It's real quiet now, everyone's asleep, Sassy, too. I could probably say anything I wanted, get away with curse words, maybe a dirty movie. Yes, yes, I'll write something erotic...
We've moved onto September 22. The 21st slid by, a class in the a.m. A quick lunch on the couch in front of TiVo, a soda in the SUV on my way to pick up A and then M, Sassy tagging along and marking up the passenger window with her nose. The kids are finally in the car and the dog's jumping from seat to seat, her red, inherited-from-Abby-our-other-dog (R.I.P.) leash getting tangled. Backpacks thrown on the floor next to shoes and loose papers and my purse. Some internet browsing while the kids snacked on oatmeal cookies and a peach. An e-mail answered, notes printed out for class in the p.m. Homework. M has her own pre-school pages to work on and she's so proud. Every page she did. A did his, too. He does so much better when I'm not there breathing down his neck but I have to because he must make those letters the same size with spaces in between words...he has to make his sentences readable. I sort of laugh at myself, at how simple the writing is and yet how difficult. Well why should he put spaces? Everybodyknowsyoudon'ttalkwithspaces. Therearen'tspacesuntiltheendofthesentence!
My mother died four years ago on the 21st. I say that with spaces clearly audible. My sister focuses on the time passing. Ten years since Papa. I told her that I'm still not beyond the shock of them both being gone to think of the calendar. Mom has been on my mind. Yet today in class I told a story about my father and his absent-mindedness as a way to explain to the students to not be offended that it will be May, 2006, and I will still be asking them their name when giving them grades or checking for their presence for the roll sheet. I ate pickled okra as soon as I got home to remind myself of my parents' refrigerator back when life was never-ending and I'd never be independent and never get away from that tension-laden place in Pasadena. I used to sit on my bed beneath my open window, pink paint peeling off the window frame, reading some classic literature book, wondering why-oh-why didn't I go away to college. Dying to get out. I know that my oldest son is beginning to think similarly. I know he'll be bolting the moment he can. My little man, the one with the glasses and the tuxedo, sleeping in my arms in a wedding in Las Vegas. The one with the long hair and glasses-free brown eyes and what will be a very cutting wit.
In the afternoon after homework, I closed my eyes as I stood in my room next to the sliding glass door, a breeze coming in through the screen and I wondered when I'd be independent - I felt sad there, feeling autumn coming towards me. I don't know what it is about this time of year but the change in seasons puts me in such a state. Sure, maybe it's the obvious - the illnesses of my parents, losses of lovers, people leaving to go back to school, a shift. The sun doesn't warm me during these months - Sassy rubbed her body against my legs like a cat. M pulled me away from my thoughts, M in her red stockings, magenta boots, green skirt and matching shirt, a shirt that says in glittering pink letters, "Supergirl". Her hair is wild and big because I brushed it earlier to get tangles out. She has the finest freckles across the bridge of her nose fading into her cheeks. And the slightest overbite.
A friend of A stopped by and this little boy had a dog on a leash, a cute cocker-spaniel. Immediately A got Sassy on a leash and the two boys, both 8, went walking their similar-sized dogs around the neighborhood. We're so proud...Sassy didn't jump at the other dog or try to wrestle. She's a member of the family now, so yes, she has these little imperfections. We're working on them. Why should she be any different from any other member of the family? Seeing A with Sassy on a leash at his side thrills me, warms me. He's so happy with his dog who sleeps with him on his bed, all night, who licks his face and makes him smile.
When I packed up and left to school, I could see in the mirror M and D waving at me. I need a laugh, I said.
D gave me what I needed when I got home.
While I was away:
M [excited, at the dinner table, a un-bunned hot dog in her hand, pointed towards the floor]: Daddy, look at me!
D [turns to look while he's fixing himself some ravioli at the counter]: What do you want to show me?
M [moves her hand to show D the hot dog and is shocked to see that Sassy has eaten half the hot dog, the sight of which sends her into a fit of screeching]: Ahhhhhhhh!!!!
D [immediate leaves the ravioli]: Oh no Sassy!
M [sobbing]: I don't want her to die! Daddy, don't let her die!
A [very impressed with the stealth-like capability of Sassy]: She's going to die all right, she's going to die tomorrow.
D [admonishing A using his full name]: A, no, don't say that. She's going to be fine, honey.
J [looking up from his drumming magazine]: Who died? Your friend died?
D: Nobody died!
M [getting off the chair and hugging Sassy who's very happy with the hot dog treat]: I love you, Sassy! Don't die!
J: Hey, M, are you going to eat the rest of the hot dog?
Sometimes I think my children have absorbed my death anxieties.