My brother-in-law, David, wears those very thick glasses that make your eyes very small behind them, small rectangular lenses, his eyes appearing almost like dots behind them. His hair is slicked to the side. His face is round and boyish. You'd never think he was past fifty. Well, maybe you would, but still he has that boyish youthful quality. He wears a brown checked shirt tucked neatly into belted pants. He has lost weight but is still leaning towards chubby. He has small feet. I don't know this for a fact, but when I look at my inner pictures of him the feet are small.
When we go outside he wears a black leather jacket with the name of a computer company emblazoned across the back and he wears bright brown leather gloves that look straight out of the package. He offers to transfer some logs from the trunk of my mother's car to ours and does it in about three seconds. He likes to be helpful.
And when Fred and I drive away David comes out into the yard to look at the crescent moon, the dying light in the West, to sniff the air. I remember he did this last time too, coming out of the house as we left to wave, but also just to take in whatever nature was doing right then. He's no big nature boy. He just likes to look and see what's going on.
As we sat in my mother's small living room, Fred in the big chair that doesn't look so big anymore, the one we used to call "the throne," the chair my father used to be so proud of – upholstered in a buttery velvet with a high back and carved curving arms – my sister Esther tucked into a corner of the small couch with a plate of goat cheese and smoked salmon – my mother on a dining room chair off by Fred, a little out of the circle of conversation, David mentions all the new presidents of South American countries who have recently been elected; without effort or showing off he refers to them by name – so and so in Chile, so and so in Bolivia, Argentina, Brazil.
David walks just a little pigeon-toed. His legs are short. It adds to his child-like appearance. He's sort of cuddly. My sister says on their first date he ordered a hot chocolate instead of a beer and she loved that about him.
I noticed my sister calling my mother "Joan" on this visit. Not all the time, but sometimes, matching her voice to her husband's.
Three months after I first moved in with Fred my mother went into hospital for an operation. She needed someone at home with her for awhile afterwards. I was the obvious choice. After all, just a few months previous I would have been there anyway, living right next door. No one had really taken in that I'd moved away. And even though I'd moved away I wasn't far, only an hour or so by car. Instead, I spoke with a Mexican friend of my mother's who needed a place to stay. She was thrilled to hear that she could stay with my mother. But Esther said mother deserved better. She called up the Mexican woman and told her she couldn't stay, and flew out from California herself. I didn't say anything. I just melted away. I never thought my family would end up so stereotypical.
My mother once gave me power of attorney. Esther had that changed because she says she is much more involved with my mother than I am. And she is. She has burrowed into the finances of both our parents, giving advice, and monthly checks. She calls it being responsible.
She owns the little white house right next to my mother's. Doesn't live there, just owns it. The two houses are almost identical. She bought it just as I was leaving the ashram. It was where I was supposed to live. Perfect. Right next to my mother. Since it looked like I wasn't going to get married, I might as well take care of my mother. I only stayed six months. Then I moved out into a much bigger arena, here in Woodstock, a place where really anything can happen. It's way scarier than the half-acre in Sullivan Country where I was alone in a one-bedroom cottage. I thought I'd write there, alone in my little white house looking out into woods from my computer. Instead, I got into a rocket ship.