There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief just works itself out, points its toes, fills up all the spaces and sets up camp. Grief moves on when its good and fucking ready and leaves you like the tide going to its lowest ebb of the day.
There weren’t many things I thought about when I was in my early teens except what sounded good, can I do it, do I have enough money to do it and then when my steady boyfriend arrived in my life concurrent thoughts of his well being were included in those questions in regards to my next pursuit. I worked to live and planned travel from the Boston Globe travel section, making notes and making expensive long distance phone calls because the internet had yet to be invented for mere mortals.
I talked to my Mother all the time. I called her constantly. She rarely called me. Well, at least that’s the way I think of it now and since she is dead and can’t correct me I declare that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. A year before my mother’s death Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in France. I was so struck by her death, the unmeasurable loss her two sons will endure without their protector and facilitator in all things now that she was gone and what a loss it was for mankind as she was an example of someone famous who didn’t really want it but tried very hard to only do good things with it. I remember talking to my mother about it and she was totally unimpressed with my distress. I attempted to convince her how sad it was but she just didn’t get it. I told her that if she died I didn’t know what I would do. Mothers, they are important.
I don’t believe she was impressed by that either.
Who are mothers if not people we are constantly standing on our heads, juggling fire while speaking Mandarin? They are our audience subjected to the constant “MOM WATCH THIS”. Watch me as I wear lipstick for the first time. Watch me as someone breaks my heart. Watch me have a hangover. Watch me fail math. Watch me graduate from school. Watch me make my own money. Watch me buy my own christmas tree. Watch me putter around my house. Watch me get married. Watch me travel. Watch me change my hair color. Watch me change my job. And love me, no matter what.
A year after Princess DIana died, Jeanne absconded with my childhood and it was burned up with her body and mind and buried in the ground.
The phone ringing in the kitchen is muffled with all the covers over my head. Molly is up and will get it. I can lay here a bit longer. In the half sleep half wake I am feeling pretty neutral and then I remember and like when a wave catches you off guard at the beach and pounds you instantly into the sand beneath it I huff out in a whisper, “Fucker.” I toss the covers off and get up and I don’t look in the mirror. The phone stopped ringing but then starts again.
It’s my mother. I know it. I don’t know how she knows but she must. Maybe the fucker called her as one more giant thing to shit all over in the guise of worry for Molly. I clench my fists without realizing it. Fucker. Unclench them and pull on some pants and a shirt. The phone keeps ringing. Shit. Where is Molly?
Opening the door and listening in the hallway to the phone, the stupid dog outside barking I can’t hear Molly anywhere. I open her bedroom door and she is lumpy under her covers probably ignoring the phone, me and everything.
“Mol. Mol-dolly. Get up, okay?” I say and close her door, walk down the stairs hand trailing along the bannister to steady myself, reach the bottom step into the kitchen and put my hand on the phone. Its vibrating. Taking a deep breath, I pick it up, “Hello.”
“Will you accept a collect call from..” and I hang up. Fucker. I take the phone off the hook.
I wonder what Molly will do now that her father has driven away in our only damned fucking car.
Fucker. I am done, I think, but don’t actually believe myself. He isn’t handsome anymore because he is always drunk and I don’t find him attractive any longer while I am drunk.
Fucker. I contemplate calling my mother but I don’t. Yet. Maybe he will call me later, out of gas, spent all his money on something temporary and can’t get any where he wants to be so he will want to come home. Home to Molly. I know I shouldn’t feel competition with our daughter for his attention but I do. He didn’t leave her but he left me.
He left me while I begged him to go.
I walk over to the music and shut it off, drink the rest of my drink and turn off the light standing in the dark, still in my underwear and look at my empty bed.
I’ll call my mother in the morning, make a plan to leave before he can come home. How quickly can I pack up all of our stuff? Christ the kid has lot of shit and my old furniture is heavy. Do I want to drive a big assed truck back to my parents house?
Molly is little and she will learn to live like this, without him, easily. It will be easy because I just won’t talk about him anymore.
Fucker. I’m done. I get in bed, pull up the covers roll over and his pillow smells like him. I pick it up, walk over to the door and toss it into the hallway getting back into bed and close my eyes. Closing your eyes you can pretend to sleep until it just comes up and you are out.
I hear my Mom’s door open and she walks down the stairs to let the dog out for the night. I hear bottle clinking, ice cracking and the door closes and she walks up the stairs shutting her door. The music goes on, the sad music I know she stares at herself in the mirror while she listens and drinks.
I wonder if she brought the whole bottle. Usually she only brings the bottle upstairs for Dad because he gets clumsy walking back and forth up and down the stairs after a three drinks. Dad has fallen down the stairs. On the nights he doesn’t drink as much he has terrible dreams and yells out in his sleep and Mom comes into my bed and sleeps with me.
Maybe I could sleep with her tonight if she’s drunk enough and won’t notice I’m there.
The music goes off and I am sure she’s gone to sleep. No kisses for me good night. I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth even though no one reminds me.
Pulling the covers up and rolling over back in bed, alone in the dark, listening for Mom to get up and remember to say goodnight. I stare at the closet door, thinking about the pieces of the dinner plate and imagine Dad sleeping somewhere, curled up in the backseat drunk not missing me, not missing us, not missing Mom.
As I close my eyes and try to sleep I see Dad’s face that night he killed our other dog. Mom kept shouting at me to go to bed, don’t look at Dad because it’s not Dad. But I can see it’s Dad so I know it’s Dad. I didn’t like that dog because he always peed in my room and barked at me when I tried to play on the swing outside. Just because I didn’t like him doesn’t mean I wanted Dad to kill it. Won’t he feel badly? Won’t he be sorry? Isn’t it mean to kill a dog? I think, even though Mom tells me not to look, that he could do that to me too. Easy-peasy. He could do that to Mom and I know she understands this even though she stands really close to him trying to get him away from the dog as he kicks it around the yard screaming in the night.
Mrs. Schandler opens her back door and the porch light goes on and she yells she is calling the police. The police come. Dad gets taken away and stays away for several months and I don’t really miss him. Mom misses him and buried the dog all by herself behind the shed in a deep hole so the raccoons and foxes don’t dig it up.
Buster likes to lay over top of where the other dog is buried and I wonder if he knows about what is underneath him.
If I stare at the mirror long enough it’s almost like I don’t have a face or a body and that makes me feel better. I keep checking to see if I can really be seen and the longer I stare the more I am convinced I don’t show anything.
I wonder how far my Dad has gone and know he will never come back and maybe that will make Mom better. Maybe she will look for me, the me inside me despite how I look on the outside. She always says I have his eyes. I want my own eyes and I don’t want his. I look over at the closet door where I keep my box and think about his dinner plate and here Buster bark outside the back door since the rain has stopped.
Walking down the stairs avoiding the creaky one smelling the pot of food no one really wanted to eat. The last supper or the first one depending on who you are in this house. I hear Mom in her room getting dressed and hope she won’t come back down tonight.
The phone rings and rings and neither of us pick it up. Outside the window the grass and trees are a deeper green because of the lightning. The storm that makes things grow.
I wonder how long it will be before she packs up the whole house and we move just incase he comes back to find us.
I don’t think it will be long so I go out the back door and let Buster back in the house and don’t care if he rolls around on the couch to get dry. His wet footprints track across the kitchen. The birds are back to singing in the dogwood tree. The sun has come back out falsely shining for a short time before the sun gives up and goes to bed. It’s almost tomorrow everyday at this time.
“Eat your dinner.” Mom says not cheerfully but more like a threat, like when she tells me I have to take shower because she thinks I am filthy.
I push the food around on my plate and push some into my mouth and it tastes like nothing. The dog barks outside as the rain has stopped and he wants to shake off in the house, all over the floor and sneak onto the big chair to roll around. “Stop it Buster.” Mom yells out the back door as she gets up and throws her dishes in the sink. She still stands in the kitchen in her underwear, hair wet and makeup almost all rinsed off. “I’m going upstairs to take a shower, do the dishes bunny.” She walks out the door and disappears into the house but I can hear her footsteps.
I wonder what would happen if I just kept sitting here and did nothing. I go outside pat Buster on the head and wipe my wet dog smelling hand on my pants and go to the shed and pick up all the plate shards. I don’t know if I will have anything left of Dad if I don’t. Careful not to cut my hands because injury would give me away and make her mad, again, I take them inside and run up to my room listening for the shower.
On the floor of my closet is a shoebox I kept after Mom bought me my new school shoes and I throw the broken plate inside along with the dead bee I found last spring that is turning to dust and bottle caps I found in the creek. The shower goes off and I slam the box shut and close the closet door. My heart beating really fast and I feel guilty and am not sure I can hide it on my face.
I walk over to my dresser with the mirror and look at myself. I look like him but just a girl. I don’t look like her. I never will.
“Thank god.” I whisper.
Screaming silence, silent sayings, nothing left to say pent-up in their eyes my parents stand in the foyer of the house. Our table is set for dinner, pots bubbling on the stove, smells of tomato and meat frying lingers in the air and my mouth waters as my eyes fill with tears. I am just hungry for dinner and a meal eaten together even if it’s in murderous quiet. The rain outside starts slowly but then coming up quickly it starts to pound on the roof and the windows exacerbating our isolation. Sitting on the stairs watching them look at each other they are so absorbed in this moment they ignore me completely and my father doesn’t let go of his bag packed to leave everything except some underwear and his high school year book behind. He is crazy. He has always been crazy. Sometimes its fun his crazy but usually when I am having fun my mother is scared to death. This isn’t what she bargained for or was raised to do or thought she would be become because the stupid choices we make as teenagers if we hold on to them they follow us forever. Attached to our hems, holding our hands, standing in the shower, waiting in line at the grocery store and laying in bed next to us. As her mistake I have taken some comfort in that because she has made her self obligated and that feels like love. My fathers crazy feels like love for a minute but then its gone. My mother’s obligation is permanent.
So, I watch them stare at each other both forgetting I am right beside them.
“You should come sit down for dinner. I made dinner. ” She says to him with nothing in her voice. Nothing left but pasta and sauce and the perfunctory plan of eating a meal. He just keeps staring at her never looking at me because he is gone.
He opens the door as she walks into the kitchen sitting down at the table and the rain comes in through the front door and the wind blows it onto my face. I look behind me into the kitchen and see her sitting at the table with her hand on a glass of water immobile, waiting.
He doesn’t wait and walks out to his car, the black fast one that doesn’t have seatbelts but neither of them care if I tumble around when they crash. The car door slams and the rain continues to pound the porch, water rushes into the gutters and down the sidewalk into the driveway. His car starts and she runs out into the rain to the chain link fence that defines the perimeter of our house puts her hand on the gate as lightning and thunder-clap together and she jumps like she was electrified and my dad backs out of the driveway and goes.
My mom runs back into the house breathing hard like she ran a marathon and stops short in front of me, strips off all her clothes but her bra and underwear, “Come to dinner. It’s time to eat. Go sit at the table. “she says with a whisper and crazy eyes.
“Stand up, come on. ” I stand up and follow her into the kitchen. I sit down as she busied her self at the stove. She walks over to my dad’s plate, walks to the back door, opens it and flings the plate into the yard and it shatters against the shed scaring the dog half to death who is sleeping under the porch to get out of the weather.
She sits down and puts cheese on her pasta and hands the bowl to me and she starts to eat, dripping water from her hair all over the table, make up on her face almost washed away. She finishes her plate of food as I watch her and when done she stands up and tells me to wash the dishes.
I sit there and think maybe he will go to Florida where his “people” are from. Maybe my father will move to Florida if he doesn’t die without a seatbelt. They teach you about that in school.