Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The Album
The apartment is toxic. We have only been inside for ten-minutes and already I am feeling heavy and suffocated. She is in her bedroom, pulling herself along the bed, dragging her legs behind. He is on the couch, ignoring us and intently watching a movie I don't recognize with the closed-captioning on. A silent car chase and a black box spells out Crash.

Finally, she emerges from the bedroom, moving quicker now, with wheels beneath her. She is my mother's younger sister, not yet turned fifty.

I left the medicare page bookmarked for you. She says to him (her husband of fifteen years) and he doesn't respond.

The hell with them, he says, turning to my mother and I and launching into a ten-minute speech about our corrupt government and how the world is out to screw him. He quotes Michael Moore and rants about the evils of the Whitehouse - reading books to children and sleeping with Bin Laden. Listening to him makes me tired. Thankfully, she is ready: jacket on, earmuffs placed crookedly over her head, gloves shoved in her pockets. Her eyes roll,
Let's go.

The cold today is relentless; stepping into it is like being slapped on the cheeks. She wheels through the doors and winces, but all she says is, Remind me to take my seizure meds at three.

We came to take her out of their apartment. It's our weekly committment, to give them each space. Trapped in that apartment, they're both bitter and biting at one another. She cries. He drinks and retreats to his bedroom. She worries, but knows better than to question him when she smells pot seeping from the crack under his door. He throws things; sometimes they bounce and bruise her legs and arms. He denies everything, but her skin turns black then purple and yellow then back to milky ivory, stretched loosely over swollen green veins.

We take her to a local diner to eat before Christmas shopping at a nearby discount store. She is nursing a plate of liver and onions with strips of shriveled bacon and a scoop of mashed potatoes. It's all shiny and brown and it makes me queasy to look at.

Instead, I flip through a book she has handed me. It is a small plastic album filled with pictures of herself and her boys; her granddaughters and various other people of note in her life. Siblings. Parents. Nieces and nephews - each photograph labeled on the back with dates and explanations: My boys and I - 1988. My boys - 1984. Our wedding - 1991; she is young and beautiful.

I look at her now, carefully slicing through a long brown onion, still beautiful - despite a toothless smile and soft cheeks that sink in around her lips. Her eyes are the same sparkling green, but lined at the corners with delicate crows feet. I stare at her legs in the pictures; they're not dangling from a wheelchair, covered in a flannel blanket. In the pictures, they're strong and standing, holding up the weight of her small body, dancing even.

At her both of her son's weddings, she managed to stand just long enough to dance their mother-son dance - gripping them tightly around their necks and balancing her small feet on theirs. She hasn't walked in years.

She explains the album to us while she chews. She keeps it on her at all times; just incase a stranger finds her dead and is searching for explanation. Oh Kara, my mom gasps and reaches to stroke her sister's arm. But Kara isn't sad, she thinks she's being practical. Her doctors gave her less than 5 years to live - 8 years ago.

I turn my nose back to the album - my high school senior portrait is tucked neatly into a plastic slit. We share a smile. Her world was a different place when I gave her that picture. Not perfect; but not toxic either. She was already in her wheelchair, her health was terrible and money was always a problem - but at least he was still a friend and partner - a husband. They even slept in the same room.

Sometimes, she says while wiping a napkin over her lips, I want to take those wedding pictures and wallpaper my bedroom with them.



Blogger MER said...
Blogger LJ said...

This piece is just...stunning. Perfect.
It absolutely made me ache.

Blogger Minnie said...

I think your a great writer, I have been reading your blog for the past two weeks and the way you express your thoughts is truly interesting and easy to relate to.
Hopefully you will find your dream home shortly don't settle for anything less than the best.

Blogger Susanna Rose said...

Mella, I totally felt as though I was entering into the atmosphere created in this piece as I read it! I especially like the parts about her looking through old pictures, etc. I think everyone can remember special times when their grandmother/mother or whomever has looked through old picture,carefully marked and told stories about them,etc. It makes me think how important it is that my husband and I start putting our pictures in albums and marking them too!(: Cool.

P.S. Here's wishing you a late HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! Hope you had a good day and stuffed yourself!!!

Blogger mreddie said...

The story is very touching and I almost felt like I was there. I'm glad for her that she has someone like you and your Mom to bring a little peace and relief into her life. ec

Blogger LDahl said...

Beautifully written!!
So sad and yet not at the same time, so much warmth too!

Blogger Oberon said...

.......i want to wallpaper a wall with sunday comics.

Blogger Casually Me said...

I enjoy your writing style and pace. Thanks.

Blogger Mella said...

Thank you, all.

Blogger JunieRose2005 said...

I just discovered your blog last night and all day today I have found myself drawn back here!

I enjoy your stories and am sorry for the painful things that have happened to you!

...But isn't it a blessing to be able to write out your feelings, whether they be sad or happy ones!!

I have always felt that to be true!

Junie Rose

Blogger Weird said...

Another great story. Thanks!


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