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Tag: Mother

Hunger Mother

I only want to be near you, so I lie on your king-sized heated waterbed. You wear one of dad’s white, v-neck undershirts. I smell Tide laundry detergent and Aqua Net hair spray, but never cigarettes. How? You smoke Virginia Slims all day and after returning from your night shift at the nursing home. Cigarettes, coffee with cream, and conversation are all you need in the morning before bed. I am your captive audience. Dust motes dip and dive in the sunny slant of space between us. I don’t understand the medical jargon you use to describe your patients. It doesn’t matter.

The bed is a cocoon, a wayward point where we connect. I snuggle up against your warm, tall body. You begin to read aloud, and I watch your long, slender fingers turn the pages of a thick blue book embossed with gold lettering. The poetry isn’t highbrow, but I don’t know the difference. You read “Casey at the Bat” by Luther Patrick and “Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer.

Did you ever sleep at the foot of the bed

When the weather was a-whizzin’ cold

When the wind was whistlin’ around the house

And the moon was “yeller” as gold

You give your good warm mattress up

To Aunt Lizzie and Uncle Fred

Too many kinfolks on a bad night

So you went to the foot of the bed.

I have heard these poems dozens of times and still believe the ending will be different. Maybe this time, Casey won’t strike out, and there will be joy in Mudville. Perhaps you won’t die, and I can hold on to you. These stories hold us together. In our daily lives, we orbit one another like satellites on separate paths. 

You are the woman who, when I am in elementary school and I cannot find my favorite dress, chases me around our dining room table. Getting caught means you will spank me, and your fury rises as I evade you. You become so enraged you take off one of your white Keds sneakers and throw it at me. It strikes me in the forehead, and I cry from pain but also from the shock of the sudden, cruel blow. I stop running.

At twenty-three, I am raped. Your silence is a hammer blow. I am to blame, you say with your stony facade. I am always to blame. “Go to your support group. Talk to your therapist.” You say this over and over. You are an experienced nurse, but you don’t know how to help me. Perhaps you don’t want to.

You cook delicious meals and wonderful desserts. Chicken with fluffy dumplings,  moist meatloaf and creamy mashed potatoes, grilled pork chops with applesauce, biscuits with thick sausage gravy, crisp-edged, fried baloney sandwiches with mayonnaise on Wonder bread, homemade pineapple upside-down cake with sweet yellow rings of fruit and brown sugar, gooey chocolate chip and walnut cookies, cherry cobbler topped with strips of buttery pie crust, and pecan pie made with dark Karo syrup. Maybe this food is your love, and I can’t get enough. I will never get enough. 

Three days before Christmas, you have a heart attack at home. You are wearing another of Dad’s t-shirts. Your bright yellow vomit covers the front, and the paramedics cut it up the middle as they try to restart your damaged and diseased heart. They will fail.

In my dreams of you now, we are back in that bed. You are wearing a clean white t-shirt, and my grown body wraps around you. The bed becomes a magic carpet, and we float up, weightless. “Please don’t go,” I say, but it is already too late. You dissolve before my eyes. You become fog and evaporate, and chill my empty arms.

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