Today was a really beautiful day and I took a break from coding to walk around the Botanical Gardens to see if all the bulbs were up. It’s now the peak blossom season, and the gardens are full of blooms, including what looked to be at least 15 varieties of daffodils.
It was busy today and by the clothes some people were wearing, I assume they were all here for the Final Four Basketball competition. I only found out about this Saturday, not being a big follower of basketball. However, the price of gas shot up 23 cents a gallon, to take advantage of the sudden influx of visitors. Someday if the price ever goes down, I’ll head back to the Ozarks and the mills.
I took advantage of the nice weather and my favorite seat being vacant to place my weekly call to my mother. I gather that she, influenced by last week’s events, had been to the lawyer to update her will and also make out a living will. I’m her executor, and the lawyer also drew up papers giving me power of attorney if Mom becomes incapacitated. He then suggested she and I talk about what these forms mean, so that I fully understand her wishes.
“All I ask, dear, is that you be merciful”, Mom said. “You have a kind heart and I know you won’t let me go too quickly.”
“I don’t know, Mom. You didn’t let me have a puppy when I asked for one.”
“Yeah, the puppy I asked for, when I was a kid. And you also didn’t let me have that party when I was 12. Come to think on it”, I said, beginning to warm up to the topic. “I have a lot of repressed anger from my childhood.”
She began to chuckle.
“Be afraid, Mom. Be very afraid.”
“All it will take is a broken leg, and *pop* there goes the plug.”
I continued to list out various childhood grievances and what this meant in terms of her continued hopes for longevity: my not getting a fiercely desired bike and she gets a hangnail, she’s a goner; the doll accidentally run over by the car and she buys it when she gets indigestion–until Mom was laughing, finally broken out of the hypnotic state created by Mysterio at CNN and Finn the Great at Fox News. Then we calmly talked about what these forms mean, and what her wishes would be.
Mom also said my niece had called her this weekend, doing genealogical research for a school project. Between my recounting of youthful hardships and my niece’s questions, Mom was in a reminiscent mood. As for me, I’m always up for a good story.
Mom remembered moving ‘up the hill’ when the Grand Coulee dam flooded old Kettle, and created the Roosevelt lake; remembered watching the water rise, with her sister and brother. Her Dad worked at a sawmill at that time, before getting tired of it and taking his family back to the two room cabin they lived in until my father helped them build a house when I was around five.
My grandparents were very religious at the time and attended the Assembly of God church, which surprised me because I never remembered them attending church when we lived near them. Why they stopped going, Mom didn’t know.
The Assembly of God church is what we attended when we were kids, and I brought up the old story about the minister having an affair and asking forgiveness from the parish and, when he didn’t get it, being forced to leave town–giving over both his home and the church to the new pastor. What a lousy thing to do to a good man, I said to Mom, and she agreed. Then she told me about the time when my brother had attended some church function wearing shorts and the same minister started yelling at him in front of the whole parish — yelled and yelled and yelled–until Mike left. Mom said he never went back to church after that. I didn’t know this story, but had wondered when Mike lost his faith. Now I know.
Mom also talked about a time when the minister, and another man of the cloth who was visiting, stopped by the house when she had the flu and spent hours telling her she needed to change her evil ways — stop drinking, stop going out, stop dancing and listening to music. She said she was so sick she just smiled and let them talk, focusing on not throwing up.
That which you sow, you shall reap.
Mom told me stories of the past, some of which should be kept in the family and private (or until I write that book someday). Most weren’t, though. There was the story about when my parents lived in town before moving to the farm. My brother was about three at the time, and every morning when he got up, he would grab his little wagon–a little red Flyer–and make a circuit of the neighborhood; stopping by one house for a bite to eat, another for a visit, another bite to eat at a third, and a visit to a fourth before making it home. Every morning until they moved, regardless of the weather. Lord help the neighbor who wasn’t home or didn’t answer the door when Mike would come by.
This was the same child who also used to scratch my face any chance he got when I was a baby. Then there was the time he shot the bed near me, and set the bathroom on fire, but I’ve talked about these previously, so won’t repeat them–though they are favorite stories of the family.
Dad wasn’t home much in those days, having to work long hours for the State Patrol. When he got home, Mom said, he’d pick me up and hug me and call me his ‘baby doll’ and give me a surprise — a tootsie roll, apple, whatever he had. I was a little doll, too; a beautiful baby and a very pretty little girl. I’ve seen photos and I was a charmer — wavy, thick hair, big green eyes, dimples when I smiled.
I also spent most of the time by myself since there were no kids close to my age around and my brother wouldn’t tolerate my company. She told me today she could see the writer in me at an early age, because I would weave these stories about my experiences every time I came home from my walks. Mom said that back then no one could tell what I was talking about half the time. Some would argue I’ve never outgrown this fancy.
We didn’t live far from my grandparents, but they rarely ever watched over us or had us over, which suited me fine. They would have Ellen’s kids or Jean’s, but not us. Mom thought that Grandma, who wanted to be a writer all her life, was disappointed that Mom didn’t do more with her life–become a great singer or artist. Instead she married at 19, had Mike, and then me.
I told Mom that grandma wasn’t disappointed; they had the other kids over because they were nice, normal kids. I mean, Mom, look at us: a grandson that shakes down the neighborhood at three, torches the house at four, and tries to shoot me at five. As for me, I wondered around the forest all day, and then returned home to talk about fairies and Mother Goose as if they were personal friends.
“We were freaky kids, Mom. I mean, seriously twisted little children. They were probably afraid of us.” The talk then degenerated into more snickers and more tales of incidents (”And do you remember the time when you…”); proving how really wise her parents were.
Altogether we spent most of the afternoon on the phone going over Mom’s living will. Good thing I have free long distance.