An exercise conveying nostalgia.
“Hello, Hello,” I say, impatiently, into the phone. I hear cries and sobs. I pull the phone away from my head to check the caller ID. It’s my mom, my heart pounds and my breath quickens when I realize those heart-wrenching sounds are coming from her. I scream into the phone, “Mom, I can’t understand you. Calm down.” My dread grows as her voice, punctuated with sobs, comes across the line. “You’re Dad…the doctor just called.” I’m frantic as she speaks. I thought she was going to tell me my dad was dead. Her crying is making it difficult to understand her words.
“Mom, what, I can’t understand you,” my voice, sharp to snap her out of it. “What’s wrong?” I glance at my husband, he looks at me, the wrinkles around his eyes spider web as he narrows his eyes, his raises his eyebrows, silently asking me what’s going on. I shrug my shoulders.
Finally, Mom’s voice breaks through, “Your dad has cancer.” I can’t answer her. I can’t offer her any comfort. My voice locks. I try to speak but there is no sound. Tears slowly inch down my face. It seems like an eternity before I answer. Her cries create a background noise of chaos in my mind. “Mom, what did the doctor say? Did he give him a timeframe? Did he say what stage cancer?” My questions shoot like bullets from a six-shooter in a stand-off. My mom didn’t have the answer to my questions and she couldn’t talk. Reluctantly, I disconnected the phone.
Duty dictates. I tell my husband and call my children. Automatically I continue my work. My mind searches for the earliest memory I have of my Dad and I find nothing. He was there when I was a child. I know for I remember discipline. I remember family dinner at the supper table. I remember long rides to church. Mostly though, I don’t remember.
The floorboard creaks. I call out to my mom, “I’m awake.” I don’t want her to turn on the light before my eyes adjust to waking up. She says, “Ok, time to get up and get ready for school.” I lay in the bed a few seconds, listening to the car start. My bedroom is right beside the carport so I hear the car as it backs out, gravel crunches beneath the tires and then the sound is gone. I know my dad has left for work. It’s time to get out of bed. Mom usually fixes oatmeal and toast for breakfast. Breakfast varies little. During cold weather, we have oatmeal, when summer comes, we have Corn Flakes. Once in a while, like today, we have cinnamon toast. Mom’s cinnamon toast is good. She places white bread in the pop-up toaster. Once the toast pops out, Mom butters the toast and sprinkles a mix of cinnamon and sugar on the butter. She does it fast so the mix kind of melts on the hot toast. She always fixes us two pieces.
After school, my mom makes us sit at the kitchen table to do our homework while she cooks supper. If we finish our homework, we can go out and play. Mom doesn’t serve supper until Dad gets home. Once Dad is home, playtime is over and we all sit down at the table to eat. We eat as soon as Dad gets home. He comes into the house, goes to the kitchen sink and washes his hands and arms up to his elbows. He always washes all the way up to his elbows to clean off errant grease from the semis he worked on during the day.
After washing, he sits at the kitchen table. We all have our own place at the table. Dad sits at the end, my sister sits at the other end and Mom and I sit on the sides. I don’t like it when Dad fixes my plate. He puts on too much food and we are not allowed to waste food. “Eat everything on your plate before you get up,” he says. I always wondered if I finished early could I get up. I never did though because there was too much food on my plate. I had to wait until he left the table so my Mom could rake off the extra. It was our secret.
After supper, Dad watches television in the living room while my sister and I get our baths. Once bath time is over, we both go into the living room and tell Dad good night. I don’t remember kissing him good-night, just saying the words. His eyes never leave the television as he says it back to us.
The weekends are different. Dad doesn’t go to his job and we don’t have school. We want to sleep late but that’s never allowed. “Rise and shine,” he says as he turns on the overhead light. I burrow into the covers, hiding from the light. He starts singing, “Time to get up in the morning…” as he yanks the covers off the bed. Reluctantly, I tell him, “Ok, I’m coming.”
Saturday mornings vary according to the season. Winter months we work on the wood pile and in the summer months we work in the garden. I’m not a fan of either. Today is wood chopping day. Dad warmed the truck up and we headed to Hobbs Hill. That’s the hill his childhood home is on and where we always chop wood. Dad chops wood, halfway through the morning, he sheds his jacket. We can see his big muscles. Sometimes he flexes his muscles for us. Neither my sister nor I have muscles. Dad says it’s because he chops the wood and we only stack it.
After wood chopping, we go back home and unload the wood. Afterwards, we have free time. Dad works around the house and my sister and I play, ride bikes, or read until dark. Supper is always late on Saturdays but it is the same as supper the rest of the week. I hope Mom fixes my plate.
Maybe I do remember.