My mother will come to visit this Wednesday. She will drive the fifty miles here, spend one hour or until I “kick her out” (her words), then drive back. It was her idea and I said okay.
Then I had misgivings. I shouldn’t make her drive all the way here. I should meet her halfway. But that would take up most of my day. I didn’t want to do it. If she just showed up here and stayed an hour, that would be fine, but she’s eighty-two. I should be protecting her. What if she had an accident. She wasn’t a great driver forty years ago.
I go to get my haircut. The hairdresser asks me questions like “What’s your favorite car?” and I just don’t have the energy to banter with him. Luckily there are other people there he can talk to. I’ve seen him three times now, but I’m never sure that he remembers me. He’s never called me by my name. I feel like a stranger every time I go there.
My mother originally wanted to come up last Wednesday, but I had this haircut appointment. I told my mother I couldn’t meet her that day. I said I had “an appointment.” I didn’t say more and the absence of explanation pushed at me a little, but I pushed back.
My mother has probably started to fill up her trunk with logs. I know she has logs she can’t use that she wants to give us. And she will probably bring some mixed nuts from ShopRite for Fred, some cheese, some chocolate. Maybe some tea. And most of it we will use.
I begin to think if there’s something I can give her when she comes. I should have something. A sample CD came in the mail a few weeks ago – a college lecture on literature or history. My mother has often said she’d like to study those lectures they advertise so I sent it on to her. When I do something like that I feel like I buy myself a little time.
I remember the first time my mother and a sister visited me here in Woodstock. I just went into visit mode. I acted with my mother and sister the way I was used to: non-stop talking, dumb jokes, teasing. You know, the stuff you have to do with these people. I didn’t even notice it. I thought I was being warm and friendly. I remember Fred’s expression. He was mad about something. Why couldn’t he just get into it? Looking back, I imagine he thought I had disappeared. I hadn’t noticed I had disappeared.
On the phone Sunday evening I call just to say yes, this Wednesday will work. My mother tells me that she’s watching a man on 60 Minutes who says the economy is going down the tubes, that she hangs up her wet laundry now to help global warming, that my sister’s daffodils in Santa Clara are blooming –
“Let’s not talk now,” I break in gently. “We’ll talk on Wednesday.” And the call is done and the visit will happen and it will only be an hour and I will still feel like the day is mine and not somebody else’s.