So I called Josie, telling her about the kids soccer schedule. She and mom used to come watch the games together, sitting in their lawn chairs on the side of the field, cheering on Timmy and Robbie, sometimes holding the little ones in her lap, helping them clap and cheer on their brothers. After the game, the boys would run first to the two of them, Mom would hug and beam at them and Josie would ruffle their hair. I haven't been able to do that in a long time, but they let Josie ruffle their hair. “Good game, Nut.” “Good game, Butter.” That's what she called them. Nut and Butter. Started it when they were little and she said they were always sticky, like Peanut Butter. Somehow that became Nut and Butter. The boys love it and they love Josie.
I've never been real fond of her.
Still, the phone call was going along pretty well. I told her the schedule for the next couple of weeks, we talked about the teams they would be playing and I kept waiting for the right time and the right words to ask about mom. It grew silent. Just for a second or two. “Why'd you really call?” Straight to the point. That's Josie. What is she accusing me of with that tone of voice?
“To tell you about the kids soccer games.”
“Oh, really.” More silence.
“I did. I thought the boys would like to have you there, especially now that Mom won't be there.”
“She hasn't been there for over a year, Sarah.”
“Well, yeah, I know, but now that Dad is gone there's no reason for her to be away any more.” I heard the whine in my voice and knew she'd pounce on it. Damn.
That's not what I was expecting. I don't know what I was expecting from her, but that wasn't it. More silence. This isn't going well. I started spluttering, “I just...I...well...” The silence continued. I wanted to scream, “WHERE IS MY MOTHER?” I said nothing.
“Do you have any idea what your mother's life has been like? Do any of you care what she has been through? I've heard you all complain about them losing the house, but did any of you care about how hard that was for them? Did any of you ask or care how hard it was for them to move away from their friends and their family? Did any of you even tell them you were sorry they were having such a hard time? Did you know how they were sabotaged in the business?” She barely took a breath before continuing, “I've heard you gripe to other people, watched as you trashed them to their friends, to their church, to each other, and I've watched you be the same selfish, spoiled bitch you were in high school. It's time to grow up and start caring about someone other than yourself. You want your mom here for what she can do for you. Not one of you, well, except maybe Dan, has a clue about who your mother is, what she sacrificed for you, what she wanted out of life and gave up—for you, and I haven't seen any of you reach out to comfort her. You lost your Dad. It's horrible. She lost her husband! I haven't seen one of you reach out to her. She lost her whole life, but you still have yours.” She breathed a shaky breath.
“You called because you want me to rat your mother out. You wanted to whine at me about how she should be HERE, not wherever she is.”
I started to deny it, but she kept talking. “It's not going to happen, Sarah. I love you, I've loved all of you since you were children, but your mother is my closest friend and I've watched as she has faded to a shadow of who she used to be. None of you noticed or cared that it was happening, but I do. Your father did. It's your mother's time to get herself back. I will not help you stop that. If she never comes back, I'm okay with that, as long as she gets herself back.”
“I, I, I...” I stammered.
Her voice was quiet when she spoke again. “That's right. It's all about you. I love you, but you've become a selfish, spoiled woman.” Then she completely changed gears. “I'll be at the game on Thursday. Tell the boys I'll see them there. Porter Park?”
“Yes.” I hated the subdued voice that came out of my mouth. I wanted to stamp my foot and scream and shout at her, yet I found myself quietly hanging up and sitting in stunned silence.
That didn't go so well.
I am NOT selfish. I am NOT spoiled. My whole life is about taking care of other people. Which is why I'm taking this afternoon for me. I'm going to get a manicure and go shopping. I just lost my father, dammit. And my mother doesn't even care.