Saturday, January 01, 2005

the first

last night i crashed, a kind of small panic attack when i got to my parents house, which, in hindsight, had been brewing all day, like clouds that grow thicker and more ominous until finally they let loose and the rain just won't stop.

i drugged myself with sleep for most of the afternoon, and awoke to a burst of energy and home repair, mounting a shelf in the bathroom and fixing another. talked to DA, in anticipation of going out or at least, being invited to dinner for New Year's Eve, since he had asked earlier in the morning if he and Diana could spend the night here to get away from a teenage party that would be happening into the wee hours at his house. in the end it was kind of a back-handed invite, "or you could come eat here," which made me suddenly very sad, produced a distinct and lasting catch in my throat, and left me marooned and close to tears when i hung-up, agreeing to talk to them after i had gone to check-in on my parents. maybe i would feel better, i thought. maybe i could rally the persona who didn't care, who could go out and get drunk.

when i arrived, my mother was already eating her supper in her bedroom, sitting up in front of her tray. as is her way now, she chews her food and then spits it out into her hand and makes little piles of macerated bites on the rim of her plate. she has no teeth, and when she talks her mouth is full of food. she groans. My father brings in a glass of champagne for me and a plate of smoked salmon. i don't want either. i sit on the edge of their bed, on the stained quilt in the fetid air, as my mother slowly gets up to go to the bathroom, to sit on the hospital chair over the toilet bowl in full view of my father and me. i cannot breathe. i cannot talk. i cannot feel anything but disgust.

I am dangerously close to tears as he and I escape to have our dinner. We sit at the dining room table, with two of the five candles lit, his nose running with a cold which he assures me will be gone by morning. The food is cold, as if it has been sitting there for a long time, and the plate he gives me has a leftover piece of steak, two thin asparagus, and a half a cold baked potato. He doesn’t seem to notice that there is almost no food on my plate—has he just not cooked enough or eaten it all before I arrived? I ask him about whether he’s thought any more about the Cedars and he is non-committal, saying he wants to get my mother ‘stronger’ so that she can cope on her own when he goes to New York. You have to go, I say. I don’t want to spend the money for someone to stay, he says. I’ll do it, I say. We’ll see, he says.
There is a strong smell of gas and when I go to turn-off the burners, one explodes with the loud and frightening, built-up bang.

I flee as he walks upstairs to watch a television show and with my mother sound asleep, the bandanna around her dirty hair fallen down across her forehead. The sobs come quickly as I steer blindly down their driveway, the humid fifty-degree air fogging the windshield. I call DA. I can’t have you stay tonight, I say. I need to be alone.

I am caught in my own maelstrom, hurricane-force winds of grief and loss blowing me over, around and down.


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