Dinner was at Momma's tonight. Every time I'm with her, I want to be closer to her. When I'm in her presence, I'd agree to almost anything, so long as it put me closer to her.
I found myself watching her tonight, looking for signs. Signs of where I've come from, and where I'm going. I see my lines in her lips and eyes - hers are where mine are going. I want to know everything she's ever seen, touched, tasted, heard, thought. All of it. I could spend the rest of my life by her side and not know it all. Especially the parts she doesn't want to share. Which is most of it, I fear.
She knows Zanzibar. Z-bar, she called it. She used to do shots there, with so and so from the hairdresser board, back in the seventies. Do I even know this woman? She said we should go there on my birthday, and do shots. My mother. "I can't do shots, Momma, I get too drunk." "Me too, Nat. You do those five dollar things they sell in the test tubes that aren't very strong, then you can do a bunch." WTF? Are we really having this conversation?
The stories my dad tells with passion, she doesn't remember. Daddy says he has the letters to prove it, Momma says, "we need to burn those" and my heart skips a beat - Daddy's promised to protect and save them for me, but what if she really does get to them first? My beginnings are in those words, and there's a door there to the people my parents were before they were parents, and I desperately want to know those people. She wouldn't really burn them, would she?
My great-grandmother is 99 years old. She's recently been admitted into a nursing home with dementia. For 20 years, I've had this idea that one day I go visit her with a tape recorder and ask her to tell me all of her earliest memories - what it was like as a teenager during the depression, how it was to birth 9 children at home, did she really have to boil the laundry? What did she do when she had her period? What was it like to be celibate for 40+ years? What was the truth behind that story about the time she cut her hair and her Daddy cried?
It's too late for my questions now. I've missed my window. My Granny's gone too, and with her the first-hand account of how she met and fell in love with my Papaw, who, seeing her for the first time, pointed at her through a diner window and said to his buddy, "That's the woman I'm going to marry." I'll never be able to get clarification on that raw egg she said saved my Aunt Pam's life when Pam was just a baby and barely able to hold down any formula. What was it like when she went to the hospital, when they shocked her with electricity for having what is now recognized as postpartum depression? Raising teenagers in the late 60s, early 70s? Finding out at 40 that you've got a degenerative disease? Losing the love of your life after 43 years when your plans for the day included lunch and fishing? Learning, by accident, that you have cancer, and deciding not to say anything to anyone because all you want is to be reunited with him? Granny said her peace, I suppose; I wish I would've listened more closely. The words I remember first, these days, when I remember her voice, are "There's no use crying over spilled milk." I remember my outrage, "You're SO MUCH MORE than spilled milk, Granny."
These women in my life. These strong, deep women, who've taught me so many lessons, but it feels like I was only barely listening, and then, just on the surface. Now I find myself wanting desperately to know more, so much more - but so much is lost, gone forever.
My Momma's still here. She has so many things to tell me, about all of her wonderful adventures, and she doesn't even realize. She's a hard shell, but she'll talk to me one of these days. I need to go around more often - not just to get her stories, but because I love her probably more than any other one person in the entire world and it makes her happy to see my face. And I love it when she talks to me. I love her voice. I love holding her hands. I love putting my arms around her and feeling her bony little shoulders. I love the way she feels when she hugs me, even if she is a little stand-offish sometimes. I love how nice she is to me, and how she's always supportive. She told me tonight that I sing better than her and I think I've never received a higher compliment; her praise is worth a hundred times the value of the most precious metal.
Twenty minutes, that's how long it takes to drive from my house to hers. I let weeks and months go by without a visit - sometimes I saw her more when I lived in Michigan. I am ashamed. Every time I see her I say to myself, self, from now on you will see your Momma at least once a week, and then I do nothing; I don't go see her, I barely call her, I am pathetic and horrible.
I keep thinking there's going to be a day that comes where a switch is thrown and all of a sudden I have to see my Momma three or four times a week and I will be a good and diligent daughter...and then I think, yeah, that'll probably happen when I have a baby...and then I think, but what if I don't ever have a baby? Will there be no switch? Oh, and holy crap, I'm a terrible person for not giving them grandkids yet, what if I never do, I'm a horrible daughter...
And I have to admit, I'm always sorta worried that there really is a Heaven like Granny and Papaw described it, and they're totally watching me when I'm masturbating, and I wonder how they'd feel about that, because I know that they'd fucking hate that I've had all that pre- and post-marital sex, but we never really talked about the masturbation thing and I hope that they look away if they're given the option to watch.
And now that I've typed that paragraph out loud, I may never be able to masturbate again.
Which is sort of a shame, because now what am I going to do with that 8 minutes of my lunch break?
And now I can't believe a post that started out about a visit to my parents' house for dinner has turned into a discussion about my sick or dead grandparents and then masturbation...