Penduline Press Featured Story “Meant to Disturb”
Writing through these experiences has given me so much optimism—that positive change does happen, and the chain of family violence can be unhinged, broken, laid to rest. In turn, this helps me with my other life’s work—teaching in the same neighborhood where this series of stories is set and practicing nonviolence on a personal level
This story was published in the Spring 2013 Stealing Time Parenting Magazine
LINK TO ELEGY FOR OUR HOME IN DETROIT
LINK TO NIGHT OF THE LITTLE DEPARTED ANGELS
Penthouse Living: Finalist-Glimmer Train New Writer Contest
-Well they didn’t actually publish this, but it did get a nod, causing me to obsessively submit there for the next five years, then I decided to submit to mom and family oriented publications–more nurturing!
I had a dream last night that I was living in the Jeffries projects, the big orange buildings you can see from John C. Lodge Freeway in Detroit. I was alone in bed, looking at a black and white photo, waiting for someone named Felix to call me, but the phone never rang. I woke up wondering if my dream was about a past lifetime — it was far too close to the life I am living now.
I fell asleep looking at my family photo album, I guess. That happens easily now, the Vicodin tires me out, and I don’t have a couch, because the apartment is too small. If I want to relax it’s the yellow armchair from Renee’s place or bed. Renee never calls, and it feels like I am always waiting for her, but she lives with Janet now. Eileen never calls either. She won’t even go to a party or to a workshop if she knows I’m going to be there. I apologized to her. I sent her presents. I sent her an email. I called her, but she never called back. She wouldn’t let me explain. I told her, so she must know the tumor in my brain made me act that way, and now it’s gone. But it made no difference. A week after the news made it out to the EarthDream network that the MRI was clear she stopped calling me.
Now I am perched above the world in my fifteenth-story penthouse apartment in the Pleasant Oak senior high rise. I can see from Canada to Pontiac. The rent is only $140, subsidized housing they call it, and it is clean and safe. But I am still alone and waiting for someone to call. Today I am waiting for Elisa, who promised to take me with her shopping at Trader Joe’s. I missed the senior shuttle yesterday because I thought today was Tuesday. But it’s Wednesday and today the shuttle is going to Meijers and I can never find anything there, it’s too big. Michael took me once but he yelled at me because I tried to drive the motorized shopping cart, and I knocked over the Mountain Dew display. That’s how they found the tumor, a shadow passed over my eyes from left to right when I was driving, and I plowed my red Taurus station wagon into another car. That was the last time I drove, except for that shopping cart at Meijers. They were so upset at me. I just wish I could drive. I’m not going back to Meijers in this lifetime. Elisa is late as usual, she never comes when she says she is going to, she always has something more important to do, and she knows I have to wait for her. I looked at the last two photos in the album. One was of me when I was 28 years old, with my sixth child on my lap and the rest of the girls gathered around in their little sailor dresses. Elisa is the one on her father’s lap. Even when she was small she preferred him to me; and when Elisa was in the room I was just the maid ready to serve dinner.
When the kids were really bad I used to line them up oldest to youngest and give them one belt with the wooden flute. I never got to Patty because Elisa would swirl around and grab the flute with her hand, and fix me with a glare that scared me. But I only lost control completely once, and Michael pulled me off of her before anything really bad happened. I wrote an apology letter to them. I said I was sorry I got angry last night and then we never spoke of it, but Elisa slumped around the house in a long sleeved turtleneck for days, and things were never the same with Michael. That was the beginning of the end. The last picture in the album was one I gave all the girls and Michael. I had turned fifty and it had been at least six years since Michael had touched me, and I knew we couldn’t last much longer like this. So I went to Glamour Shots, with my purple blazer, my paisley scarf, and makeup just so. But, by the time the Glamour Shots people were done with me I was showing a pale shoulder, my hair was all tousled and my lips were so shiny they glimmered.
When I gave the picture to Michael he barely looked at it, and Elisa, just home for a visit from college recoiled, then didn’t even look at me to see if I’d noticed. She didn’t hug me and walked to the bus station by herself. I knew it was too late then and that’s when I met Marty, then Lynnie my first true love, then Ana, then Renee my soul mate whose kids broke us up and then Eileen who won’t even speak to me. So I have to wait for Elisa, at least she’s not as selfish as Teresa, my oldest. Teresa comes over with one hand open for money and the other clutching a cigarette. Depending on her mood and the state of my pocketbook, she’ll have time for me and I won’t have to be alone. Elisa won’t even come over when Teresa is here, so I have to juggle, and most of the time it’s Teresa. Elisa stays away.
Today I have presents, two porcelain dolls from the CVS after-Christmas sale wrapped up for Nereida and Maria. I’ve been telling Elisa about the presents since Three Kings Day, but it’s almost February and she is finally here. The girls bound in and pounce on the presents and then on me as they hold up the dolls. “Thank you Grandma!” shouts Nereida. Maria is reading the box. “Made in China,” she announces. “Do you like them Elisa?” I can’t stop myself from asking. “We’ll find a place for them, Mom,” she answers without enthusiasm.
The trip to the store was a disaster for me. The three of them went to the elevator and waited impatiently, while I fumbled with my keys, my bag and my cane. Downstairs they were always three steps ahead of me, and I had to wait in the cold while Elisa cleaned off the front drivers’ seat. She checked for messages on her cell phone and looked irritated when I asked for help with my seatbelt. I just can’t see out of that side of my head anymore but she yanks at the seat belt impatiently. Why is Elisa always so angry?
“I can buy you some food with my Bridge Card honey.” I offered. “You know I don’t eat very much. The medicine upsets my stomach you know.”
Her back seemed to stiffen. “That’s all right mom. Stock up on some dry goods.” She replied.
I really did have money on my Bridge Card. “How about some cookies?” I knew she loved molasses cookies. Nereida was talking to Elisa, and playing with her mossy green purse.
“No mom, no thanks.” She didn’t even pretend to hide her irritation this time.
I taught my girls to give and to receive, and I will never understand Elisa’s prickly attitude. I waited for her to check out, then slipped the cookies onto the counter. I caught up to them in the parking lot, holding the bags in my right arm balanced without my cane and slipped the cookies into her bag. Maria caught me.
“Look mom! Grandma gave us some cookies!”
The girls ruined the surprise, but I still waited for Elisa’s reaction. She didn’t say anything. Instead she steered me out of the path of an approaching car and shouted at the girls who were bounding ahead. She clipped us into our seats and turned on the radio.
My daughter is beautiful and she won’t let me near her.