservative estimate.  In the parlance of our times, they were BFF.
  And how is it, then, that she is sitting behind me, when she should have been in front row–with the family?
  I thought of my friend Bunny, whom I have known for 20 years.  I want her to be…right there in the front, with family.  She is family to me.  Yeah, Detroit can be there too.
  But all of that made me think of how important Bunny is too me, and I felt real empathy for Mrs D.
  We drove to Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, and there is the final service.  We don’t go to the burial site there, but instead to a small stone pavilion; the deceased get buried later.  They probably don’t want anyone watching when they screw them into the ground vertically.  It’s a large place, but space is tight.
  After the brief service, we were all clearing out, and I caught up to Mr and Mrs D.  I felt compelled, I guess, to let her know.
  "Mrs D?  I just wanted to tell you–"
  "Yes?"
  "Well, it took me a while, but I put it all together.  Like when you said you’ve known Sue since she was this tall, right?  You’ve known Sue’s mom a long time–you’ve been friends forever, haven’t you?
  A single tear. "Yes."
  I choked up a bit too, but forged ahead.  "Seeing you reminded me of my good friend I’ve known for 20 years, and how important she is to me.  I just can’t imagine it.  I can’t imagine how hard it is.  So I wanted to say to you, I’m sorry for your loss."
  She smiled somberly through her red eyes and gave me a hug.  "Thank you.  So  much.  So many–"
  And then someone interrupted to talk to her, and she was whisked away.  But we had a brief moment.  The only evidence was the faint smell of perfume and Old Money lingering in the air.

Happy Birfday To Me

February 20, 2007 at 4:49 PM | Posted in Personal | 3 Comments
Tags: , , ,

I think my attitude towards my birthday is best described in this one word:
Ambivalence.
I’d really like to feel bitter and cynical about growing old, but I can’t muster that emotion.  Don’t get me wrong:  growing old and dying scares the living piss out me.  But I feel pretty good.  And today–today is just another day.  And age–age is just a number.  That determines whether or not you can be
arrested for statutory.
I may, in fact, feel better about my birthday this year than I have in some years;  despite the impending divorce and all the signs and portents of looming tragedy, I feel pretty good.  I’m happy, I’m in love, I’m in fair health,
and I feel I have a direction to go creatively.  Not bad.
Even though–
Even though my mom died last week.
Okay, not really “last week,” but three years ago last week.  It occurred to me around Valentine’s Day that I wasn’t really sure of the date.  In fact, a few months after she passed I wasn’t sure.  All I know is that it was between my dad’s birthday (the 6th) and mine (the 20th.)
I still remember the events leading up to her death fairly well:  the sickness, the relapse, the operations, the return to the hospital.  Talking with my brother and learning things about my family that I had never known.  The nightly visits, going to see my dad and take him something to eat–otherwise he wouldn’t.  He stayed, dutifully, by her side.
And then she was going to come home for in home hospice care.  I was there at the house, waiting for them to come home to help set everything up, when we got the call. . .
And then the funeral, if you can call it that.  My mom was unapologetically a heathen, and there was no service, no body to view (cremated), and I even missed the scattering of the ashes, because my brother called me while I was at work–when I couldn’t leave–to tell me they were going to scatter them in the bayou near the casino.
I was left with a horrible, aching gap, a supreme lack of closure.  Later I had the chance to. . .get over it.  Of course, the burning pain I feel in my chest right now reminds me that I’m not over it, not really.
I’m a little surprised at how much I still miss her, especially in view of the fact that we weren’t very close.  Her choice or mine?  I don’t know.  She was a little distant and hard to get close to.
Detroit has met my father, and things I am “just like him.”
But she has never met my mother, so she wouldn’t know. . .but I have alot of her in me.  Mom was a reader.  Voracious.  Me too.  I think she wanted to be
a writer when she was younger, but never pursued it.  Work and family took too much time–
She worked hard at work, but found it easy to not do to much around the house.  Housekeeping was that thing that other people do.  She never communicated much, but when she did, she meant it.  I guess that
part isn’t so much like me.  She had opinions–about life, the universe, and everything.  God, the heavens, the afterlife.  Strongly held opinions, I found out, but she had the quiet wisdom to not share them with people she knew wouldn’t understand.
Mostly, she was quiet, and kept to herself.  I didn’t know what “introvert” meant as a child.
So. . .I don’t know the exact date.  I’m sure I could look it up, but I don’t want to.  Like the day my granddaughter died:  I think I know the exact date, but don’t want to give it too much.  I know approximately when it is, because we spent our wedding anniversary in a funeral home.  Life, that’s the important part.  I don’t want to celebrate or remember the day they died.

I catch myself doing something my mom used to do, which I never understood as a child, but now I do.  We would be driving together, or she
would be puttering around the kitchen, or whatever.  But she would be quiet, lost in thought, with a smile on her face.  She was completely gone, in her head.  Her imagination was in control, and there was no telling what was going one.  You may as well have hung a sign on her that said, “Be Right Back.”
I do that.  I do that alot.  Even just briefly, I can completely leave.  I can’t explain where I’ve been. I can’t describe what I was thinking, I can’t remember what I was feeling.
But it was good.

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