Throughout the remainder of the month of August I continued to be greeted and needed by strangers who thought I was their friend. There was Elizabeth, who was a lady who had just turned 87 years old the week before and was hoping to turn back time.
“I was so busy my whole life taking care of this one and the other. I dropped out of high school to take care of my younger siblings after my mother decided she couldn’t handle the pressures and left home. I spent the next six years changing diapers, feeding and dressing them. I went from being a typical 14-year-old teenager to feeling like i was middle-aged at 20. The friends with whom I was once inseparable from, slowly drifted away. They lived their lives as teenagers as teenagers should. They moved on – some went away to college, some stayed and others took life one day at a time.”
“What about your father, where was he doing all this time?”
“He kept on doing what he was doing before my mom left, heading to the bar after work with his friends, coming home drunk, falling asleep and starting all over again the next day.”
“I don’t think its your fault. When I turned 20 a beautiful lady came to the front door. She looked vaguely familiar to me and it took me several seconds to see that it was my mother.”
“When she left home her hair was flat and her skin was colored uneven. She was chubby around the waist and her eyes never were always dim and sad. The lady that walked into the house that day was radiant. Her dark hair was alive, her white skin shone and her eyes were glistening.”
“As the realization that she was my mother began to hit me I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror by the entrance. I was wan and looked double my age. My hair was in knots and my clothes were my brother’s undershirt and an old pair of jeans.”
“What did you tell her when she came in?”
“At first I felt a sense of relief, but as the days went by and I became a second thought to my siblings and a maid to my mother – a tsunami of resentment overtook me.”
She stood up and said, “I need to leave now, is it ok if I come back tomorrow?”
As she stood up to go I tried to understand just what it was she needed from me.
Elizabeth was a beautiful Irish lady. She wore a long summer dress with a soft Angora sweater. She wore her gray hair long and had a pair of reading glasses necklace around her neck. Her eyes were a translucent green and her lips were in a creased into a sad shape. Her voice was hoarse and when she spoke the words would come out in a deliberate way. Each word expressed slowly and used methodically.
The next day she showed up exactly at the appointed time and continued with her story.
“After my mother came back she promptly threw out my father and took out a restraining order. He was, as was his normal state, drunk and didn’t understand what was happening until he woke up on the sidewalk at 5 O’clock in the morning. The door was locked when he tried to get and he began to scream.”
“‘Lizzy, Elizabeth open the door its your father.’ My mother ran down the stairs, gave him a bag of all his belongings and told him to leave and to not come back. He didn’t know who she was and for a couple of minutes he thought he was at the wrong house until she addressed him. ‘John James Douglas, you are no longer a resident of this home – you drove me away one time but you will not do that again. Now leave and never come back again.'” A tear trickled down her face as she spoke, took a sip of her coffee and then paused.
“As he went to cross the street a garbage truck him and he was thrown into the air. He landed squarely in front of the bar he would frequent, dying in the spot he lived his life away.”
She paused and then looked at me. “I need my time back. I am running out of it – I was given all these years and I wasted them..” She stood up to leave, “I need to go…”
I sat there and watched her slowly walk away and I wondered what had happened between that day and the ensuing 60 years or so. Why was she speaking to me and what did she think I could offer her? Time? A rewind button? We all had our regrets but there was no way back and I sure as hell didn’t have any power to do so.
Or so I thought.