Thursday, December 1, 2011

My Mother

I remember my mother sitting up in bed after my father left us. She had an empty bottle in her hands of his finest whiskey, her eyes closed and her lips parted as she breathed deeply. For a moment, my brother and I debated whether or not she had drunk the contents of the bottle, or if it had been emptied before my father packed up. She stayed in bed for weeks: she ate alone in her bedroom, slept during the day and paced the room at night. I remember how her tanned Italian-American skin grew pale day by day, until she was as light as our Irish father. She kept the curtains closed at all times, and the only light in her room was dimming and she refused to replace the bulb. I remember the first day she left her bedroom – it had been almost a month. My brother and I were downstairs; he was reading the newspaper and I was doing homework. She looked so fragile in her over sized clothing as she descended the stairs. She was like a ghost and she seemed to look right through us. Even when I sarcastically welcomed her back into reality, she ignored our existence – my mother hated sarcasm. I remember her silence more than anything else. When my father was around, she yelled more than she talked, but she was still a pretty quiet person. Her words meant more that way. But after he left, she barely even yelled. She just drifted from home to work to home, always in silence. My brother and I would compete to see who could make her talk the most, at least until he went and joined the Army. After that, I started to have conversations with my mother’s silence. I would ask a question and pretend that she had answered, before continuing on a conversation. If my father had come home during that time, he would have thought I had started drinking with how crazy I sounded during dinner time when I’d ask, “How was your day, Mom?” and I’d wait a moment before saying, “I’m sorry that it wasn’t enjoyable. I know that Suzanne drives you up the wall at work. But didn’t you say that she was taking some vacation time soon?” Another pause before continuing, “Maybe California will calm her nerves and she’ll come back a new woman.” My mother didn’t react at all to my conversations; she could have been deaf. I remember the day I left, I gave her a hug – a last attempt at a mother-daughter relationship, and she was limp in my arms. I pulled away, got into a taxi to take me to the train station, and she had turned her back to go back into the house before I even started the engine.

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