Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Year of Sundays, Chapter 1 Part 4

Chapter 1 - May 1
Part 4 of 4

I was up next, so I left my closet and headed downstairs.

My sister came out of the den as I stepped off the last stair.

"Your turn," she said to me, with a smile. And I looked at her. Really looked at her. The found girl. And I thought, it's so much better to be found than lost. "Is she okay?" I asked.

"You know it," Mel said. "Full of spit and vinegar. You know how she is."

I felt a little nervous going into the room. I had no idea what my mother would say to me.
"Hi, Mom."

She didn't invite me onto her bed, like she invited Melanie, so I sat down on the rocking chair. "Are you doing okay?"

"I'm fine." She waved a hand, encompassing the bed, the IV pole, the room in general. "Fine as I can be. I'm going to see Joe soon, really soon, and I can hardly wait. I miss him terribly."

I smiled at her, but didn't have any way to answer that. I didn't know exactly what I thought about dying and heaven, but a little, hopeful corner of my heart wanted to believe she was right.

"I know," I said, finally, because it seemed like she was waiting for me to comment. "Cancer sucks."

She laughed. "My Jess. Jessie-mine. I love your name. I picked it, you know, while your father went out to the waiting room to hand out cigars. I was supposed to name you Jessica Lynn, or Joseph Jr., if you'd been a boy. They handed you to me, all wrapped and bundled, but somehow you got your tiny fist out of the blanket, and you grabbed my thumb and my heart at the same time. And I buried my nose against the little bits of fuzz on your head, and I breathed you in, and thought, 'Mine. My sweet Jessie. Jessie-mine.' And then the nurse came in with the papers to sign, and I wrote 'Jessamine,' in for your name. Perhaps I would have asked your father, if he hadn't been parading around in all his self-congratulatory bliss, but I didn't care. You were my baby to name."

"I love that story," I said, and it was true. I'd heard it all my life. Even my father used to tell it with a smile. They were evenly matched, my parents, both stubborn in their different ways. My mother had special birth and naming stories for all of us. Each story had different details, but the love with which she tells them is exactly the same. She always had enough love to go around. Always.

And now she gave me my assignment. "Take care of Josie. And Silas."

"Silas?" I asked, completely surprised. "Silas is all right."

"Things will happen," my mother said, with a wise nod. "Silas could very well fall apart. He'll never let it show, of course, which is why I want you to look out for him. I need to know that someone is checking for cracks."

"Cracks?" I didn't follow her train of thought.

"His mask or his shell. Or both. He can't go on this way, and when he falls, he's going to fall hard. So I want you to be there to catch him."

"How do I do that?"

"Just talk to him. Confide in him, and let him know he can confide in you. That's all. I just want him to know where to go if he needs someone."

"I'm sure he already knows," I reassured her.

"Just make sure you tell him again, that's all."

"I will. Of course I will. And I'll pay attention to Josie, too. We all will. You know that."

"Yes, but I know you will, especially, because you're the most grounded."

Me? The most grounded? I almost laughed. I got so lost in my daydreams sometimes that I forgot to eat and shower. How is that grounded?

"Oh, Mom, whatever," I said. Was that all she was going to tell me? That was it?

"You and Silas are the most alike," she said, in a musing tone. "You both go your own way. The difference is that he cares what people think, and you don't. You should teach him that. Teach him how to live a life with no regrets."

"How do you know I don't care what people think?" I asked.

"You just don't. The moment you turned eighteen, you refused to go to church. You didn't care what I said about it, you weren't going to pay lip-service to the God that I believe in. I think it was your very first decision as an adult. And last year you skipped off to the PRIDE parade, Annabelle in tow, and you knew it made me cringe."

I snorted. "I didn't do any of it to hurt you."

She smiled at me. "I know. Now for some motherly advice. Write something normal. Your writing is beautiful, and you’re wasting it on vampire trash. Write something that makes a statement, that makes people stop and grab a pen to underline the words, and say ‘Hey, I feel that way, too.’ Write something that makes people feel less alone. You can do it, Jessie- Mine, I know you can."

I smiled back at her. "Is that a challenge?"

"Sure," she said. "Now, do you want to know my very favorite thing about you?"

Yes. "Of course I do."

"You're happy. Day in and day out, over the course of your life, you are a happy girl. There is something tremendous about that. The way you manage adversity with a smile is truly a gift. You can get through anything."

"Thank you. That means a lot," I said, and felt a tear slide down my cheek. "Except now you're making me cry. I think it must be Josie's turn. I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too. All right. Send Josie in."

I had every intention of going back upstairs so I could listen to Mom talk to Josie, but I didn't. I felt solemn and weepy, and so I joined my solemn and weepy sisters at the dining room table. Silas was there, at the head of the table, but he was silent and locked into himself, and didn't pay attention to us at all. Which was typical of Silas.

"Mom told me that we have to meet every Sunday after she's gone. The same as we've been doing," Elizabeth said.

"What else would we do?" I asked. "I'm sure I'd just be sitting at home wondering what to do without everyone."

"I suppose," Elizabeth said. "But Mom's not kidding – she said it's a condition of our inheritance."

"That's rich," Mel laughed, and her laugh turned into coughing fit.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah," she waved my concern aside. "Too many cigarettes. I really have to quit the damn things."

We sat in silence then, until Josie came out of the den. "Mom's asleep already," she said. "I turned her oxygen on and tucked her in."

"Okay," Elizabeth said. "Let's clean up the dishes, and take out the trash. Who's staying with Mom tonight?"

"Me," Silas said, finally looking up at us. "She asked me to stay."

"And tomorrow it's me," Melanie said.

"Do you want Tuesday night or Wednesday?" I asked Elizabeth.

"Oh, Jess, I don't know right off. How about I call you and we'll figure it out?"

"Fine." I wished I could be a fly on the wall tonight, so I could listen to what Silas had to say about his boyfriend.

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