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Monday, September 15, 2014

Turn On and Tune Out

Since Gene Dall bonked his head in 2002, he's met with a neurologist for routine check-ups.  This is done to ensure that all the parts of his brain damaged in the fall remain stable as he continues to be alive and enjoy his life.  Although my dad has never been the same since the accident, his condition hasn't varied much. Perhaps my mother was right.  He may just bury us all.

I pulled the car into the driveway next to the medical building.  I could see my parents sitting on a bench in the vestibule, right beside the elevator.  Big Mare chatted with an older lady holding a small child.  I tapped the horn gently to get my mother's attention.  She waved for me to come in.

I looked at the clock on the dashboard of my vehicle.  I had roughly thirty five minutes to drop my folks back at their place and get my ass to a meeting. Recognizing that my mother viewed doctor appointments as prime opportunities for socializing with brand new friends, I beeped again.  This time, a little more deliberately.

Mom stood up and opened the glass door.
"Mary, you have to see this baby!" she called to me.
I rolled the passenger window down, hoping to divert her interest.
"Is Daddy okay?" I asked.
My question hung in the air between us, completely disregarded.

"Honey, please.  This'll just take a second," she assured me.
"Damn it," I grumbled under my breath.  I squeezed my left hand into a little fist and gently punched my thigh.  I steered into a parking space and ran across the lot.

"How'd it go?" I asked my mom when I got inside.
"Look at those cheeks," Big Mare said.  "Did you ever?"
She squeezed my hand lovingly.

The most adorable baby on earth cooed and kicked its enormous legs in our direction.  It tugged on my mother's boney fingers as if they were candy canes.
"This is my youngest," Mom continued her conversation with the woman who I assumed was the child's grandmother.
"It's nice to meet you," I smiled.
"Likewise," the lady replied.  "Your mother's been singing your praises."
"Oh, well… I appreciate that."

Big Mare looked my way.  "Give a guess what her name is.  Pearl."
She volunteered this information without waiting for a response and returned her attention to the baby.
"You are Grandma's precious gem.  Yes, you are."

The three of us chatted for a little while longer, basking in the contagious joy that a happy child brings.  Glancing at my watch, I mentioned that we should leave.  I helped my father to his feet, buttoned his coat and signaled for Big Mare to wrap things up.  I herded my parents onto the sidewalk and fetched the car from its spot in the yard.

After securing them in the Blazer, I climbed behind the wheel and rolled out onto the avenue.
"So, what'd the doctor say?" I asked Mom's reflection in the rear view mirror.
 "Well, I'm still falling apart," she reported from the back seat. "But the dumb bastard next to you… He's gonna live forever."  She gestured toward my father who grinned sweetly and stared straight ahead.
"So, it's good news, right?"
"Whoop-de-doo," my mother said.

Gene Dall watched the cars taking turns as they proceeded through the intersection.
"You can go," he informed me quietly.
I looked at him and then, at the traffic signal.  My old man was right.  The light was green.
"I guess I should pull my head out of my ass, huh?"
"That'd be nice," he said.

We drove in silence for a few minutes.  I turned the radio on, and immediately, my mother started speaking.
"Oh, Mary.  That poor woman," she began.
I switched the radio off so I could hear what she was saying.

"Who?  The one in the lobby?"
"Her daughter's on the junk and can't be trusted.  She and her husband have to raise that baby," she said.
"That's rough," I replied.
"It's a disgrace is what it is," Big Mare corrected me.
"I don't know, Mom," I added thoughtfully.  "If I ever pick up again, you two might have to raise Desmond and Brother."
"Jesus Christ, honey.  Don't even joke like that."

"What about David?" Daddy asked.
I considered my husband briefly.
"Well, he'll more than likely go off the deep end.  I suppose that means you guys gotta take care of business."
"I'd hang you if you ever did that to those children."
"I'll try not to, Mom."
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," Big Mare decided.
My father laughed.

I pulled into the courtyard of their apartment complex.
"I sure could go for a cup of coffee," my mother hinted, not so subtly.
"It'll have to be next time, my dear," I said.
I really hated disappointing her, but I was focused on my commitment.
"There's a meeting at noon, so I better get moving."

"Why?" she asked.  "What's the matter?" she grabbed my shoulder.
"Nothing," I replied.  "I just wanna go.  It's good to check in."
"Tell me," she insisted.  "What's wrong?"
"Everything's fine, Mom."

"I wish you'd just forget all that shit.  Can't you?"
Big Mare wanted to help.  She really did.
"Oh, boy.  It should be that easy," I said.

"It's like whenever your father does something to piss me off, I just tune him out.  I try to pretend he's not even there.  Otherwise, I might let him choke to death some day when he's eating his lunch."
"Hooray for lunchtime!" Gene Dall announced.

"Listen, bitchface," Mom paused, poking me in the neck.  "You need to forget that shit and stop thinking about it.  Tune it out, once and for all!  There's your answer," she declared.
"I don't remember asking you a question."
"Do you understand me?"
"Yes, Mom."
"Promise me you'll forget it."
"I'll do what I can."

"Now, how about that coffee?" she asked.
"I'll come back after the meeting," I suggested.
"Suit yourself.  See you in an hour."

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