My ideal reader? Sympathetic, encouraging, daring.
What I’d like to be. What my mother was, even when I griped about her being critical and self-centred and (worst of all) careful.
Less than a year since Mom left.
She was old. I’m old, judging by the “Seniors” days and discounts I’m good for. No matter. With Dad already gone, when Mom left she orphaned me. Left me dangling. Casting about for someone to call too many times a week.
Hear that Mom? I’m walking an island paradise searching out phone booths.
If you walk around a whole island, if you walk 500 or so kilometres, breathing ocean in the right nostril, red dirt in the left, if you keep putting one foot down then the next, on the edge of a sea that winks too much like wheat or watery flax, if you walk until your heels ooze and bleed and you sing encouraging songs to the bloated clouds above you, whose only purpose in life is to piss on your path, if you walk that far and long in an orbit like Pluto’s or your arthritic fingers–Heberden’s joint way more inflamed than Bouchard’s–if you walk and walk and walk you’ll still only be where you began.
You won’t find it, Mom.
You’ll come up against things. Farmers giving you cabbages or a guy at the bus stop free with advice and oranges or an old man at the market who dumps the rest of his hard candies beside the dried fish on your picnic table or a woman along the canal who pushes her lozenges at your chest. You’ll keep bumping into compulsive givers whose only other expendable belonging will be their shoes or shirt and in this climate who’s dumb enough to give you that?
No one, yet.
You’ll hate the heat and humidity, Mom. You’ll run for cover, calling over your shoulder about a good prairie fall day. About decent weather, as if weather had a choice. Or morals. You’ll gripe about street signs that make no sense and the fishy smell of fish and how you keep flicking the wipers instead of the turn signal when you want to go right. You’ll say why did you ever come here it takes forever to get home and I’ll say Mom where’s home anyway? We’re together, aren’t we?
Look at this video from Reef, I’ll say. You know what he told me when I was there last? “Everyone loves you, Baachan”–how sweet is that?
You have a new great-granddaughter, I’ll say. Lola Hanako. She’s only a few weeks old and already she won’t take any guff.
Guess who she reminds me of?