She still has that dark line running up the back of each bare leg. Women did that during the Depression and World War II: drew lines up their legs to simulate the seams of the stockings they could no longer buy. Each time I see this cashier I wonder if she’s making a statement, an unspoken protest about the present state of our economy. Or maybe she’s an immigrant and this is simply the fashion where she comes from, I consider, forgetting for a moment that I’ve heard her voice. She speaks pure Michigander, just like me.
My mother’s pasta sauce always tasted just right to me, even though she often didn’t remember my favorite foods while I was growing up. She didn’t remember that I hated ham, that I wouldn’t eat mayonnaise. For years, my three brothers and I didn’t understand why my mother was the way she was because we didn’t know. All we knew was that she forgot our birthdays, confused our names.
I tried pills first, and when I woke up the next morning, I decided to jump off a bridge. The bridge swayed under my feet that night as I stood beside my car, hazard lights still on. I walked a few feet. I thought about my son asleep next to Holly, my wife, who will soon be my ex-wife. I thought about my daughter growing inside of my wife, who will soon be my ex-wife. I thought about the man, with whom I had had the affair…
We sit on the worn couch, as we do every visit. Once pale gold velvet, now smoke-stained and yellowed. We rub the dingy fabric one direction, smooth. The other direction, prickly against our fingertips.
Grandpa and Grandma sit in their twin recliners drinking martini after martini, smoking cigarette after cigarette. We “sit still” on this couch, we “quiet down” on this couch, we “KNOCK IT OFF!” on this couch; the grown-ups are talking.
My challenge is—and always has been—that I’m not particularly good at any one thing. I’m not much of an athlete (OK. I have zero hand-to-eye coordination; it’s a good day if I get the pantyhose on straight), I can’t sing, and trust me you don’t ever want to see me try to dance. I could say I excel at making lasagna, but even my success here is attributed to Aunt Mary Ann’s recipe.
I was nervous when I first picked up Bobblehead Dad, Jim Higley’s new memoir about his battle with cancer. Ever since I became a mother, four years ago, my emotional quota has essentially been drained. Watching, hearing about, or reading anything where parents or children die or deal with death really bothers me. This rules out watching any Lifetime Movie. I was convinced that by the end of the book, I would be sobbing uncontrollably while hugging my daughters. So, just in case, I placed a box of tissues within arm’s reach.