Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the mother of all days...pt. 2

i'm not sure how long we were sitting there dialing his number. i was numb to sting brought on by the cramps in my fingers, numb to everything except that fear. i had just put the phone to my ear to listen for the ringing when a call came through on the other line. i pulled it away from my ear to check the caller id.


relief was a palpable thing cloaking me like cape as i clicked over to answer the call.


"nikki?" he sounded perplexed.

then i remembered i was calling him from mom's phone.

"yeah, it's me!" i replied, still giddy i was hearing his voice. by this time mom was looking at me with a weepy smile on her face as she released a pent up breath.

"how's it going?" he asked, like nothing was wrong. i scrunched my face in confusion.

"i'm aiight. how are YOU doing?"

"i'm doing aiight."

i waited a second to see if he'd add anything. when it was obvious he wouldn't, i spoke.

"and uh, what's this about you having chest pains? you gonna see the doctor?"

"i had chest pains yesterday. i'm not sure if i'm gonna see a doctor or not."

"but why not?" i exclaimed, "you know heart disease runs in our family!"

"i don't know...after all this stuff with granny i just realized how lonely it would be without you and mom around," he said softly.

"and why wouldn't you go get checked?" i asked with exasperation.

"because i could be the only one left. i sit here and watch you and mom not take care of yourselves and wonder why i should care about my own health."

i was nonplussed. at that point it was obvious to me my brother had been suffering more than i realized. we ended up talking for about two hours, his words etched into my brain like carvings of misery.

afterwards, i sat there and thought about what he'd said. part of me was upset because it felt like emotional blackmail. i mean, how can folk justify not taking care of themselves because the people around them aren't living their lives according to what they want for them? a person make the choice to live her life the way she lives it and no amount of prodding from someone else is effective unless she wants to make changes for herself.

part of me was extremely sad for 'swad, wondering what kind of fear he lived with that would make him even think such a thing. i decided to write him a letter telling him of my concerns. he was there to watch granny die and he's been there to take care of her home afterwards. he's been immersed in grief for months and he really needs to get away from all of it. i only hope he's able to do so soon.

mom and i spent most of the remaining day just hanging out in her bedroom. we talked about how strange it was not to have granny around. this was the first mother's day without her and we felt the loss keenly. granny's voice, a combination of smoke and strength, still echoes in my mind like a bell gong, going off at those moments when i summon her image to memory (which has been every day). granny was there in the room with us as we talked about how much we loved and missed her. i really wish i could just hug her, just feel her warmth and love surrounding me.

around the same time mom and i and granny were in mom's bedroom, my father was downstairs cooking dinner for us. when he called us down to eat, i was excited cuz the food smelled so good. mom and i made our way down to the kitchen where dad had laid out steaks, garlic noodles with vegetables, and corn on the cob. i was excited about the prospect of eating. meanwhile, mom was looking at the steak with that 'this negro done fucked up' look on her face. i sighed and grabbed a plate.

as i sat down to the table with a full plate, i noticed just how dry the steak looked. it resembled a brown brick with a spash of a1 sauce on it. i glanced up at mom.

"that man messed up my meat!" she whispered vehemently.

"mom, it's not that bad..."

"i knew i shouldn't have let him make these damn steaks," she continued furiously, "that man has ruined my meat!"

i didn't answer as i took my fork and speared it into the shriveled brick. with the knife in my hand, i began trying to cut it. thirty seconds into the endeavor i realized the knife had barely put a dent in the surface of the meat.

"mom, are your knives dull?" i asked. she looked at me and rolled her eyes.

"NO, it's not the knives! your daddy has burnt the steaks."

she was staring at her own plate probably contemplating how best to discard the food without him knowing. i picked up my steak and hit it up against the plate just to see how hard it was. when it hit the plate it sounded like i'd just dropped a rock on it.

"you might as well just break the damn thing," mom whispered, still pissed.

we discarded the knives and tackled the steak with our fingers. after expending much energy breaking the meat apart, i plopped a piece into my mouth and started gnawing.

"so what do you want to do for your birthday," i asked mom, as her birthday was in two days.

"i don't know," she stated, "but this man has totally ruined my MEAT."


"and have you tasted these noodles?"

"they do appear to be a bit soft..."

"they're overcooked, nikki." she was getting worked up now. "he's ruined the noodles too."

i sat there gnawing on the same piece of meat i'd had in my mouth for the last minute, unsure if i'd ever get to swallow it. mom was working herself into a tizzy and dad was in the family room eating his dinner and watching television, oblivious to mom's discontentment. i was wishing i could be oblivious to it too...

after finally swallowing the piece of meat and chasing it down with a glass of water, i abandoned the unrealistic notion of eating the steak and decided to stick with the safe alternative of nibbling on the corn. mom was still mumbling about her food when dad came into the kitchen.

"thanks for the wonderful meal, honey," mom said to dad sweetly.

"yeah, thanks dad," i added.

"you're welcome."

dad returned to the family room and the mumbling started again. i shook my head and laughed.

later on, mom and i were back upstairs, watching the series finale of 7th hea.ven. mind you, neither one of us had even watched the show since the 90s, but it was the ending of an era and we felt compelled to see how it would play out. there was a scene where 17 year old ruthie was telling hot dude martin she was in love with tbone. this after martin had told her he wanted to date her.

"oh, that's ridiculous," my mom said disgusted.

"i know! there's no friggin way i'm a 17 year old choosing to be with the skinny pale kid instead of the hot guy!" i shook my head in disbelief.

"you know, they're trying to say a person should be chosen for what's on the inside, not what's on the outside," mom stated, "but that's some bullcrap. 17 year olds don't care what's on the inside. they want the guy to be hot, and that guy's hot."

we both laughed long and loud.

after the show ended, we spent more time talking and laughing some more and spoke to some family members on the phone. it was one of the best mother's days ever. just spending time with mom and talking and sharing. that's really what mother's day is about. i learned it really isn't about showing appreciation with gifts. it's about appreciating her by spending time and really listening to her and letting her know i love her not only cuz she's my mom, but because she's my friend and a wonderfully flawed human being.