The Longest Mother's Day
Copyright 2009, Jim Penny
Word count: 1453
The Players: Mama (also known as Granny), Buck, Bro, Samo, and me. Samo is Bro's daughter. Buck is my step-dad.
Bro called me Saturday morning, yesterday. He had lunch with Mama and Buck Friday, but Mama had been somewhat addled, and Bro had not been able to confirm Sunday dinner, Mother's Day dinner, with Buck. Buck had asked that we not mention these plans in front of Mama because she somehow manages to remember them, and she becomes agitated the hours before as she's afraid she'll be late and make problems for everyone.
Bear in mind that Mama cannot carry on a conversation because she cannot remember the thread, unless of course the conversation is with people who died years, if not decades, ago.
Bro asked me to call Buck Saturday afternoon about the plans, and I did from the lake where I was letting the warmer than usual sun bake away a few worries while I read a murder mystery. I asked Buck if he thought it'd be better if we had dinner at their house or at Bro's. Buck didn't think it would matter, and I chose Bro's house. Bro lives in the house Mama built with Daddy, and when she returns, she seems to do better for a while, or so we've noticed, or at least hope we've noticed.
Sunday morning, the dread and guilt begin to grow. I need a solid day to recover from an hour I spend with Mama. The woman who brought me into this world, who loved me when no one else would, who represented a strength that I never questioned, now walks in darkness. When tragedy strikes, and a child dies, we often hear that there is nothing worse for a parent that to bury a child. I believe, and Bro concurs, that burying Mama would be a far less burden than seeing her as she now is, having to be reminded of her sons when they approach, lest she fear the strange man walking toward her.
Strap that thinking on for a while, and we'll talk about guilt.
Shortly before three, I receive two text messages, one from Samo, the other from Bro. Bro wants me to stop by the Food Lion where he works to get the flowers. Samo wants me to be there by 4:30 because she does not want to be alone with Buck and Granny. I am not sure why she's uncomfortable being alone with them, though I suspect it's her resident shyness coming through, not to mention the confusion that spins from the series of disjointed questions and statements that constitutes conversation with Granny. Regardless, Samo rose to the occasion and took care of her granny a year ago when Buck was hospitalized in the middle of the night.
Samo possesses a strength she does not yet recognize.
I left my apartment at three, and drove to the Smithfield's BBQ at the intersection of I-40 and Highway 42, also known as the Old Drug Store because of a business that stood there 100 years ago. Twenty years ago, this chunk of sand grew sassafras and mostly served to only hold the earth together. It had no intrinsic value except and perhaps on the opening of dove season. Now it's some of the hottest real estate in the area. It's also the least regulated, and the traffic patterns show it.
Fifteen minutes later, I depart with three pints each of BBQ, coleslaw, potato salad, and baked beans. I also have $52 less available on my credit card.
I drove to the Food Lion at the intersection of I-40 and Highway 210 to get flowers. However, the Food Lion was out of cut flowers, and the best we could do there were wilted hanging baskets. Salisbury should really have the peeps water the plants once in a while.
I wanted roses, and I drove back towards Garner to the Lowes. This store is a touch more upscale, and I hoped there would be some semblance of selection in the cut flowers section. There was a selection, but not one that included roses, and I wound up paying eight bucks for two bunches of lily-like flowers.
I made it to Bro's house at 4:30 on the dot, and Samo and I watched America's Next Top Model until Bro arrived home concurrently with Buck and Granny.
The gravel crunched under the Jeep and truck tires directly at 5. I went outside while Samo changed the TV channel to News 14. I had already cleared the path of cat food and other stuff. I approached the Jeep slowly to give Granny time to adjust. The strategy appeared to work. I helped her out of the car, got a hug and a kiss, and we all walked back to the house.
I need to be careful here. Hugging Granny is not what it was. I doubt she weighs 80 pounds now. If I hugged her as I wish I could, she would crumble.
Buck is full of a story regarding a wreck that occurred Friday morning. For over thirty minutes, we hear the endless details, and I do mean details without end, right down to the manner in which the car slide, spun, and came to rest in the pasture, as well as the height of the power wires over the road after the car clipped the pole. People drive too fast on that road, but we can't figure why they don't end up in the creek.
It's time to eat. The paper plates are passed out. Bro goes first, and retires to his desk in the living room. Samo tries to get Granny to go, but Granny just ate lunch some four hours earlier, and her tummy is full and hurting a bit. Granny takes a glass of ice water, retiring to the couch, and Samo fills her paper plate and heads to a recliner. That leaves me and Buck, and I defer to let Buck go before me. Buck retires to the couch by Granny. I retire to one of the recliners. We are arranged as we always are arranged.
Buck says grace, and we start to eat, except for Granny, each of us, except for Bro, holding the doubled paper plates, curved in our hands. Bro has his plates on the desk.
At this point, we could as easily eat in silence as in conversation. Generally, I prefer the conversation, which this time takes the form of Sham Wow and Slap Chop discussion, in addition to some chat about the weather. Samo mentions that everything costs $19.95 on TV.
Granny asks if I've seen Ina Ruth lately, and then mentions that she has not seen Ina in ages. Ina is my other mother, a designation adopted during the summers I spent more time working on their farm than I did living at home. I told Mama it had been about a month since I'd seen Ina.
Insert more chat about the weather. When Mama's present, you had better be prepared to managed multiple independent conversations.
About a minute later, Mama asks if I'd seen Ina Ruth lately, again telling me that it had been ages. I repeated my earlier response. Insert more conversation regarding the weather during which I opine that the Carolina News 14 guys have about about the most boring job in the world because we just don't often have 24/7's worth of news or weather.
Maybe during a hurricane it's better.
Shortly following the ever so brief discussion of recorded broadcasts, Mama asks me, oh yes, if I'd seen Ina Ruth lately, but this time she adds that she spoke with Ina just last week. I responded that it had been a long while since I saw Ina.
That all happened in under ten minutes.
After some 30 minutes, we are finished eating. Samo takes our plates, and then proceeds to clean up. Within 15 minutes, Mama is ready to go. It's getting late here at 6-ish. It takes about 30 more minutes to get Granny in the car. I get three goodbye hugs and kisses. Buck remembers additional details about the wreck that I must know.
Please remember that this might be Buck's only conversation with a sane mind this week.
Finally, they are gone. Bro and I dispatch Samo for beer. We need medicine. When she's gone, we scream in the yard, as Klingons over a dead warrior. We discuss possibilities. Buck dies first. Mama dies first.
Neither of us expect to see another Mother's day with Mama present.
Note: The first half of this post required 11 Kleenexes.