Post Mother’s Day Post

I read an interview with Calvin Trillin today. He said, every family has a theme that runs through it.

I can dig that. I grew up with some very Catholic and Jewish friends. Lessons and classes were always interfering with plans. I went to Bible School every summer for a few weeks, for a couple years. Other than that, I think we were Presbyterians. We attended church on some Christmases.

Religion wasn’t my family’s theme. Neither was education. Mom and Dad took the attitude, don’t bring home a bad grade and we’ll be okay. Several other themes were possible. Mom married multiple times in a quest for happiness. She’d taken private vows not to be like her mother, cold, hard, distant. Mom would be friends with her children. We would play games together.

Man, did we play games. Card games, ball games in the backyard, board games, Mom was always up to playing a game with us. Tripoley, a card game Mom picked up from her in-laws, became the go-to game. There was a board, in our case, a green plastic sheet. On it were different card combinations, along with poker, and ‘out’. Everyone paid into some pots, usually two to three cents each hand. A dummy hand was dealt. The dealer had the choice to keep their hand and sell the second hand, or to pick up and use the second hand. When you evaluating a hand to see whether you would bid on the extra hand, you were looking for pay cards, like the King and Queen of Hearts, or the 8-9-10 combo, or if it was a good poker hand or one that would allow you to go out.

We always played for pennies, and had great old Maxwell House coffee cans filled with coins, because sometimes, those pennies started adding up. “Look at that King and Queen, is that silver in there? There must be eighty cents in there.” Such a large amount. No one counted it, though; counting a pot drew bad luck down on you.

My wife quickly learned about the game but most of the spouses stayed away from it. They didn’t understand how we could sit and play for several hours for a few pennies, coming away with a beam for winning almost three dollars. Woo hoo.

The theme also could be hiding. Mom taught us all to hide whenever someone came to the door. I never heard why we were hiding. Someone knocks, we freeze, falling silent, eyes wide, like it’s WW II and the Nazis have found us. “Who is that?” we’d mouth at one another. Someone would sneak to a window. Carefully peek out. We also did not answer the phone. Whoever was calling us needed to know the code: let it ring twice, hang up and call again. If you don’t use the code, we’re not answering your call.

Our family’s theme could be fragmentation. I left Mom to live with Dad when I was fourteen. The older sister moved out of state when she was nineteen. We lost contact with her. Mom moved many times in her quest to be a good single mother, work, and find joy in marriage. It just didn’t work out. Yet, whenever I returned home, it was like I’d never left. We picked up having good times, laughing at everything, playing games. My wife noticed it after a few visits.

Pressing myself for the truest answer, what is your family’s theme, I laugh and answer, “Food.” Of course. Many people probably say the same. Mom loved to cook. She loved making us happy with food, and she was a damn good cook. The sisters took it up. Holidays Fare always encumbered with too much food, too many munchies, too many desserts. Typically, there’s pies and cakes, because Mom and sisters didn’t want to overlook anyone’s favorite. There are salads as an homage to health, along with something Italian — spaghetti, ravioli, maybe, but usually lasagna — along with turkey or ham. Depends, you know? Thanksgiving always required turkey. Ham was on Easter. Burgers, bbq chicken, and hot dogs on Memorial, Labor, and Independence Days, along with the Italian entree. There is lots of food. Leftovers get divided for consumption. It was often enough to supply troops invading another country. Desserts are usually frozen for other occasions. It’s not weird in our extended family to offer someone dessert from the freezer. “I have some leftover birthday cake from Gina’s birthday.” That Gina’s birthday was two months ago didn’t matter. It was frozen; it’d still be good.

Mom loves a cook out. That’s what she calls it: cooking out. We call it grilling. While my wife and I grill vegetables, sometimes chicken, fish, or beef, Mom always grilled burgers and hot dogs. Both needed to be well done because Mom worried about food poisoning from undercooked food.

We have favorites, right? Mom’s potato salad and fried chicken are amazing. All say so, if I do say so myself. It ruined it for anyone else offering me those things. I’ve searched the world for Mom’s potato salad and fried chicken. Nowhere else comes close to her product. Mom’s Fried Chicken. It could be a thing, except we’d need to answer the door.

I guess we’ll set up a code.

Friday’s Theme Music

Here it is, Friday, the first in the merry, merry, month of May. It’s Friday, May 7, 2021. It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday in the U.S. My card has been sent off, the notes prepared for the call on Sunday to Mom. I don’t think she’ll be doing anything special for Mom’s Day. Three of my sisters live in Mom’s region and generally celebrate holidays together. All of them are moms, and two are grand-moms, and Mom is a great-grandmother. But this is 2021, where COVID-19 continues its reign. They used to all go out to brunch somewhere together for this holiday. I suspect that Mom’s daughters, grand children, and great-grands, will bring food and flowers by for Mom and will visit with her a few at a time.

Clouds moved in yesterday, delivering chilly overnight temperatures but no rain. The sun’s first showing was at 5:59 AM, but did little to warm us, so far. We’ll see what happens between now and 8:17 PM, when Sol announces, “See you tomorrow,” but general consensus is that the highs will be in the low to mid-sixties.

Alarming news came out regarding rain and water for our area. We’re in an extreme drought. Weather conservation and curtailment actions have yet to be enacted locally. They always take a ‘wait and see’ approach until it’s a crises, which serves no one. The area depends heavily on the TID, and the city has been told it’s not getting as much TID as last year. Forty percent has been cut from one contract, while one hundred percent has been cut from the second. Local reservoirs and dams are at bleak levels. I’m breaking out my rain stick. It scares the hell out of the cats, but anything that can help must be done.

Of course, this might be the wrong way to go about it. “Wrong Way” is today’s music choice. At its core, the 1997 Sublime song is about a fourteen-year-old prostitute whose only family is ‘her seven horny brothers and drunk-ass Dad’. The is song is rife with references to doing things the wrong way as the singer rescues her but then mistreats her, himself.

Stay positive, test negative, wear a mask, and get the vax. That seems to be the right way. Time for my coffee. Cheers

Mom’s Call

I’d just been saying to my wife, “Getting hold of Mom is so hard.”

“Why?” She was peering over her glasses, typing on her computer. She’s always doing that – or reading or bathing (much time is spent in the bathtub reading) – so I’m not bothered by bothering her.

“She doesn’t text, or answer emails. I don’t think she checks her email every day or even every other day. She says she’s going to call back, but she doesn’t. She leaves a number but she doesn’t answer it. It doesn’t even go to her email.” I shook my head, dismayed by the recitation. Mom lives a continent away. Visiting her is a challenge. It’s rural on both ends. Rural meaning, no airports within an hour. Rural, meaning the flights to the nearest airport means travel days that begin and end in darkness on either end.

I’d just been saying/thinking these things when the phone rang. Suspicious of telemarketers – they’re focused on car warranties right now (meanwhile, I’m receiving solicitations about being cremated or getting my hearing tested in the mail) – I checked the number. “Mom’s number,” I said, answering the phone.

Hello was exchanged and I began my opening remarks. “How are you? I’ve been calling since you last called but I don’t get any answer.”

“Your father is dead.”

“Really?” Suspicions reared up. “You told me that three times before.”

“Twice. The other time was him.”

“No, he told you that he committed suicide.”

“It was a note.”

“Still, you called me and told me Dad was dead.”

“I thought he was.”

“That he’d killed himself.”

“I thought he had.”

I left the office to wander the house, a nervous habit I had when talking with Mom. “Even though there wasn’t a body.”

“I thought he was being thoughtful and had gone off and killed himself in the woods. He’s really dead this time.”

“Is there a body this time?”

“Yes.”

“I think I need third-party verification.”

“Your sister is here.”

“Which one?”

“Debby.”

“Debby? Really?”

“Yes, she came up to see us. She and the boys drove up. The got here last Thursday. She’s staying in the spare room. Her boys are staying with Jean. I think Jean got the better deal.”

“Probably.”

“Do you want to talk to her? She’ll tell you that your Dad is dead.”

I stopped at the living room back window. A blue jay was screeching in the back yard. Our black cat watched from atop a sunny knoll. “No, I don’t trust Debby any more than you.”

“I understand.”

I changed hands and thought. “What about my other sisters?”

“They’re not here.”

“Have you told them?”

“Yes. Jean is at work. She’s coming over when she gets off, after she picks up the boys. The boys are going to school from home. Rooming.”

“Zooming.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Is anyone there with them?”

“Yes, of course, Dibo.”

“Is he sober?”

“He says he is. Jean doesn’t have any alcohol in the house any longer. Dibo drank it all. She won’t let him buy more.”

“Where there’s a credit card, there’s a way.” I was quoting Mom from her previous calls.

“She took his credit cards away from him.”

“What about Jan?”

“I don’t think Dibo is drinking any more. He quit smoking, too, except for medical marijuana. He lost a lot of weight but now he’s gained most of it back.”

“Did you tell Jan?”

Mom hesitated. “No, I didn’t tell Jan.”

“Why not?”

“She has other things that she’s dealing with.”

“What?”

“Well, she got into an argument over a parking space. Apparently, some words were exchanged. Anyway, some people filmed it with their phones. Now they’re calling her Karen and she’s in jail for assault with a shopping cart.”

I sighed, trying to think of a response. I heard water running on the other end. Talking followed. “What’s going on?”

The talking continued. So did the water sounds. “Mom? Hello, Mom? It’s me, your son. You’re on the phone. Hello?”

Changing hands, I walked the house, listening and thinking.

Mom finally said, “Your father’s up. I need to make him dinner. I’ll call you later, okay? I love you, bye.”

She hung up before I replied. Pressing the phone’s off button, I walked back into the office where my wife continued typing.

“Was that your Mom?”

“Yes.”

“How is everything?”

“Dad is still alive. Debby is visiting, Dibo is straight, and Jan is in jail.”

“Same as last time.”

“Yep.” I sat in my office chair and swiveled it to the front window. A heavy sigh rolled up out of my chest. “Some day she’ll accept that Dad divorced her and the others don’t exist.” I always said that. It never happened. I just went along with it all.

“Phone calls will be a lot shorter.”

I stared out the front window, wistfully watching a man and woman walking a dog. They seemed so normal. But so did Mom. “Yes, they will.”

A Loaded Dream

This dream held so many elements. They happened in parallel but I broke them out to think about each nugget.

  1. I was preparing to travel and return home. I was visiting Mom and other my sisters in the east. Throughout, I was trying to determine what time I needed to leave. I was driving and flying. As I thought about when I was leaving, I thought in terms of minutes and had a stack of dimes. Each dime represented one minute. Did I have enough dimes? Stacking them, I had more than enough.
  2. My youngest sister (often referred to as my ‘littlest’ century, though she’s been alive for over half a century and have two sons in their teens) and her friend were missing. They’d gone on a walk. A storm was coming in and hours had gone by. As time passed and our worries increased, I tried calling her on her phone and sending her text messages. By the end, the messages were, “Call when you get this. We’re worried.”
  3. I’d bought land on top of cliffs. Located on the coast, growing ocean waves were pummeling it. I was thinking about building a seawall on top of it to protect it. I had a view out my window of the cliffs and the waves, which were about a half mile away.
  4. My car was located in a parking garage with others’ cars. At one point, heavy machinery came by and started tearing the parking structure down. Accosting the foreman, I said with some outrage, “My car is parked in that structure in a lower level, along with others.” The others had come out and were nodding and agreeing. The foreman mocked and laughed us while talking about how strong the structure was, that nothing would happen to our cars on the lower decks, but he stopped further activity and walked off looking concerned.
  5. Mom kept finding clothing and items left behind from other visits, such as a gray leather wallet, a black belt, and a pale gray sports coat. The coat was so pale, it was almost white. As I collected these things, I was trying to fit them into my luggage. Remembering the jacket, I decided that I would wear it on my travels home. The gray wallet was in excellent shape, but was empty. I knew it was mine, however, recalling when I bought it in Korea.
  6. A high school friend was present. He kept making suggestions about things to do. When he came up with something, he wrote it down and dated it so it’d be documented when he’d came up with the ideas, so he’d get credit. One of the ideas he’d come up with was building a sea wall on the cliff. I’d already come up with that idea, I explained to him, but it slide off like soft butter on a hotter knife. I started writing things down, too, backdating some of them, so I had proof that I’d thought of them first.
  7. As I packed, I kept trying to decide where to put things and what I wanted to have on me while traveling. While I did that, I found that I had three wallets. How’d I get three wallets? What should I do with them? Having three amused me but I wasn’t surprised.

A lot to think about with this one.

Let It Snow

Mom was born and raised in a little town called Turin, Iowa. Dad was in the military, stationed not far away when they met. When he went overseas on assignment, Mom took the children and moved in with her in-laws in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Whenever she talks about those times, it’s with delighted and happy wistfulness. Dad and Mom divorced but Mom says she never fell out of love with his family. It must be true; after we’d moved around the country while Dad was in the military, she returned to Pittsburgh and grew her roots over sixty years ago.

I’ve asked her, “Why Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania?” Now, her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren are all there, and so she’ll remain. But back then, why?

…she loves the people of Pittsburgh, its hills, bridges, and history, the change of seasons, and summer thunderstorms. More than anything, she loves it when it snows there. When big snowstorms strike, she turns on the heat, opens the curtains and watches the snow.

Back when I was a child in her household, I’d charge outside to play in the snow. Hours later, I’d return. Everything would be stripped off in the basement to be hung up to dry or tossed in the dryer. Hot soup with cheese sandwiches or hot chocolate with marshmallows would inevitably follow, depending on the hour.

I’m thinking of this today because she sent me a video via FB. It’s Frank Sinatra singing, “Let It Snow”. I laughed immediately; I’d seen the weather forecast for Pittsburgh and saw the forecasts for snow, and thought, that’ll make Mom happy.

She always claims we have a psychic connection. Here’s the video. I know all the words. Mom played it back when I was growing up in Pittsburgh whenever the snow began to fall. Listening to it and thinking of her, I just need to smile.

Secretly

The sun is beating on my head through my hat. I’m just the help. It’s a role that I enjoy.

Some.

“Boss me around, baby,” I do NOT say. I stay mute, gloves on hands, left arm in its removable brace, hoe nearby, spade in hand.

My wife is the master, planting her garlic for winter. She’s serious about her garden. Fresh bulbs had been procured, along with the right soil and fertilizer. Potatoes occupy the usual garlic winter home. A new one is required. “Somewhere in the sun,” she proclaims with steely vigor, looking around.

A song spurts into my head. Oh, hey. Did you happen to —

“We need to move the compost bins,” my wife declares.

We’re in the side yard, where most of the gardening is done. Boo, the backyard panther with a white star on his chest (like he’s sheriff) (guess, that would be a floofriff) moseys along toward us, talking as he comes. One compost bin (previously emptied) is moved to a new location. With this happening, Boo retreats to the backyard He wants nothing to do with work.

I shovel the compost from the full one to the empty one’s new location. The song resumes it secret playing in my head. Oh, hey. Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world. And if you did, was she crying?

Yes, Charlie Rich is serenading my brain with “The Most Beautiful Girl” as I do as I’m told. (We’re now on breaking up the soil where the garlic is to reside.) I blame my mother for this song. While Charlie Rich’s voice and the accompanying music is coming off vinyl courtesy of Mom’s mohogany Magnavox console stereo, it’s Mom singing along along with Rich who is actually singing in my head. She used to frustrate me by singing this song when I was trying to talk to her about it. It was apparently funny to her. The song came out in 1973. I would turn seventeen that year. I’d left home a year or two before to live with Dad, but would return to Mom for major holidays. Dad, single guy that he was, didn’t do holidays.

Why did Mom sing that song to me? Why was I singing today? These the mind’s mysteries. At least, they’re my mind’s mysteries. I don’t know what goes on in others’ minds. I barely comprehend what’s happening in my own.

“Now I just need to water them.” My wife was finished. I was dismissed.

It was a good day. Time to go wash my wife’s car. Wonder what song will be playing?

Oh, wait, Rose Royce begins their 1976 hot song, “Car Wash”. I was stationed in the Republic of the Philippines when it was out. My good buddy Bopie introduced it to me.

At least this one is task appropriate.

Layers of Dreams

I was walking, and needed to cross the street to get my car. I decided to sell that car and get a new car. A new car wasn’t available, so I kept walking.

It was a suburban street, one like a winding paved street through a housing sub-division. My mother came by in a car. She was driving a big green convertible. The top was down. Ice cubes filled the back.

She stopped to offer me a ride. I said, “Why are you driving this big boat?” It looked like a ’63 Lincoln. She replied, “It’s my car.”

“Why is the back was filled with ice?”

“In case I need it.”

Thinking, why would anyone need so much ice, I got in the car. She said. “Of course, I really shouldn’t be driving. I’m drunk.”

I said, “Let me drive,” and opened the door to get out. My wallet fell onto the street. I kicked it a little ways away. As I went to get it, my mother drove off. I could see her looking in her rearview, so I kept shaking my head.

I went into a store to buy a new car. As I walked around, I encountered others and realized that I wasn’t wearing a mask. Finding a mask, I put it on and continued walking around. I encountered many others without masks. I always asked them, “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” They began avoiding me and leaving the store.

I was at home. People were coming for a meeting. I was preparing snacks for them. Mom was helping. I arranged food on plates. My wife came up with a large platter of uncut cheeses. “What should we do with these?” she asked.

“Cut them and put them out,” I replied. Then, I cut them all with one knife, making little slices as Mom and my wife watched. As I was placing the slices on plates with other food, someone said, “The plan is changed. We won’t be eating. We’re meeting someone else.”

My wife asked, “What do we do with this cheese?”

I answered, “Wrap it up.” Then I wrapped it up, to show her what I meant.

I still needed a car. Going outside, I found a gleaming black machine. I circled it, admiring it from different perspectives. “I think this is my car,” I told a friend who came by.

He laughed. “Of course it is.” Seeing confusion on my face, he said, “It’s always been your car.”

Dream end.

The Floating Dream

A brief one. I was floating in my home’s dining room, the actual place where I live. Upright, my feet were pointed toward the floor, and I was watching it pass as I floated.

Someone handed me a brown package. “This was just delivered.”

I opened it; my mother had sent me new dress shirts. The one on top was bright blue. There was also new underwear for my wife that she’d been looking for. I called out, “Mom sent me some new shirts and included new underwear for you.”

I awoke. Finding myself flat on my back on my bed, I felt disoriented. The ceiling shouldn’t be facing me, I thought. I’m floating. Sitting up, I realized that I’d been dreaming, but the floating had felt so real.

The Clothes & Garage Dream

I had a large new home which made me proud and happy. Then, dream switch, I was visiting with Mom.

Mom wasn’t home. She and the girls were out. I was about my current age. Mom’s home was the small brick ranch style house where I lived from 1965 to 1972 in Pittsburgh before departing.

In the dream, she had coats hanging up outside, like on a clothes line that stretched from the house to a pole by the street. It was a temporary thing, but she’d had this going on for several days, and it bothered me. When it lightly rained and the rain then turned to ice, I decided that I needed to move them into the garage. However, the garage still needed to house Mom’s car. It was a one-car garage, so that would be a challenge.

Going through the garage, considering angles and materials, I began thinking about how I could do it. My little sisters (who had been out with Mom) arrived and commented on my plans, expressing doubts that it could be done. (They were their current ages and appearances, and in the dream, I wondered if they as little girls were with Mom while their adult selves were present in the garage.) I was gaining confidence that it could, then, and passed off their objections with jokes. They left.

As progress was being made, TC arrived. He and I had been stationed at Onizuka together. The same rank, he retired a few years after I did and moved away.

In the dream, he was coming for a visit. I was expecting him. He showed up in an exoctic burnt orange car, not the kind of vehicle that he would ever drive. He had young twin children with him. I played with them as we exchanged greetings. The car then went off and I realized that he’d been dropped off.

I returned to working on hanging the coats in the garage. I could show progress. TC asked what beers I had. I’d been planning that moment and replied as a joke with the names of a number of cheap American beers such as PBR, Schlitz, and Old Milwaukee. He always drank Miller Lite, and I knew that’s what he wanted.

Then, in a move that surprised me, he said he was going to the neighbor’s house. He said he and the neighbor were friends. As we discussed this, I stepped outside. The light rain had ceased. A car drove by on the street. Dusk was falling. My Mom’s neighbor was at a table in his yard, waiting for TC, who walked toward him.

The dream ended.

Recruiting & Black Powder Dream

Fade in…

They were trying to make me a recruiter. Military? I wasn’t sure.

A friend was a well-established recruiter and something of a star. They wanted me to be like him. When he appeared in my office dream scene, he was well dressed in a navy blue business suit with tie, clean-shaven, with tight, neat hair. He said some things that I couldn’t quite follow, and others asked brief, insightful questions. He answered those, and was gone.

Afterward, the rest said, “See? That’s how it’s done. That’s what we want you to do.”

I agreed. “That’s what I want to do. But how’s it done?”

They told me that I needed to begin by dressing right. I was dressed casually in jeans and a shirt. I need to change that clothing style, and also get a haircut.

I began by trying to cut my hair. It was short in the front, but grew as a long and thick, brambly bush down my back. I couldn’t see my hair, so I was trying to cut it by using my silhouette and a mirror that showed my side profile. Using a power hedge trimmer, I managed to cut some hair but it grew back.

Don, the superstar recruiter, returned. He sat in on a pitch I made. It was okay. I sat with him in his office as he reviewed information and made a pitch. I saw that it didn’t begin with the image. The image was a culmination and result, that his hard work behind the scenes, and intense activity was what created his success. I needed to put a lot more time in.

Fade out.

I’m at a house with Mom and her husband, and other family members. The house is large and the scene is chaotic. A lot of it has to do with everyone’s schedules and the bathrooms. There are two bathrooms, one on each level. Who is using which one? Mom is getting ready to go. It’s involved. She’s dressing, but also looking for her bag.

I find Mom’s back and help her with it. She wants a gun in her back. I find one and put it in. She’s still talking about that, but I keep telling her, “Mom, it’s already in your back.” She replies, “I want a different one.”

My sister is there, advising me on what to do. I’m confused. She tells me to use a litter box to go to the bathroom, then scoop everything up, take it to the bathroom, and flush it away. Her answer exasperates me because it seems ridiculous.

“I don’t want to use the litter box. That’s another and unnecessary step. I want to just use the bathroom.”

She and her friend laugh at that, irritating me.

I go up and watch a plumber work by the front door. An old friend goes by. He’s now my brother. I tell the the plumber that my brother does the same thing that the plumber does. He replies, “Yes, I know, I taught him.”

Scene shift. For some reason, I’m in a robe, in a tub, on wheels. The skin on my entire body is covered what seems to be blackface. It’s a powder, not a grease or lotion. As I rubbed it, I knew that it was sun protection.

My brother-in-law got in his car, a powder-blue Chevy convertible. I discovered that the tub was hitched to the car’s rear. As he started the car, we exchanged questions and answers about what he was doing. He was going to get the mail, it was just a short drive, and I could stay where I was. That horrified me. I didn’t want people to see me like this because they’d get the wrong idea.

Waving that off, he reversed his car. We were in a garage. He told me, “Just sit back and relax.” Then he backed the car up. The tub that I was in gently pushed the doors apart.

He backed into the sunlit driveway and the street with me in the bathtub in a robe in black powder leading the way.

I was mortified but I also enjoyed it. As promised, the drive was brief. People seemed to notice me but none seemed upset. The wind was blowing through my hair and the sun was warm and comfortable.

We pulled into the garage.

Dream end.

 

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