It’s 11:29 p.m. and I’m supposed to have a post up by 11:59 p.m., so as not to break my NaBloPoMo chain.
I’ve tossed a few ideas around in my mind, but nothing has really stuck today. Because today has been overwhelming. Not in reality, really, and not even in action. Just in the thoughts that have danced in and out and back into my mind.
Every other Tuesday feels like a hangover. Monday night at midnight is invoice deadline for my biggest client, and I push it right to 11:59. Then I wander down to clean the kitchen, and by the time I climb the stairs to go to bed, my body is exhausted but my brain is lit up, thinking about the random bits and pieces that I now know about strangers and what they think about life, love, and happily ever after.
Erin needed lunch money today, but since it’s between pay periods I had to actually go to school and give them money, because there’s a minimum amount I can pay online and, embarrassing as it is to admit, I couldn’t pay the minimum. Well, I could, but then I couldn’t buy gas or the couple of things we needed at the grocery store. So I trudged in to the office, where the surly secretary snarls at me every time I walk in, and asked to put money on my daughter’s account.
I was sent to the cafeteria, where I interrupted the aides getting their own lunch. One came out to the register and asked me for my child’s ID number. I didn’t know it, I said. She sighed and sputtered “last name, then?” As I said the very last n , the aide’s face lightened and she smiled.
“Erin. Your daughter is Erin. I just love her.”
My nephew is back in the hospital, this time with a broken pacemaker. I drove there to keep him and my sister company, thinking the whole time that I should be more grateful for healthy kids that make lunch ladies smile, and chastising myself for remembering that as I see sick kids and hear sick babies crying, rather than when they’re fighting after school or complaining that they don’t like dinner. Again.
I stop working at 11:19 to look for a picture I think I had but I don’t. It’s of a man I’ve never met, in uniform and perched on the hood of a car. I found it one day as my sister and I flipped through stacks of black and white photos at our grandma’s apartment. Picture after picture of this handsome man with the broad grin, and finally we asked “Grandma, who is this?”
“Him? He was the love of my life. He died in the war.”
That was it. She changed the subject, and I knew it was taboo anyway. She’d married my grandpa and stayed married until the day she died, even though he left one day and never came back when my dad and his siblings weren’t even in high school yet. Marriage is forever, she said, even if the other person walks away.
There’s another picture I wish I had, one of my mom’s dad and my sister, handing out poppies. She must have been three or four years old. I’m sure her dress was a houndstooth pattern on the skirt, thick polyester and blue, I think. Her auburn curls practically wrapped themselves around her perfectly plump cheeks, and grandpa held her up, beaming at her as she inspected the poppy. He was in uniform. That I remember.
The newspaper photographer snapped the picture as they stood outside the post office in Hays, handing out the paper poppies to commemorate Veteran’s Day. Today, I’m ashamed that I don’t know what rank he held or where he served. I don’t really know much about him at all, other than his cigars and his beer and his silence. I don’t know that any of that was really him, though, and wonder instead if it was exhaustion over a bad marriage and a drunk wife.
Those things I don’t know–the history I can’t recount–fill my head with questions and my soul with regret for not having asked when I had the chance. Now those stories are gone, and there’s no one left to fill in the blanks or flesh out the narrative, and even though I know I couldn’t be more thankful for my grandpa’s service or my grandma’s love, I do know that their stories deserve more than foggy memories and missing pictures.
I’m participating in NaBloPoMo, and posting everyday in November.