Wednesday, March 5, 2014
I knew she was mad when I called because her coldness hit me in the stomach only this time I wasn't going on another one of her guilt trips. Yes, it had been over a week since I had called but their phone was out of order and it slipped my mind to mention that fact. Life's been busy, I'm a grandma now, the freelance business I've dreamed of is taking off and my husband is turning into an old man faster than expected. She didn't hear me, I sensed daydreaming on the other end of the phone. Of all the women I have known in my life, she is the only one who can slice my heart in half with her lack of words and then piece it together with a homemade pie and a great story, often ending with, if you love Jesus, you'll call your old mother once in awhile. No, I'm not going on another guilt trip! This time she didn't say it, instead I heard her say, I love you.
"I love you too, mom." We come in all shapes and sizes with different perspectives, feeling tossed together like a jigsaw puzzle, and I just wanted my piece to fit snugly next to her piece without feeling lost in a box where all the pieces are black, the hardest kinds of puzzles to finish! The phone call lasted thirty minutes and left us both equally frustrated for words not spoken but cordial out of respect for each other.
Hanging up, the kitchen light reflected on the portrait my oldest son had drawn and colored for me when he was in first grade. My smile was huge and he colored me with green eyes, greener than my real ones. He had drawn a baby in my arms, him as a newborn. How I've treasured this picture for so many years that gives me such joy. Still feeling flattened, the phone rang again but this time it was my son, the artist of the picture I was viewing! He was on his way over to see me after working a long ten hours on the dock at his job. No wonder he drew a big smile on that face, he knows how much I love him!
Thirty minutes later, enough time to gloat and feel pumped up again, he arrived looking somewhat flattened himself. Red eyed and in need of a shower, I offered him cooked scrabbled eggs, broccoli and couscous without the coffee since our breakfast would be his dinner hour.
"Mom, you don't have to feed me," he said. "I'm here to get my invitation. Man, why don't people remember my address?" he moaned and I knew he had been awake far too long.
"It's not personal, sometimes it's easier to send all the invitations to one house," I counseled.
"Well, it makes me feel like a little kid," he added. "Oh! My picture! That's funny, you still have it, I like the frame, yeah, I will have some of that food." Thank God the conversation had changed to something less stressful.
"I remember how hard I worked on that in school, it took a long time and I was so proud." he remembered. "I wanted to get your happy face and accidentally made the teeth bigger than your real ones."
"It's perfect, I will always love it the way it is, " I sighed.
"NO! That's not what you said mom. I was so proud of it and you laughed and told me I made you look fat and ugly," he said. "I thought I was a terrible artist or you would have liked it."
"I'm sorry, is that why you stopped drawing? I dream about you all the time and you're painting pictures of Indians, everyone loves them, I feel sick, I'm so sorry!" I cried.
"It's ok mom, I'm over it, I need to go home and get to sleep. Thanks for finding a nice frame for it."
"Promise me you'll get back to sketching again," I moaned. "Your sister dreams about your paintings too."
"Yeya! I had one last night, they're huge canvases and I'm jealous because I want some of those, "she yelled from upstairs.
"Heh, maybe I'll start drawing again for fun and be in galleries," he laughed while we hugged and walked to the door.
Paul, my first born child, great teacher to his mother, helping to solve life's riddles for thirty six years together looked ten feet tall in that moment with the bluest eyes and huge white teeth, and that's how I would have drawn him. Suddenly, his short visit had warped time. My deadlines didn't exist, there was no competition and plenty of time to phone my mom again. She didn't come to the phone, she was in the shower but it's ok, I'll call again tomorrow. For now I'll be grateful for unsaid words and a more colorful puzzle picture. Heh, looks like another artist got added to the box!