Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Christmas in Luxembourg, Part 16


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The door opened, and a voice said, “Jill, get out of Mother’s bed.”

Jill grunted and pulled the blankets over her head. A moment later they were pulled off of her, and the lamp beside the bed glowed sharply in her face.

“Get up,” said Del. “Mother needs to lay down.”

Jill sat up, blinking. Del was standing beside the bed, with her arm around Mother.  Mother radiated the remains of a tragic dignity. Smudges of mascara had been inexpertly wiped from her face. Her hair, so precise at midnight mass, looked now as though it had been patted down after being styled with a cattle prod. Groggy as she was, Jill felt a dart of alertness shoot through her.

“Is something wrong?” she asked.

“Everything’s fine,” said Del, in a voice that said that everything was certainly not fine. “Mother just needs to get to bed, so you get up.”

“No, no,” Mother murmured, “Jill shouldn’t have to move when she’s been working so hard all night long. I’ll go sleep in her bed.”

“You can’t!” yelped Jill, bolting out of the bed and standing in the doorway in what a drunken observer might term a “casual attitude”.

“Why not?”

“Because Garrett French is in my bed.”

It was not easy to catch Del off her stride, but this tidbit took her a moment to process. Mother, rallying her signature spirit for a moment, remarked, “And you’re in mine. No wonder you’re still single, Jill.”

“Go to bed, Mother,” Del commanded softly, and to Jill’s astonishment, Mother climbed right into bed, hair, makeup, clothes, and all. Del steered Jill out of the room and shut the door

In the hallway, the windows over the stairs were just starting to be illuminated. “What time is it?” Jill whispered

“7:00 in the morning.”

“Why are  you guys up so early?” moaned Jill. “It’s Christmas.”

“We haven’t been to bed yet,” said Del shortly. “If you’re making coffee, make me some.”

She disappeared into the bathroom. Jill glanced longingly at her own bedroom door, where she could be sure of finding a sweater, then took herself downstairs. She stumbled around the cold kitchen wrapped in a Christmas afghan she grabbed off the back of a couch. Pickings were a bit slim, as Mother had been at Reagan’s for more than a week, but there were pods for the Keurig machine. If the coffee would not be lovingly hand-crafted, at least it would be fast.

Feet were shuffling down the stairs. Jill turned around and gasped to see Daddy, angles and proportions all absurd, standing in the doorway. An instant later, the image resolved into Garrett, entirely correct, wearing the Christmas sweater and the pair of Daddy’s old sweatpants she’d tossed him last night. Either way, Jill wanted to throw herself into his arms and feel the Christmas sweater wrapped around her.

The sweater she would get, at least. Concerned by her initial shock, Garrett was all apologies. “I was just looking for something warm that would fit. I hoped it wouldn’t bother you if I wore the Dad sweater,” he said, pulling it off. Jill had a glimpse of abs as his t-shirt slid up. 

“You didn’t have to,” she protested, without force, as he handed her the sweater.

“We’ll trade,” he said. “Gimme the blanket.”

Del walked in as Jill was struggling her way into the sweater and Garrett was draping himself like a chieftain. She went straight to Jill’s mug of coffee and downed it black. 

“Long night?” Jill asked.

“Reagan called the paramedics on Mother because she threatened to kill herself,” said Del.

Jill and Garrett both stared open-mouthed. “What happened?” Jill finally asked.

“Nothing that needed to happen,” said Del. “Reagan was angry and wanted to stage a big intervention. I told her she should wait until Mother had started her meds again. But she had to make a big scene and demand an accounting from Mother right then, and of course Mother got defensive and angry. She and Reagan screamed at each other for a long time and raked up every old grievance on the books.”

“I’m glad I wasn’t there,” said Jill.

“Me too,” said Del. “You would have only made it worse. Finally Mother got dramatic and said she would be better off dead.”

“Did she try to hurt herself?” asked Garrett.

“Of course not,” said Del. “Mother loves herself too much for that. But it was a stupid thing to say, and Reagan jumped on it and called 911. Reagan and Mother both sobered up when the paramedics came and they had to deal with the assessment and the paperwork. I talked with one of them about whether Mother needed to go to the ER and get her prescriptions filled right away, but we agreed that sitting in the ER for hours would only agitate her more and be a waste of money.”

“She still has some pills here,” said Jill. “Can’t she start on those?”

“Yes, but she says they make her feel sick, so we need to get an appointment and see if we can adjust the dosage or try something different,” said Del. “I’m going to stay with her today and make sure she stays quiet, so you should probably leave.”

“Fine,” said Jill, unreasonably stung. Of course, she and Mother didn’t get along, but she wasn’t about to stir up Reagan levels of drama.

“You don’t have to be pissy,” said Del. “It just makes sense for today, until she regulates. One of the reasons Mother stopped taking her meds was because you were coming home. She was embarrassed that the reason you were coming home after all these years was because she couldn’t manage Daddy’s finances. She felt like she had failed him by not being able to carry on by herself, without pills.”

“That’s really stupid,” said Jill, almost nauseous with humiliation and rage. “I will not take the blame for this. This is not all my fault.”

A warm mug of coffee was placed in her shaking hands, and Garrett was tucking the afghan around her. 

“No one’s blaming you,” said Del. “Mother is all messed up with grief and guilt. Tonight she saw how toxic she looks from the outside. Mother thinks she can just say anything and there won’t be any consequences. The paramedics don’t take the same view.”

“What happens now?” Garrett asked, as Jill was resolutely absorbed in her coffee.

“Mother isn’t good at living alone,” said Del. “And she can’t live with Reagan, and you can’t live with her. Scott and I have been talking about moving to Albuerquerque. Mother will come with me.”

She sipped her coffee. Jill felt completely bludgeoned by the events of the morning. This new twist was too much to take in.  She herself had moved to get away from Mother, and here was Del proposing to just pack Mother up and take her along like it was that easy.

“Have you talked to her about this?” asked Garrett carefully.

“Not yet, but Mother will usually listen to me,” said Del. “She talks a lot about going to Florida, but she was counting on Daddy to make the arrangements. As long as I do the work, she’ll talk a good game about plans, and eventually she’ll feel like it was all her idea in the first place.”

“Well, I never,” said Jill.

Garrett focused on the practicalities. “What about the businesses?”

Del shrugged off the business. “She gave the hotel to Jill, didn’t she? And Reagan will get that useless piece of land. Daddy should have sold Heath Albany that garage years ago anyway.”

Jill finally found her voice. “What’s Mother going to live on? Is Scott going to make her an allowance? Who’s going to finance her pills and counseling and shopping and trips?”

“Mother’s old enough to go on Medicare. And you can sell the house and send her the money.” Del stood up and stretched. “I’m going to sleep now. See you later.”

Jill stood up too. She flung her arms around her warm, solid sister. “I love you, Cordelia,” she mumbled into Del’s coarse hair. “Merry Christmas.”

“I love you too,” said Del. “You should take a shower.”

She stumped off to bed, leaving Jill and Garrett to their coffee and recalibration.

“What now?” Jill said finally.

“Well, we’ve got a snow plow,” said Garrett. “Want to go to Christmas mass at 9:30 at St. Boniface?”

Jill’s party attire from last night’s hot chocolate reception (an event now shrouded in the mists of time) was rumpled. Garrett, himself arrayed in jeans and parka, dismissed her fashion concerns: “I think this is one occasion where it’s actually justifiable to say that God won’t care.”

They opened the front door and immediately recoiled from the glittering assault. Beyond the shadows of the porch, sunlight refracted into every color and resolved into a vast, gleaming whiteness. The world had been freshly washed and bleached and hung out to melt.

“A Christmas miracle,” said Garrett, taking Jill’s arm. “It’s stopped snowing.”

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1 comment:

Foxfier said...

A kind of obscure, but not wanting to get into "awareness raising" junk thing-- a lot of mental illness is like having a weak knee or something. And you did that, very well.

My mom had a couple of really bad years, and needed some meds. They worked OK, and then she went off because she didn't have the time for the sleep it needed.

My brother had a nasty deployment, and needed them for a few weeks.

Calling them a crutch...is rather correct, though the scorn isn't.
It helps adapt for a weakness.

Or, for those who have bigger problems, something broken. Some folks can't use a knee-brace, they need a new knee.

Needing help isn't shameful.
Prioritizing pride over the help you need, is.