Closing the Distance

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February 8, 2012 by Tiffany A. Robbins

Mom is coming to my home. The woman is slight at barely four foot eight inches, yet she moves the world with her wherever she goes. She pretends to weigh over eighty pounds with her bulky clothes that can barely cling to her thin shoulders, but some things can’t be hidden under the weight of tattered fabric. All the years of smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee in place of a well-balanced meal have taken their toll upon her body.

Her sister has died leaving her practically homeless and now she comes with half the state of Louisiana in her tow. The u-haul is filled with down comforters to protect her from the cold Missouri winters, which she claims are unbearable. She has trash bags full of coffee scoops she can’t part with because “you can’t buy those in the store.” Accompanying Mom are her two small dogs. One is nearly deceased and it clings to life as Mom does with barely a hope and never a prayer. Her only other companions are the fleas who ride shotgun upon the dogs.

Along with her physical hoard, she brings the well-worn memories that should be forgotten. Around her neck, she wears the stepfathers and their abuses: a gun in the mouth, a refrigerator through the wall, an unacknowledged rape. The years of missed conversations, unattended celebrations, and unkissed skinned knees hang from her back pocket of the loose old blue jeans as a damp, dirty dishrag. Her jaded sense of the world is worn as a badge of honor upon her lapel. Proud is the only way to wear such a thing as one earns that attribute with great courage and fortitude.

Those whom she leaves behind mourn her absence and cry their appropriate tears. All the while, they’re breathing their relief that she has not brought her hoard to them. They love her on holidays and with sweeping declarations, but their worlds are too crowded to fit the small old woman and her small old dogs. They will truly miss her, as they have never had to face living without her. They will come to understand the plight of a child for her mother as they race across the United States every November in a vain attempt to be the first one at Mom’s house for Thanksgiving. They will already be beaten by their oldest sister.

She brings so much with her and yet leaves so much behind. There in the humidity and the swamps she leaves the grave of the only man who treated her as more than just a punching bag to be found at the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels. Left behind are the hurricanes, which took her home away from her but which she fears less than a few flakes of fine Midwestern snow. Also, remain the loved ones and the hated ones whom she will always call family despite their odd, distant, and random ties of kinship.

She journeys to a new family. A daughter and granddaughters who she hardly knows yet is desperate to love. She runs to the place where independence and freedom can be found. It is a cold place filled with warm hearts and kind words for such a delicate old woman.

It’s a new life for her and a new life for me. It is to be a reunification of the old days, the new experiences, the bad memories, and the healing to come. A lifetime of love, regrets, issues, and affections are about to be shared as the gap between the two states of Louisiana and Missouri shrinks to the distance of a living room.

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