I call her earlier than normal, mid-day, to tell her we’ve not been hurt in the explosion.
I can tell when she answers that she’s been awake, though her voice still wears sleep like a nightgown,
but, before I can deliver my news, keep her from worrying–
“tell me,” she asks, “is our family all dead?”
I walk out to the porch, sit in a dilapidated rocking chair. It is the rocking chair where I nursed my first child, though, of course, it was indoors then, Brooklyn.
I want to say, Mom! Mom, are you okay!? But her voice is too subdued, serious, for me to remonstrate.
“Do you mean your family?” I ask at last.
“Yes, you know–” She names a sister, brother.
“Yes,” I say, “yes, they are.”
She is quiet. Then talks of how that was what she thought, how she realized that she hadn’t heard from them. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
I tell her that for some, it has been many years–”how, you know, they smoked.”
She admits, one of the first times ever, that her memory’s just not so good anymore.
Though I can be hard as nails against her bragging, I dispute that. I tell her how she couldn’t get to some of the funerals, how, because she took such incredible care of my dad back then, she just couldn’t travel. No wonder the deaths might not seem very real, I say.
She thanks me for going through it all.
I don’t usually rock this chair, the cushion completely shot, but feeling now the edge of the board at my thigh, I rock, as I tell her about New York City, the homemade bomb, how she will hear of it on TV,
but how none of us was even there this weekend, how, thankfully, no one died–
“Oh yes,” she says. (She thinks she did see something.) “Oh good,” she says. “Thanks
for letting me know.”
As we talk, I think of how her dearest sister died the day my first child was born, how my mother went from one hospital to another, how that was a funeral that I couldn’t make, what with the baby.
I think of how she’d complained, later, about the pink gown they’d dressed her sister in, her sister who would never have been seen in such a pink gown, she said, her sister who worked out in the world, her sister, who, whenever she dressed up, would wear a suit–
the gown as real to me in that instant as if I had been there, my aunt’s still, pale, face above its folds. I want to say, “You remember, right? That pink gown?”
But I can’t do that to her, even if it would trigger something, her sister–
Draft short story of sorts for Real Toads Open Link. Pic is of a sculpture made of foil, cardboard, by Jason Martin.