Digging up Bones
[Post 1 of 2 Posts]
Faces of the people
We saw only yesterday
Vanishing into the Smokey evening.
Still moving, packing, sorting . . . files. Old black and photos are surfacing like Moby Dicks.
A photo of mother.
High School Graduation, Bowen High School, Chicago 1922.
Image of another time, another world. Or is just the scenery that changes, sets and backgrounds—with acts remaining pretty much the same. I wide variety of actors. Make-up comes from the same paint, from the same pallet of emotions, personalities. So many shades of love and hate and fear and happiness, and sorrow . . . laughter, tears. The range of personality, an esoteric transfer of the genes personality. Or is it the set that determines? Can’t be an astronaut on a dirt road in the old west.
My mother was more than I knew I think, more complicated and more than I wanted to know. I was born in 1938. Mom was the early side of twenty and product of the 1920’s. Smart. Chicago high school grad—good grades. Her family left the city during the depression, moved to Southern Illinois where she met dad, who had a fifth grade education. But he was no fool . . . a kind of homespun wisdom. Honest and hard working, dependable. Maybe a pretty tough guy in his youth. He had been out of town of his small town in Southern Illinois: New York, Aruba, Texas . . . Welding, pipelines and refineries. Been married once before. Divorced. Was working midnight shift and for some reason he left work at 3 A.M. And found her not at home. He locked the doors and would not let her in when she a came back. She was beating on the door and screaming. Quite a scene in a small town. After the divorce t took him a couple years to find the woman he wanted. One who would do as told. That was my mother. I still have just found my dad’s pocket bible, the one he took to church. He was a deacon.
I was an only child. There had been some complication with my birth, another might be dangerous. This was the very early forties. One of the rules my father made was that she would not work, at all . . . ever. I suspect the ex-wife had a day job. Dad worked nights, ex-wife on days . . . . Not good.
But I digress. This is about my Mom, who grew into a full-time housewife. Dad paid all the bills on time, and bought a house and a car . . . . My mother raised me, and raised me, and raised me. She was a very energetic intelligent woman—great sense of humor. I never heard her speak an unkind word, or words of anger. Surely there must have been times. But I can’t recall one, save for a second hand. I heard she lost it one time in a drug store where she ran into a woman who had cheated them on the house they bought—their first and last. Mom whaled at her, to the great embarrassment of my father. Dad was a very conservative Republican, who believed he was the middle class. An every Sunday Baptist, working class. Blue collar . . . welder, arc and gas.
My dad told people it was I who led him to the church—which is odd. I was going to Sunday School because I was being taken there by the most beautiful teenage girl I had ever seen. I wanted to have sex with her but did not know what sex was. I must have been around eight or nine and adored her . . . sat through boring sermons in order to walk six blocks to church and back beside her—and talk to her. Dad was inspired. He joined the church, tithed, stopped drinking and stopped smoking, and more or less stopped having fun. He was a serious man. I have digressed again.
This is about my Mom. I’m not sure I was good to her. I’m sure those of her friends who are still alive think I was not. I’m not sure what being good to her would have been. Staying home and living a mile or less from her in Southern Illinois would have been good. “The kids who didn’t go to college all stayed home,” she told me once. The main goal of my youth was to get out of our small town, and away from Mom. She loved me. God, she loved me to death. She knew what I was thinking before I did. She caught me every time I did something wrong, sometimes before I did it. But never harsh words . . . “Now let’s work this thing out . . .” She bought me clothes. That’s nice when you’re ten, but she was still doing it when I was twenty and a senior at a university two hours away from where my parents lived. She paid surprise visits to a dorm room I shared with a roommate. Brought new laundry with my name printed neatly on the waistband.
In my lifetime I have gotten two, “I’m pregnant,” notes from women. I was innocent both times, I swear it. Used to save used rubbers underneath the seat of my car after a tryst. After I dropped off my date I retrieved them and blow them up like balloons. If one had a leak I wanted to know about it. I never found on with a leak and I was very, very careful. Anyway . . . my mother found both notes. She found one in my dresser at the university. She was delivering fresh socks and underwear she thought I should have. 4 hours she drove for this, two hours each way. “Don’t marry her. Whatever you do,” Mom told me. “We’ll get the best lawyers.” It took her a long time to believe the note was bogus. The second was a letter mailed to me when was in the Army. This one was also bogus, sent to my parent’s address by a woman who had gone down with more guys than the Titanic. I had only gone out with the woman once, and air tested the condom. No leaks.
The envelope containing the letter had miraculously come open in my mother’s hands. An act of God. I was never quite clear on how the envelope came open. It got rained on or something. Mom took it upon herself to answer the letter for me. Told the woman I was in the Army and long gone . . . address unknown. She did a good job of things. That was the end of it. Mom sent me a copy of the letter she had written to the woman. I don’t think she sent the letter the woman sent to me, maybe she did. She kept doing things for me that I wanted to do for myself. It was a smoothing love, near inescapable. I wanted privacy, to be as far away as possible, and San Francisco seemed just fine.
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