Chicago Trip / Mama’s Story
For a couple of months Mama came to live with me. She was miserable the entire time. Part of it was because I’m a bachelor and I keep house to a bachelor’s standards. In other words, cleaning the house to “eating on the floor” standards ain’t never going to happen because I’m not going to be eating off the floor. This bothered my mom considerably that I had no desire to keep house the way she would have.
There was none of that living with me. My laundry was in the basement, down a flight of stairs. Wheelchair bound, that was impossible for her to navigate. Many mornings as I would head out to work Mama would ask what I’d want for dinner that evening. I never think that far ahead. Most food I buy has to follow this rule: I have to be able to reach into the fridge, grab the food, and put it in my mouth. Preparation? That’s what restaurants are for. I’d have to tell her not to bother. Fix herself something if she liked, but I’d grab something on the way home. That bothered her.
I’ve previously mentioned that she couldn’t even turn on my television. I mean that literally. A couple of remotes, the cable box itself, having to switch the input on the “monitor” (not TV, no no, monitor, if you please) from one source to another . . . it was beyond her. Even writing the instructions down didn’t help. I recall once a phone call from my oldest daughter. Mama had called her to find out if she knew how to operate the TV. Mama had hit a button on one of the remotes that she wasn’t supposed to. The TV went to pure snow. She didn’t know what to do and couldn’t reach me.
Even though my sister and my mom would get completely frustrated with each other (“I don’t understand why she does the things she does!” was said to me by both of them) they really needed each other. My mom’s happiest day was when my sister came to Columbus after a few weeks to take Mama back to Bowling Green.
Millington, TN is “home” for us. It’s where my brother and two sisters graduated from High School. It’s where one sister still lives. It’s a half hour’s drive from where my dad is buried.
More than twenty years prior my brother had purchased a mobile home for my mom. While living in Bowling Green, Mama’s intention was always to get well enough that she could “go back home” to her trailer in Millington. The floods put that dream to an end. Her home was completely destroyed. My sister who lives in Millington was able to save some pictures and some other things, but everything else was buried in mud.
FEMA dropped by, checkbook in hand, and wrote my mom a check for approximately 22 times what I thought the home was worth. I convinced my mom to give the title of the home to the mobile home park itself. What was she going to do with a shell of a mobile home?
In 2011 Mama asked me if I’d drive her home. She wanted to see, first hand, what had happened to her house. I was happy to. I think she just wanted to put paid to it. Get a little closure. Or maybe just to say goodbye.
Again, yes, certainly I’d be happy to take her to Bastrop. Once there, we made the rounds of her remaining relatives. (She was from a family of 8. Only 3 remained.) It was a little surreal, being a 53 year old man, but to everyone else in the room, I was a kid. In fact, I was pretty much ignored as they went through their rituals of talking about their medical conditions, the ones who’ve passed, their grandkids and great-grandkids, and, of course, the past. There isn’t much future left for any of them, but there’s a ton of past left for them to pick up and examine like a Rubik’s Cube.
I have few regrets in life, but I picked one up on the way back to Bowling Green. My dad is buried somewhere in the Memphis area. I had the address of the cemetery in my GPS, but somehow the address book got deleted. My mom and I spent nearly two hours trying to find him. My regret is that my mom never got to say one more goodbye to my dad.
Each of us agreed to take pictures where we left Mama’s ashes. At year end, I’ll gather all of those pictures and the stories behind them and create hard cover books to commemorate a year’s travels.