THANKFUL, AND THAT’S HOW IT ALL BEGAN…

baby boomer magazine

THANKFUL, AND THAT’S HOW IT ALL BEGAN

A creative writing story

By: Mark Dole

His moment by moment consisted of: How was he going to get to his Mother’s? Train, plane, automobile? Would his wife go? Would they share a hotel room? Would he stay at his Mother’s?

He felt something changing. He knew it was happening. Yet it was something over which he had no control. Something was happening within him and all around him. His life felt differently, his days felt differently. But today everything was noticeably different.

He made all of the decisions he made in life and was confident with each. He lived, as he had wanted. He’d spoken as he’d wished. Yet something was out of balance, something was changing.

He was fighting with his wife, fighting with his sister, and no where near the financial freedom he had anticipated.

He went to work, as usual, and picked-up his messages.

Well, now he knew why his day felt differently –

He telephoned his Mother’s nurse and immediately returned home.

His Mother had died.

Death. It stops your life, your days, your tomorrows and it makes you concentrate on the moment  by moment.

His moment by moment consisted of: How was he going to get to his Mother’s? Train, plane, automobile? Would his wife go? Would they share a hotel room? Would he stay at his Mother’s?

Will his sister be there with her loafer husband? Should he pack one carry-on or two. He decided to take one. Should he use the matching luggage set? Would his wife even care about his upsetting news? What will his sister do when she sees him? Laugh? Ignore him? Cry? He knew he needed to stop thinking about the bad and concentrate on what he had to do. Tackle each issue, one at a time.

First things first. Where is his Mother now and how to get to her. He needed to make arrangements, pack and get there. Okay. Plane, one carry-on, rent a car, go to Funeral Parlor.

How, to tell his wife. He doubted that she’d even care at this point.

Besides, he didn’t even want to tell her.

He kept the news of his Mother’s death to himself for most of the afternoon as he readied for his unexpected trip.

As he packed, he tried to remember the last topic of conversation he’d had with his Mom. Oh, that’s right, it was about her neighbor, the Veteran who had the quadruple by-pass. Imagine that. Discussing someone else’s health issues when there she was having stomach pains herself. Who knew that meant heart attack? If he new just days ago what he knows now, maybe his Mom. Who’s to say? It’s not for him to wonder if he could have saved her. It’s for him to know that he showed her love and that she returned his love. He thought if he’d said he loved her the last time they’d spoken. Of course, he did … he always ended the conversations with, ” I love you, Mom. I’ll be thinking about you.” Good. She knew. He’d always signed off that way. There. He felt relieved. There was no doubt that he told her how he felt.

But did he tell her how much she meant to him and how much he appreciated everything she did and didn’t do?

He thought about all that he did. All that he’d done for her. All of the vacations he’d shared with her. All of the times he used to fly her and Dad out for the Holidays. The time he’d surprised them at his Dad’s retirement party. The time he announced that his University wanted them to receive the “Parent’s of the Year” award. The packing-party for college. The filling out of the forms. Playing in the snow with his Dad and sister while Mom made cocoa. Then he thought about the time that the neighbor kids burned his sled in the bbq and how he chopped down their mailbox in retaliation. But he didn’t want to think about that now. He wanted to think about the times that are now officially memories. The times, as a family, which will no longer be. Ever. They will not have an existence, a place to bloom at all, in any of their lives. It is an impossibility to have more family memories. Now it was just he and his estranged sister. And his wife.

He wondered if she would feel differently about their relationship, upon hearing the news. Or maybe it wouldn’t matter one spec to her. He wondered when is he going to tell her. Oh, who wants to, he thought. Maybe she’ll take pity and realize that life is short and she’s been too selfish. Maybe she’ll rush at him with her arms open and say that she’s been a fool and this has put it all into perspective and now she really knows what’s important. Love. Laughter. Happiness. Not money and the girth of its existence. Or, maybe she’ll say “life is too short and I’m too unhappy with you, I’m leaving”. And then he thought maybe she won’t even be home upon his return. And then he thought that maybe she’ll try to live in his Mother’s house. But thinking of those things were simply tying up his mind from greater thoughts, more productive thoughts.

After all, he had more pressing needs. his Mother’s death. It’s unbelievable that she’s gone. Gone. What a word. Gone. Gone in that he can’t hold her hand, or hear her voice or see her, but not gone in his heart and memories.

Yet he couldn’t stop thinking about his wife and what she may or may not do. He was so tired of the argument within his head. He didn’t even care to think about it anymore. He concentrated on picking ties and suits. Then he remembered, “one carry-on”. Live a little he thought; one carry-on and one small wardrobe.

He reflected upon how his Mom would always look at him with a proud gleam in her eye when he’d wear a suit. She’d remember the image and tell him that her Father wore a suit everyday. And that his Father wore a suit everyday, at the office, to a party, to the theater. And now, she would tell her son, no one wears suits. No one wears a tie. What happened? What happened… First the hats went. Then the suits went. She used to wonder what was next to go? Then they’d laugh at the silly thought. Then they’d agree that the world would probably be a more peaceful place if everyone took pride and wore a suit. She did adore him in a suit. So, he’d wear one and pack two more.

He began to weep, just thinking about her. He knew he’d never see that proud look in her eyes. That certain way she’d simultaneously curl the sides of her lips. And the long gaze. The way she’d just stare and fill with love and pride. He thought about how his life will forever be different, void of life-long constants like his Mom.

And the one constant he was raised to believe to be constant was, his wife. His Mom and Dad were together forever. What happened to his life? He didn’t want to think about now. It was enough for him to think about just “being alone”. No longer being the child with a Mom. He was officially an adult. Odd. He’d been an adult for decades. He’d been an adult for more decades than he had been a child at home. Yet now, all that is different. He is the adult. With no child. No. No children. And definitely, no child in his immediate future, and at his age. But what is age? Age is really a state of mind. Maybe it’s not too late to have a family. But not with the wife he has now. No, not with her. He thought of the fun family times he’d had with his Dad, Mom and sister and his tear-stained faced chiseled a smile. A warm smile of remembrance. When things were as he knew them.

When life was laid out. You got up. You go to school. You go to more school. You get a job. You get married. Then what? What was supposed to happen during and after the marriage? Children? His life didn’t happen that way. He was on his own and felt on his own for a very long time. Only now he was on his own and alone.

He missed the family. He missed his Dad. But on the bright side, now his Mom and Dad will be together. They’re probably holding tightly to each other right now, watching, guiding. What a nice thought. Love forever more.

But he’s still here and in awful fights with his wife and his sister.

He and his sister had never had a fight like this one. Dad never would have let it go on this long. He would have made her see what she’d done.

He wished he could be with them instead of being stuck down here with one estranged sibling, a wife who hates him and visa-versa, and a company he started and sold, but still works for. No. Change was imminent and at this point welcomed. And overdue.

Change was in the air. And if for no other reason than, if one does not change, things merely stay the same. But when one does change something – anything, something’s going to change, just by the simple physics of it. Something will change.

And did his day ever change because of his Mother dying. Instead of working at the office, he’s packing cufflinks. His Dad’s cufflinks. The ones his Mom gave his Dad on their “diamond” anniversary. Now that, he thought, was a fun cocktail party! The entire city showed up for that one! He wondered how many of them had now passed on.

He wished his wife would pass on so that he wouldn’t have to think about her. And then she could just be a memory and a time in his life. A few years he’d spent doing something marriage…career.

After all, his Mom and Dad and sister had been there all of his life, not just a section of it. He had not known his life without them. They were there from the beginning. Square one. Everyday from day one. Whereas, his wife, well, she just arrived in the middle of it all. What’s 22 years of adulthood, compared to an entire life of family.

Family. What was left of his family? How did it really come to all this?

The packing is done. One carry-on, one wardrobe. His wife will more than likely think he’s moving out. “That’s not such a bad thought for her to think,” he thought aloud. He set his bags by the front door. Maybe she’ll arrive before he leaves and see the bags and think the worst. But he didn’t honestly think he had that kind of luck today.

When he does tell her, he’s sure she’ll show no remorse. He’s certain she won’t even be ‘home’ upon his return from one of the most memorable, unforgettable days of his life.

He doesn’t want to even be living in this moment, let alone facing it alone.

What happened, when did it all change? Was the a specific moment? Or was it an accumulation of time and decisions. Must be the latter. Everything he did has led up to this point. Everything he said. Every path he took. Everything he bought. Every phone call he ever took. Every decision he ever made.staring at him right now. One big accumulation.

And others. The others in his life, making decisions, changing.

 When did the fight with his sister begin? Was his relationship always this way with his sister, and only now they’d just had it out? There was so much to think about. And what about his Mom? No more referee. No more go-between. No one to ‘tattle’ to. How would that now affect him? How would that affect his sister? Did she even know? Maybe she doesn’t even know. Maybe she’ll be at the funeral parlour. Maybe he’ll have to call her after all of this time and say, “.” and say, what? How do you say, “Mom died this morning”, “I have to talk to you about Mom”, “Mom is with God”. How do you even say the sentence?Did he pick the wrong wife? Or did he change? Or did she?

His wife never came home. He left her a note with the telephone number of the funeral parlour. But he didn’t write where he was going or even that his Mother has passed away. He just put their wedding picture by the number. Not even he was certain of the statement that he’d just made or the message that it sent.

Nevertheless, he left in a taxi to catch his flight. He thought how nice it would be to go through this with someone he loved. To not shoulder all of the tasks which accompany death. To be able to grieve without the entire responsibility solely upon him. He thought of how much he missed his Dad right now. And how strong he and his Dad would have been as a team going through this together. So, he buckled up in the taxi and was off in the throws of change.

Sitting in the funeral director’s office already was his sister. One question answered, five thousand more to go.

He saw her from the side and as he quietly approached the office he remembered. He remembered the times he used to have to take her everywhere he went. He loved it. He remembered the time she got the chicken pocs from him and he stayed there and helped her as if he were her nurse. He loved being there, for her, with her. He remembered when she took high school math in junior high. He was so proud of his smart sister. When she made cheerleading squad. When, at her graduation, how Mom and Dad cried and she went to the dance and he had to console the two blubbering parents. He remembered it all so fondly.

Flooded with memories that overtook his present anger, he entered the room and outstretched his arms for an embracing, loving hug. Come what may, but this was what he felt in his heart and the rest could be just worked out, no he thought, forgotten. Change was in the air.

She reciprocated. And began to wail. The funeral director entered the room, handed them the box of Kleenex and gently closed the door.

“Now what”, he asked her.

“Now what, us”, she replied.

They held each other.

She asked where his wife was. He answered that she is where she always is, doing what she wants to do and he has no idea exactly what that is.

He asked where her husband was.  She answered that he was exactly where he always was, sleeping on the couch. His couch. In his own home. She reiterated the question, “now what?”

He held her tightly. “Now, what?  …Us, sister, us?”

And even though so much had changed, he had his sister and that was how it all began.

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