Today I take the plunge and write in response to a challenge hosted by Writing Essential Group. You might want to drop by and see what they are up to. I learned of this blog through a very fine writer from Almost Iowa. You might want to check him out, too!
Now, as you know the muses often have a mind of their own, and this time is no different. The prompt suggests that I write a short-story about the confusion of life, about losing track of something or someone. I thought, “I know, I’ll tell ’em about the time mom moved from the semi into her new raised ranch and lost track of anything that was powdered. Both the skim milk powder AND dad’s ashes went missing. Funny, no? Yeah, I guess you had to be there.
A Moving Day
My mother’s dad built the house in which I lived for the first twenty years of my life. After that point, like a pinball I bounced around in pursuit of jobs, hobbies, and relation-ships. Mom, however, lived in that house for about 55 years before she moved.
Grandfather died when mom was a young teen. Sometime not long afterward, her older brother was killed while fighting in World War II. Whether it was the stress of raising the nine remaining children on her own, the loss of her husband and oldest boy, or latent tendencies, Grandmother fell ill to a mental disorder. Grandma lived the rest of her years in psychiatric facilities and nursing homes. Meanwhile, Mother cared for her younger siblings at home, and the public trustee managed the estate.
Money was always tight, for a few years it was non-existent and the bailiff threatened eviction. Now, however, with the kids grown and on their own, with Mom earning good wages at the school board, and with Dad working part-time, now was the time to stop renting and start owning a house.
At that time, I was married to my first husband The Cowboy and lived nearby. On moving day, I took time off work to help out where I could. It turned out to be a good thing. Mom was a fine organizer, multi-tasker, and administrator. That was her job, after all, at the high school just up the street. But when it came to leaving her childhood and long-time family home, she was overwhelmed by the prospect.
This was something new for me: to see her confused and unable to make a decision. I took charge, and she was grateful to hand over the reins. We actually had fun, once the responsibility of boss-lady was lifted from her shoulders. I’d holler directions like a drill sergeant and she’d “aye captain” me in return. (You will forgive the mixed military metaphor!)
Mom and Dad lived in their new home, a semi-detached unit, for a half-dozen years or so. It might have been the best time of their marriage. Dad stopped smoking and mom learned to drive. They’d walk to the Dairy Queen after dinner for Peanut Buster Parfaits. Dad’s waistline proved it. One summer evening, when I was visiting from Owen Sound, I helped Dad wash the car. I scrubbed and he rinsed with the garden hose. In a moment of playfulness he soaked me from head to toe. This was Howard? He of “Eat your peas!” and “Stop your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” I hardly knew how to react. Momentarily. He got a soapy sponge in the backside for his prank.
A few years later, Mom called to tell me that he fell and dislocated his shoulder. After the medics patched him up she and my youngest brother Jim brought him home. He was in so much pain, or so doped up by the Tylenol 3’s, they had to carry him into the house. Jim helped set up a bed in the living room because Dad couldn’t or wouldn’t climb the stairs to the second floor bedroom.
That evening, he had a massive stroke. He died, but was revived in the ambulance on the way to hospital. He never recovered, and died two days later.
After dinner that night, I sat with mom in the living room. The makeshift sick-bed was still downstairs. We talked about the doctor’s post mortem. Apparently Dad had had several mini-strokes over the years. The fall that dislocated his shoulder was no doubt triggered by one. That would explain his immobility. We thought he was playing the sucky baby card. Hoo boy.
She was quiet for a moment, then she said, “I shouldn’t have waited.”
“I waited too long.”
“Mom, what are you talking about?” I thought she was confused again. That the stress of the last few days had addled her thinking.
“I was sitting here, he was in bed, not sleeping, but not really awake. Then he shouts. He complains about blinding pain. Then he passed out.”
“What did you do?”
“Nothing.” She took a deep breath. “I waited fifteen minutes before I called the ambulance.”
It turns out life with dad hadn’t really changed all that dramatically after all.
I wish I could say that I was able to change roles with mom again, to take charge, to offer comfort. I was struck dumb by her disclosure. I understood with all of my being why she delayed calling the ambulance. But I was at a complete loss as to how to tell her that. I wish I had been able to overcome the confusion of that moment. I wish she knew that I did not condemn her for delaying the 911 call.
I said nothing.
We never spoke of it again.
Categories: Mom and Dad