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Living Fiction - Chapter 40
Here's where Chapter 39 left you.
He. Was. Dead. Dead as in ‘gone’. Dead as in ‘deceased’. Dead as in … ‘dead’.
When does that stop? When does that impulse to talk to dead people go away?
And, though my daughter could quote Ghandi, I hadn’t realized she was also skilled in reading minds, or maybe I had just voiced my thoughts aloud, because she answered me. “Never? I think never, Mom. I still call him up to tell him things.”
Darn! Darn, darn, darn! This is exactly why I hadn’t wanted to do a ‘free’ conversation with my daughter. She was crying. I’d upset her.
I tried making a pathetic joke to lighten the mood. “Jessie, stop the merry-go-round. I need to get off! My butt is freezing from sitting on this metal.” My attempt at humor was pathetic. Weak and useless, just like me.
AND NOW, CHAPTER 40 CONTINUES...
Jessie shivered. “My butt’s frozen, too, Mom. Let’s go home, but we’re not done with this conversation.”
“We’ll see about that,” I thought to myself as I put Edgar back on his leash.
While we walked back to the house, we didn’t talk at all. Dreading the continuation of our conversation, I might have walked slowly, had it not been for Edgar dragging us along, anxious to get to his food bowl and then his bed .
Upon entering into the warm kitchen, I threw my coat onto the pegs by the door and turned the tea kettle on. “Hungry?” I asked Jessie. She shook her head, but Edgar barked a loud and excited, ‘yes’.
I puttered around a bit, waiting for the kettle to whistle. I dug through the pantry, looking for some cookies to put on a plate. I fussed a bit, finding some cloth napkins that looked good with my ‘From Texas with Love’ mug and the pretty cobalt blue cup and saucer Jessie had always liked. Finally, when I couldn’t think of another delaying tactic, I picked up the tray and joined Jessie in the living room. She had started a fire and it was just beginning to fill the space with cozy warmth.
I set the tray on the coffee table and settled myself on the couch.
We sipped. And munched a cookie or two.
Finally, I broke the silence by telling her, “I’m impressed that you knew that quote, Jessie. I didn’t even know you liked stuff like that.”
“Stuff like what, Mom? Philosophy? Things to help me through this horrible time we’re going through?”
“Stuff like quotes, I mean. I guess. I guess that’s what I mean. I just think it’s neat. And interesting,” and it’s just something I didn’t really know about you.
She paused. “Do you know what my favorite quote is, Mom?”
I shook my head, fearful she was going to use the ‘tangled web’ quote on me.
Instead she closed her eyes, clasped her hands in her lap, and said, “Let go of the past and go for the future. Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined.”
Wow! Would you look at that?! My daughter can quote other people, too. “Say it again, Jess. Who said that? I mean before you did just now? Originally, I mean.”
Jessie repeated the quote and then told me, “It was Henry David Thoreau, Mom. I have it written on a piece of paper on my bathroom mirror. I read it to myself every morning. I know Daddy would have told me to do it, if he would have had time. I can hear him saying it. Can you? It sounds like something he would say, doesn’t it?”
I thought about Jessie’s words. I wondered, “Is it what he would have wanted us to do? Would he have wanted us to let go?” The thing is, I had been living the life I’d imagined. I didn’t know how to imagine any other life. This was all I knew, all I’d ever known. Being a wife. Being a mother. Always being linked to my family. And now it felt like I wasn’t connected to anyone anymore. Oh sure, I was still a mother…but my kids were grown and gone.
Jessie looked at me intently. “Mom, tell me what you’re thinking. You need to talk about this.”
I shook my head. No, I didn’t need to talk about ‘this’, thank you very much. No, I didn’t want to discuss this anymore. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to order a pizza. I still remembered the number. I wanted to watch TV. I did NOT want to talk about ‘this’ anymore…now…or ever.
“At least tell me this, Mom. Did you go even go to grief counseling? You nagged and nagged me until I went. Did you?”
That girl is sharp. She doesn’t miss a thing. Somehow she took my unspoken words as a confession of guilt.
“So then,” she continued in that lawyerly voice of hers, “I guess it’s safe to say that you didn’t, technically, ever LEAD the grief support group.”
I was silent. It wasn’t like she’d asked me a question, right?
“So then, technically, you totally LIED about all that.”
I sighed. “Jessie, I don’t think you can understand this, but, technically, I didn’t lie. I just told you an …ummm… alternative truth, so you wouldn’t be upset.”
Apparently, it was Jessie’s turn for quiet, because she only raised her eyebrow and continued to look at me. Why the CIA has not recruited this girl to interrogate terrorists is totally beyond me. She looked at me some more. She raised her eyebrow higher. I wanted to confess everything. But I couldn’t. She was my daughter and I was protecting her.
“Mom, you’re really starting to tick me off here. How am I supposed to help you when you won’t let me? I’m not going to pretend that everything is fine with you. Obviously it isn’t. Talk to me. Just…please…talk to me. Do you talk to anyone about this? Mom? I want to help you. Pretend, I’m someone else then. Pretend, I’m not your daughter. That I’m a friend. Mom! Talk to me! You talked to Millie about this stuff, why won’t you talk to me?”
Huffily I replied, “The only reason I talked to Millie is because I was drunk. Okay. Now you know. I was drunk and it made me sick and then when…”
I gasped and held my hand up to my mouth, but it was too late. Now my daughter knew I had been drinking. Excessively. It was futile to tell her it had only been that one time. Now she knew what a failure I was. At everything. Everything.
I knew how disgusted she was with me when she jumped up from the couch. I knew this whole stupid ‘free’ conversation idea as … ummm… stupid. Now my daughter knew I was a liar and a lush!
I heard her slamming around in the kitchen. I heard her tell Edgar to mind his own business. She must have been really furious at me. I’d done a little cabinet slamming in my day when I’d been mad at her father, but I didn’t think she’d ever seen me do it. Another failure.
She came back into the living room a few seconds later with her jacket on and her car keys in her hand. “I’ll be back!” she said authoritatively. “You! Stay right there.”
What was this? What was she doing? I was confused. And ashamed. I was too tired to even cry. I just sat on the couch and watched the fire crackle and hiss. I looked weakly around for the remote, but it was way over on the far edge of the coffee table and I was just too exhausted to even reach that far for it. I called for Edgar to keep me company. He was either asleep or annoyed, too, because he couldn’t be bothered to sit on the couch with a lying loser. Yeah. I was feeling sorry for myself. A little. Okay, yeah. I was feeling sorry for myself A LOT! But, seriously. I ask you, if you can’t feel sorry for yourself when your husband is … … … DEAD, your son is in prison, your daughter is so angry she’s never going to talk to you again and the dog you’re dog-sitting can’t even be bothered to sit on the couch with you, then WHEN is it okay to feel sorry for yourself? Never? I think not. I think when all those things have happened to you, it’s perfectly okay to mope around and …
I heard the kitchen door open.
Maybe it was a murderer. Thank God! Maybe it was someone who was going to rob me and then kill me. Actually, I was hoping they were going to kill me and THEN rob me, so I didn’t have to worry about trying to stop them.
Maybe they would kill me quickly and then I’d be done suffering and the headlines would read, “Brave Woman Murdered…”
As I was fabricating the rest of the headline, I looked up. Sadly, there was no murderer ready to put me out of my misery in the doorway. There was only my daughter. In one hand she held a large brown paper sack and in the other hand was a tall, skinny bottle.
“Pick your poison, Mom. Tequila or beer? If the only way to get you to talk is to get you drunk then, hey, I’m along for the ride.”
My heart gave a little lurch.
To be continued on Tuesday, June 21.
(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
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