Submitted by John L. Lincicome.
Kid Life, They took her away again…
“Did you wipe your feet?” she asked as soon as I entered the living room. I’d come in the back door.
Such was my routine when comin’ home from school. After traipsin’ through the kitchen, passed the washer and dryer, the kitchen table and then into the living room of the three-bedroom, one bath rambler on Washington Blvd in Lake City, she was often on the couch when I came home, when she wasn’t workin’ at the PX on Ft Lewis.
She was usually…
Sittin’ upright, her thin legs crossed like mom’s do, one over the other in a feminine sort of way, her back against the vertical part of the ugly, green, tufted, vinyl couch that came from Tomhoff’s in Parkland. A Winston cigarette in her right hand, the smoke from it meandering aimlessly. The curtains on the big window in the living room were just a foot or so behind her. The curtains were always shut when I came home and only mom was home.
The daylight that filtered through them curtains were the only light in the room. She, mom, was but a silhouette against the backdrop of the filtered light against the emotionally, violent silence in the company of the smoke from her Winston, and her thoughts. And all them things meandered about into nowhere’s-ville in the living room when I came home. Guilt visited me for disruptin’ the vulgar or it all. It was her world, but it was my world, too.
“Yeah mom, I wiped ‘em” I said.
I’d come to a stop at the end of her couch. Just lookin’ at her like a kid does. She began to turn her head to take a look see at me, then changed her mind. The ash on her Winston was awfully long and about to fall. After a few beats I turned and walked down the short hallway to my bedroom.
She was hard to understand. Mom.
Sometimes she was “up” in spirit, other times not so much. When she was “up”, man life was good, but when she was in the other place, all bets were off. She had secrets. The old man had secrets, everybody had secrets in my house.
I had secrets too, like most kids do. But, sometimes a kid needs a link to reality, eh? Piss on all them secrets, just tell me like it is, eh? Give me a one thing I can hold on to, comes to mind.
In the years that went by between that then, and the new now, she, mom, sold her car to me for a $100.00. Came a time that when I came home from school, she wasn’t there.
It’d happened several times before in the years prior that she wasn’t there, but for some reason I wasn’t of the age or mind to question it beyond “where’s mom”, too darn deeply in those thens.
Weren’t never no payoffs for the ask thing. No truths. Only half truths. White lies bent on stuff parents think is the “right” thing to say. But, a kid ain’t as dumb as folks might think when it comes to that stuff. All them ziodium crystals in this kid’s head came to makin’ babies. New life, new thinks. New happy’s. New sads.
Came a time, this time, that her absence troubled me in a more deliberate, serious way, smack dab in my deep down. Figured she’d come home at some point before the old man, but she didn’t. Besides, she had no car – I had it.
It was a time when I was on the edge of new life stuffs. A time when all the ziodium crystals in my teener head were dancing about with testosterone and stuffs like that. Yes “stuffs”. Plural.
A time when the television news shows betrayed what the schoolin’ thing was teachin’ about democracy and rights and wrongs and Viet Nam and black and white and all sorts of other things. A time when I began to question all that life was all about.
A time when I realized I kind-a-liked girls, too.
I was growin’ up, but mom was drifin’ away. And she was gone again to wherever mom’s go when they go away, and it troubled me.
“Poof…” Like a magic.
Came a time the old man came home that day, earlier than usual, too. It was still light outside. Brakeman Bill wasn’t on yet, and mom wasn’t with the old man.
“Where’s mom?” I asked when he walked through the front door.
The old man said “they took her away again” after he shut the door.
“Where to? And who are ‘they’?”
He went on to tell me how mom was troubled by her experiences as a pretty, young, German woman in WWII. That ugly things had happened to her, that she struggled with all of her used to be’s and sometimes all them things crept into her now and got the best of her. He used different words to tell the tale.
“But, where IS she?” I asked.
The old man looked at his shoes, then looked me in the eye and said; “Puget Sound Hospital, in the looney ward”.
Hard to recall what happened in the moments that immediately followed, save for one thing. I grabbed the phone book off the lower shelf of the coffee table in the living room, and looked up “Hospital”. Then “Puget Sound Hospital”.
The hospital was near 38th and Pacific in Tacoma Town. I grabbed my keys and left to find her, bring her home.
It was a very big building. Bigger than any I’d ever been in. The front door was clear to see, so after I parked I made my way into it. The lady at the counter was older, dark haired with a tempered kindness in her eyes bent on stuff I knew nothing about and wouldn’t for decades.
“Where’s my mom?”
“Who is your mom?”
We did the Q & A for a bit. Came a time she gave me a look. The kind of look that a fella knows means somethin’, but not “what”.
“Take a seat” she said. I’ll get back to you in a few minutes.
The minutes went by like hours, but there came a time when she told where mom was. I took the elevator “up”. Ultimately, I came to a nurse’s station. I did the ask thing, and the woman behind the counter did the tell thing.
“Have a seat” she said.
After a few beats mom appeared. She was dressed in a goofy, off white gown thing that hung like a flimsy potato sack over her 5’-1”, 99lb frame.
“Liebchen!” she shouted as she came into view. Her word echoed in the room in an uncomfortable sort of way, felt good in a relief sort of a way, too.
“Take me home!” She asked.
That’s what I’d come to do but the Nurses and Doc’s at that place took a dim view of my declarations and pushy kid asks…
We talked a bit, mom and I. She was kind-a-goofy, kind-a-lovey, kind-a-needy. She was my mom. I loved her and wanted to help her. She begged and pleaded with me in the clumsy of an emotional way folks do, eh, to get her out of that place, to take her home.
But it wasn’t to be. I had to leave without her. Sometimes stuff don’t work out when ya want it to. It only works out when “it” wants to.
A week or so later she came home again. We never spoke of it at home after that. The subject was off limits.
Ten years later the old man found her dead in her bed. Empty pill bottle on her night stand.
They took her away again.
Life is a lot of things. To a kid it’s always a mystery.
Bad kids ain’t borne, they’re bred unintentionally. Prey to the stuff in life; to white lies, to untruths, to stuffs that’s beyond the reach of a kid’s reason – till it is. But by the time it’s within reach, a lot of water has gone under the bridge.
I visit mom from time to time. I do all the talkin’ when I do…
Pfft. Damn Woman…