Jekyll Island Beach 2012

Jekyll Island Beach 2012

Saturday, June 5, 2010

THE ROAD HOME, Chapter 2

The Rogue Speaks:

I awake in semi-darkness. Rod’s side of the bed is empty, and I know he has taken off for his morning walk, leaving me here to sleep off a little of the stress he knows I feel. I rise and struggle to open the dusty blinds, only to discover that vines climbing the wall have covered the window, letting in very little light. The trees in the heavily wooded yard are tall and thick. They hang over the house like a shroud.

I feel my tears trying to reach the surface, but I push them back with a promise that when I have completed this mission and am back safely on the road home, I will let them flow, washing over me like a much-needed rain shower, clearing away a little more of the debris still left over from my shattered childhood.

I throw on my sandals and cross the hall to Mum’s room. I peek in and see Mum, lying so very, very still. I wait nervously by the door, and finally I see her chest rise and fall. Satisfied that she is still indeed with us, I creep down the darkened hallway, the wood floor creaking with every step. The hall is as dark as it was the night before, and the light from the windows in Mum’s room seems to stop at her doorway.

Even though he had help designing the layout of the house, Rod’s dad had had the last word, just as he always demanded. I’ve often wondered if he ever regretted his decisions, especially of the paneling in the living room, the hall, and in the bedroom where we were sleeping. That wood seemed to suck up any light that might have trickled in from the outside. Even at midday, the rooms were very dark, the hallway, like a tunnel. The first time we brought the little girls here to see their great-grandmother many years ago, they became frightened of all the darkness and were hesitant to enter the living room where she sat, waiting to greet them.

I cross the living room into the kitchen. The light is a little brighter in here, but not much. The plastic clock on the kitchen wall says 12:40. I take it from the wall and discover that the battery has corroded. Mum has never lived in this house alone. At one time or another, all her children, with the exception of Rod, have found refuge here for some reason after they became adults. Surely someone could have taken the time to change the battery, for God’s sake! Now they are all gone, and Mum is here alone. There is no one here to tell me I have no right to do it, so I ceremoniously dump the clock in the trash. It will never be missed.

I finally find the coffee and put on a pot. The few coffee mugs that are left each have at least one chip, and I find the one with the least damage. I pour myself a cup, and decide to sit on the back patio to clear my head of the odor of the cats that permeates any room in which there are rugs.

I pause at the sliding door, noting that there is the carcass of a headless chipmunk on the other side of the glass. I opt for the front porch instead, grabbing my cell phone in order to check the time. I am shocked to discover that it is already 10:30. I would never sleep as long as I had if we were home. There, the sunlight floods our room almost as soon as it rises over the highest peak of the Catalinas, its warm glow welcoming us into a new day.

Rod trudges up the steep driveway, his shirt soaked in sweat from the humidity and his hilly walk. “Is Mum still sleeping?” he asks.

“Yes,” I reply. “I’ve made coffee, but you’ll have to get some Equal out of the glove box. Oh, and while you’re at it, could you please remove the dead chipmunk at the patio door? And hose off the area? While you are completing that task, I’ll go check on Mum!”

He gives me a rather squeamish look and goes off to find the Equal, and a shovel.

Mum has begun to stir in the hospital bed that hospice has provided. She sees me and smiles. “I thought I had dreamed you were here!”

“We’re really here, Mum, and we are going to stay with you for a while!” I tell her and give her a big smile, and a kiss.

She reaches out her hands for me to take. They are icy cold, despite the fact that she has been sleeping under a mountain of blankets, in a winter gown and heavy socks. I begin to feel a great sorrow, remembering the way she was when we were children, with her beautiful black hair and brilliant blue eyes. Rod’s dad used to say that there was only one beautiful woman in Edmonton, and he married her. He had brought her to Atlanta to live when Rod was nine.

I help her with her robe and into the wheelchair for a trip to the bathroom. After her morning ablutions, I wheel her down the darkened hall and into the kitchen. She wants to have her breakfast on the patio. I check to be sure the chipmunk has been removed, and wheel her out, grateful to be out of doors.

“I just love it out here!” she announces, smiling her “Mum” smile at me. “Could you get me a blanket, dear? The one that you made for me? It’s so soft and warm! I use it every day!” She has mentioned that knitted lap robe every Sunday when we talk to her by phone, along with a litany of every single thing I have ever given her in the last 25 years. How she remembers all of that, I will never know. What she has given me in return, she will probably never know.

I make her favorite breakfast of peanut butter toast, slices of sharp cheddar, coffee with cream and honey, and some fruit. Rod, all showered, and dressed, joins us on the patio. We both begin encouraging Mum to eat. She is painfully thin, a far cry from her strong, sturdy self, a woman who once though nothing of climbing two flights of stairs, carrying a large, old-style portable television set.

Almost thirty minutes later, she has eaten two bites of a quarter piece of toast, and is again asleep, in the patio lounge chair. Rod and I sit looking at each other, the weight of what we are doing here pushing down on us in equal measure.



JoeyMau said...

Powerful, Mom. Really.

Judie said...

Thanks, Joey. I have no idea where this is taking me, but I am compelled to do it. I love you,son.

art4allofu said...

...continue the compulsion! This is not only cleansing for you, it is legacy for your (and Rod's) family.

Judie said...

You are my family, too. Together, we are the good and evil twins. Which do you want to be???

Elisa said...

This is very good. Kind of bittersweet since it's also true. :/

boomer pie said...

Thanks Judie, for dropping by my blog and leaving a comment. You are an eloquent writer and I was very moved by your post.

Judie said...

Elisa, I am wondering if I am telling too much truth. I feel like I am committed to this, though, so I guess I'll keep on going.

Boomer Pie, ditto! I'll be back to check you out again, and again.

nothingprofound said...

Judie-it's wonderful to read this, though it must be painful to write. I just love your use of concrete detail, it makes everything so real. I know how painful it is to watch a once vibrant person's slow decline. The helplessness one feels-and of course the reminder of one's own mortality.

The Guy's Perspective said...

"She has mentioned that knitted lap robe every Sunday when we talk to her by phone, along with a litany of every single thing I have ever given her in the last 25 years. How she remembers all of that, I will never know. What she has given me in return, she will probably never know."

My favorite part. This is so true. I've had many of my former third grade students contact me to tell me how much they appreciated me. How wonderful is that?! And it's often the ones I would never have expected. Very sweet.

I don't know where you're going, but I'm bracing myself.

Judie said...

Marty, Rod keeps reminding me that I am not in control of what happens, and that I can't fix this. I guess you realized that there are two stories playing out here. I may not be able to fix one, but I am trying to fix the other.

Sae, I am don't know where I am going with this either--every time I think I do, something else jumps up and begs to be dealt with.

I can do this.

Sarah said...

How precious it is to be able to spend time with her. Your presence is a great gift for her. Keep us posted please.

Joann Mannix said...


I'm back from my little break. This post was many things: sad, beautiful, riveting and powerful. I can feel your heart in every single word. I hope you decided to take us further with us. I'm sure it must be so hard, but it is indeed beautiful.

Judie said...

Sara, I have known Mum since I was nine years old. She what the believers in reincarnation would call a "young spirit." Because she has always been so naive and vulnerable, she has been taken advantage of. When I came into the family 25 years ago, I vowed to try to put an end to that foolishness. I think I have made a difference (Rod's siblings are always a little scared of us when whe come.), at least I hope I have.

Joann, for some reason unknown to me at this time, I feel compelled to see this thing through to the end. Some days I think I know where it is going, but then another piece of the puzzle turns up in an unlikely place, and changes the view.

Thank you again for the rose. It could not have come at a better time. I was feeling so lost and out of my element, and needed a touchstone--that was it!

Angelia Sims said...

Incredible Judie, I am in that house, wading through the murkiness, and steeling myself against the smells and heartbreak. On to part 3 now.

Judie said...

Angelia, the real murkiness is yet to come. Thanks for following my journey.