Thursday, December 30, 2010

D Day Minus 113: (November 15, 2009): A Wrinkle in Time

Dad and I had a bright idea to surprise you while you were working at Wegmans. Well mostly it was my bright idea. But I couldn’t help it. I missed you. Oh and remember when we were walking in Houston last month by the park near the zoo – you really wanted to show Dad how well you doing. You didn’t say you wanted to make him proud, but you didn’t need to.  I knew.  So that was the other reason why I thought it would be good to surprise you.  Plus, like I said, I missed you—a lot.

Both of us were busy. So it wasn’t anyone’s fault. I was working and trying to brush up on my drawing skills. I was inspired by all the late blooming artists and thought, why not?  You were working, romancing Katie, planning for the future,and just enjoying things we used to take for granted. 

Time was really flying by. But, why wouldn’t it?  Life was good.  The treatment was working.  The trips to MD Anderson were more manageable. You only had to fly to Houston every three weeks.  Your last trip was on the fifth.  You and Katie made the entire trip in less than twenty hours. I even got up at the crack of dawn so you could make the flight.  That was the first time you flew on Air Tran.

When you called to tell me you made it to Houston, you complained, “ The seats were like cardboard.”  I listened with compassion for a second.  I really felt bad the seats weren’t comfortable. But you couldn’t tell that from my response: “The price was right.  Dirt cheap! And you could fly out of Dulles early in the morning and fly back later in the day.”

When I picked you and Katie up at eleven, both of you looked like extras from the movie Dawn of the Dead.  Did I ever tell you about seeing that at the drive-in with Uncle Paul?  It doesn’t matter.  The point was you both looked like zombies.

“Don’t ever try to make the trip in a day. It is too much.” Katie nodded complementing your advice like an exclamation point.  But to be honest, it was a wimpy exclamation point.  I laughed and filed it in under “never again.”

You warned Dad and me not to come on opening day last Sunday. “It’s going to be crazy.” You said it seriously like you were the parent and we were the kids. It didn’t matter because it wasn’t going to happen anyway.  Dad and I spent that weekend in Basset raking leaves and catching up on chores. Besides you gave me a blow-by-blow of the day once you got off work. You called on your way to the Milk Truck, your white SCION, in the parking lot. So it was almost like I was there.

I was riding in the SUV with Dad, covered with blankets and crocheting my latest hat.  We were on our way back from Bassett. I mostly forgot what you said. But your excitement and enthusiasm was infectious. And I was grinning ear-to-ear. 

Dad asked, “Why are you smiling?” I ignored him because I was talking to you.

Dad exited off I-81 to make a pit-stop at Sheetz. You know the Mount Jackson exit, number 273 on I-81. The place where Dad always gets a lottery ticket and you always check out the Made to Order menu for your latest “snack.” You had to go because Katie was calling and you had plans with her plus you were almost to the house in Sterling.
After I hung up, I smiled really big at Dad for five or ten seconds and said, “Just because.”

Like I mentioned earlier, I had the bright idea to surprise you. Only the big surprise was that we couldn’t find you.

As soon as we got to Wegmans, I nudged Dad and channeled you, “The floor plan is the opposite of the Dulles store.” I recited all the details just like you told me. You would have been proud.  I did pay attention.

I pointed the bakery out to Dad and left him in the dust with the cart.  I peered into the bakery in search of you. But you were nowhere in sight.  I paced back and forth between breads and cakes so many times, the people in the bakery could have asked for a restraining order. And got it. I was just looking for you. 

Dad finally caught up with me.  He was all calm. Not like me.  I was the epitome of emotions – love, fear, pride, anxiety – on steroids cranked up on high in a Waring blender.

“Text him.” I said to Dad.  It was blend of a whine and a command. “Ask him if he can go to lunch.”

Dad gave me his “damnit Nance” look.  He knew better than to give me too much grief or he’d have me balling in the bakery at Wegmans.  And having shoppers think that he beats me.  Mostly, he knew how much I wanted to see you in your new habitat.  It was just as much for me as it was for you.

Dad hadn’t mastered texting on the Droid so we had to find a place to sit.  I didn't have room to talk though. I'd butt dialed you more times than I'll admit to with my Droid.

Anyhow, we ended up at the pretty nice upscale café you mentioned just outside the bakery.  I order tofu and vegetables that was less than three hundred calories. That way I could eat some cake later and not feel guilty.  Dad got some fish and started to play with his Droid.

Dad said, “My eyes are terrible.” I handed him a spare pair of reading glasses. I kept them in my purse just for these occasions. Then Dad complained a few minutes about the layout of the keyboard on the Droid.

I was afraid we’d have our food before Dad finally texted you.  But it finally happened. He hit send, talked to the phone like that made a difference, then waited for you to text him back.  But you didn’t answer.

I asked Dad if I should ask someone in the bakery to get you. All Dad said was, “If you want.” Of course I wanted.  That was so stupid of him to say, don’t you think?  I wanted him to say “he wanted.” You’d think after being together for over a quarter of a century, your Dad would get it.  Katie was sure lucky. I could coach you on how not to do stupid things.  Don’t you think?

After I made up my mind to track you down after lunch, I got to thinking about you and Thanksgiving and how many different ways I tried to control your holiday. I asked Dad. “Do you really think I’m Rainman?” It was the same time our lunch came. Dad shook his head yes, while he unwrapped his silverware from the napkin. I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t get pissed because it was what he thought.  So I did the next best thing.  I pretended to listen to Dad about what we should do the week we were off for Thanksgiving. 

I was really thinking about you and stupid Thanksgiving. Maybe I did ask you a lot about what your plans were for Thanksgiving, but it wasn’t because I cared if you were in Bassett.  I just didn’t want you to be alone for the holidays.

You got kind of grumpy when I suggested that you come down after work or that we postpone Thanksgiving Dinner so we could celebrate together. You just weren't saying for sure if you were going to Katie’s for Thanksgiving.  After the tenth time over the past few weeks when you said, “Mom, I can figure it out. They’ll be plenty of Thanksgivings. It’s not like I’m dying.”  I decided not to ask anymore, but that didn’t stop me from thinking about it.  Isn’t that obvious?

After lunch, I asked a lady in the bakery if you were in the back.  I said I was your mom.  Tears welled up while she looked for you. I wasn’t sure why.  But they did.  She found you within two minutes and said you’d be down soon. If she could have warped you to me, I think she would have. You said that you had a good team and that everyone was very supportive. I saw it in action.
You walked toward me from the back of the bakery. You moved in slow motion, but each step was like stop frame photography.
  • Frame One – It was today, you were at Wegmans, clad in black Dockers and a white Wegmans polo, clutching a clipboard wearing a Wegmans hat. A little hint of a smile sneaking from the corners of your mouth.
  • Frame Two – It was 1987, you were on the path at the Honolulu Zoo, running toward me in your gold tank top and blue shorts, with your fire-engine locks blowing in the wind. A carefree smile infecting all those on the path.  
  • Frame Three – It was back to now.
  • Frame Four – It was back to 1987.
At least a hundred frames alternating, between today and 1987, passed before you made it to Dad and me.

Remember the book, A Wrinkle in Time, when Meg and Calvin came back to see their mothers one last time before they went to rescue Meg’s father.  That is what it reminded me of.  I could see you through time, but you couldn’t see me.  You and Morgan loved the book.  Fiction was one thing, but reality or surreality was another.  Frankly, it was sort of freaking me out.

You and Dad talked about your day almost in animation. You were all about setting up production schedules and getting ready for the onslaught of activities you expected with the holidays. 

Did you know you really look a lot like Dad?  And you both get excited about the details?  I was mostly quiet taking in the moment.  I tried to enjoy the time like a celebration. Here you were talking shop with Dad.  Things were going smoothly at work. 

My mind should have been full of all your possibilities. Only thoughts of your grand entrance in stop frame kept sucking me back.  You looked tired.  It was in your eyes. Maybe it was from all the work and not getting rest, but your eyes were a little red on the lower rim.  Maybe there really was a Wrinkle in Time.  Maybe there was a man with red eyes just like in the book. A man who tried to take over your power and give it to IT—the main dude from Central Central Intelligence.  Maybe IT from the planet Camazot was really the cancer coming back.

 The only thing I knew was that I didn’t know.  I had my suspicions and it started with a Wrinkle in Time.

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