ways it used to be

26 August 2015 – At mom’s. Got here just after 10. No car in drive. Front door locked. Phone inside ringing. Knocked, rang doorbell. No answer. Went around back. Door locked. Checked under old milk jug—where spare key’s been stowed for as long as I can remember. Sure enough.

Made tea. Sat on the back veranda. Gazed at the lake. Its morning stillness. The marina in the distance. Soft clouds in the sky grazing.

Wandered the yard. Never seen it in such a state. Overgrown with weeds. Little indication that mom had kept up with her intent to garden—even before she caught the green bug she had a thing for weeding and making it look nice and keeping the paths clear. Especially the one down to the water. Crowded out now by a mass of thistle.

Suggesting that the lake itself rarely features in her day-to-day activities. Very odd. Mom has always liked being near the lake. Even if she didn’t go in, she regularly set herself up a chair at the water’s edge and could sit for ages flipping through her magazines.

I pushed through the thistle. Found the chair. On its side, scarcely visible in the maw of grasses that are spikily consuming it. Toed through the stinky muck of algae blanketing the soft shore. Stood on the dock. Sun speckling off the lake. All the trees surrounding. The bosom of land cleaved by sky. Turned around. Looked at the house, the neglected yard. Heard water lap wood. A thick goopy sound. Like something sick.

When I first arrived I didn’t think much of mom’s absence. Figured she’d just popped out and lost track of time. No biggie. But now almost two hours had passed. I was getting fidgety. Filling with resentment. She knew I was coming. We’d spoken on Monday. Planned to spend a good part of the day together. So where was she?

Maybe something unexpected had come up. I went back up to the house. Looking for a note in o-bomb places. Nothing. Then wandered the rooms. One after another gaining a sense that she hadn’t been there at all today.

Got myself righteously riled. Pissed off actually. Had it in mind it was high time I confronted her. Really let her have it.

I stormed out the front door. Got in the car. Was going to drive up to the community centre, where she was sure to be. But stopped myself. Had sudden thought that maybe me being there was too much for her. Sat there sadly. Had a sniffly cry. Wiped my eyes. Got out of the car. Walked the half mile to the main strip. Had a soup and sandwich. Walked back.

Out on the veranda again. It’s now past two.

Speedboats on the lake. A small squadron of paddle-boarders. Warm afternoon made pleasant by a mild breeze.

Marcus swimming to mind. And how we used to be. As a family. The nostalgic picture. Comprised of overlapping memories. Old photographs in shoe boxes turned upside down and emptied. A pile of photographs. By a fireplace in a front room of wood beams. Lights down low. Crackling wood. Guttering fire. The photos becoming blots of fuzzy colors with distorted edges. Could be anyone’s pictures.

A thought that you don’t get over losing a loved one. It’s too big a thing. A mountain made of memories. A thing you have to go around to navigate. And as time goes so do you. Every now and again looking in the rearview. Seeing the mountain. Getting smaller and smaller. So small you can hold it in your hand.

Dinner with dad yesterday. His comment that he didn’t feel like ripping out his hair anymore. That he thinks of Marcus as having grown up and moved away. Like he’s out there living his life.

The phone ringing.

Mom? Impulse to get up and answer. But remain seated. Hearing the rings out. Feeling them softly peal through me. And at their cessation something of an epiphany. I should leave.

And let her be.


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