Are you tired of my droning on and on about my mother’s death 13 weeks ago? Well, the fact is, I’m not ready to stop. Mother”s Day happened too soon after he death and I know support system. It wouldn’t have ended well. I’m not all that close to my father. I’m would like to be closer but he chooses to live in certain restraints. He’s 90! Still relatively with it, just slower. Yet this mode of restrictive living with intentional distance is how he and his wife choose to live.
I learned a very long time ago not to interfere with the choices made in second…or third marriages . No matter how stupid and senseless these decisions seem, don’t get involved. Just try to stay young and innocent enough to believe in their stupidity, not because they’re about you because 90% of the time, they are. Love, lust, resentment and pre-nups make parent-type people do whacky things.
So, instead of offering bon mots to both parents, little sentiments I’d be hard pressed to recall, I’m just planning on conveying of growing up, times in which their presence played a positive role in my life.
I guess the happiest times in my life requires music. My family as a whole did everything with music. They loved an adult contemporary station in San Antonio called KQXT-FM and it played that Andy Williams, Streisand , Ferrante & Teicher, Judy…Jack Wagner, Peggy Lee, Perry Como and other giants from the easy, breezy time the Rat Pack called their own. As a result, Daddy outfitted the entire house with an a Intercom. It was Phil Spector’s dream….wall to wall sound. It played radio station or eight track cassettes . He also put a large speaker the back patio.
Sunday afternoon in spring felt special. School was still in session snd the the swimming pool had yet to open. still close. It’s was these few days of the special weather in South Texas that we lived for: not too cool, yet not warm enough. So, late Sunday afternoons held a special place in my heart as a family. After the tournament or the Cowboy game, Daddy would get on his riding mower to deal with the acre and a half of “badlands” on which he’d mow. As this was happening, mother would survey her very own version of God’s little half acre— her flowers and vegetables. She’d walk along the beds, quiet, humming a tune…like this one that was playing now. She’d pull a weed or two, knock off an insect interloper, remove a petal that had a bite taken out of it….pluck away a brown leaf or two.
Then, after two thorough walks around the garden, the sun would start to set, she and daddy almost like clockwork would meet under the patio for cocktails. They lobed their Scotch and water with a jar of mixed nuts. They’d talk about a few things, a lot of it was yard talk, some included plans to remodel this, or making plans to travel here or someday visit therm. Sometimes they’d forget I was sitting close by with my cocker spaniel Friskie Some gossip I heard I knew had fatal consequences, What the they were saying had all the hallmarks of bring about an impending divorce. I knew several kids, some younger than me. We’d hear they have to make choices on which parent to live with. They’d had to make choices I knew in my heart I couldn’t make, Aaaaawwww, what did I have to worry about. But That summer was my crash course on endings.
I felt so safe safeywith the sun felt on my face, a mild breeze from the Gulf of Mexico blowing across my arms and legs , the specific tunes and the way they sounded in my head, the coolness of the cement I sat upon with our Cocker Spaniel, Friskie. I hugged my dog tightly. I held on to Friskie. Sadly, I’d have to let go of Friskie. She died a year later, my parents marriage would dissolve a year later.
In South Texas, Summer was like The Fall’s pesky younger brother. It stayed and stayedand hung around, sometimes being more annoying than other times. Bust even in the heat you could feel the underlying change in the air. It made nothing more tolerable, you just knew then hang was coming. At no other time was this apparent that on Football Friday’s
WHETHER we played at home or in Kenedy Or Floresville…. it didn’t matter…this was Texas. Plastic football place kicking holders weren’t just holders….they were gold tiaras. Football— from Pop Warner leagues to the Pros was KING in Texas. It didn’t matter if your team’s record sucked or the QB threw like a ping pong player, there was pride and loyalty. This was football…and it all mattered. Home games, away games. The excitement in the pit of your stomach is still recognizable .
My eldest sister, Kathy was a cheerleader, Karol’s was in the band and I was just a spectator who go with her parents but would separate like hell them and They and their stadium seats and their season tickets would go one way… I made bongo drum sounds running in pace for a few seconds before we went through the admission gate and headed in a different direction. Still, the excitement levels were high.
Since Karol and Kathy has early responsibilities, they had to be at the stadium early, mother had dinner ready early. And because we were still just a few days years out from Vatican II, people were still in the habit of NOT eating meat on Friday. Soooooo, our meals were always the following: homemade pimento cheese sandwiches, on Diet Rite bread with sesame seeds, the small size Fritos and those small six inch Coke’s in bottles. It all tasted so good. Karol would come down to eat with her band uniform pants on and Kathy would come down in her cheerleading uniform, but with only half her makeup done. Within minutes, sandwiches were inhaled and my sisters would be down and bound for the stadium. Everything was served on paper plates so clean up was as close as a garbage can. I’d then go upstairs and call my friends where the biggest decision of the evening: WHAT WERE WE ALL WEARING AND DID ANYONE KNOW ANY CUTE BOYS FROM THE OPPOSING SIDE.???? How did that go? The same as the scoreboard…..a totaloss.
Lastly, I used to love to go to town with my mother. I was maybe four or five. It was the early 60’s and she keep white wrist length gloves in her purse. I sat in the front seat…no car seat, no seat belts and I watched her put on her gloves. They smelled like Estée Lauder and Guerlain. We’s go to the grocery store, always a favorite place of mine. It was fun to ride in cart. Then we’d go to the dry cleaners….fo a pick up…maybe a drop off….The pharmacy was fun too, it always smelled like medicine. The bank had an Aquarium in it. All kinds of fish. After all the errands were run, we get back in the car piled with riches from the local merchants and it would be time to get home so she could watch her stories or if we got off to a late start, we needed to be back to start dinner. Either way, beautiful music would come on the car radio. Years later, when I was in HS, I was with mom driving home from from some place and a gut wrenchingly beautiful song started playing on the radio—the one playing now. It’s called “The Homecoming” by Haygood Hardy. She took a deep breath and commented on how pretty it was. Even I had a visceral response to its loveliness.
So, it should be no surprise I chose this song to play as the last song of her funeral. I explained her appreciation of the song and though she liked it, she never said anything about having it played at her funeral. I couldn’t help myself. The song, the title “The Homecoming” her, death, my memory all made this perfectly intersected ending.
The slide I/we I chose to play underneath as the last few notes played was one of her waving. It turned out to be the last photo of her ever taken. she died five days later. So, in effect, it was her waving goodbye…
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
And it was sad and painful and somehow perfect.