I got an email from Mom: “I forgot I had an appointment with Dr. Hohf, Monday. Can you take me?”
“Sure,” I replied.
A couple hours later, another email from Mom: “We’ll have to take your car. Richard has mine. [Rich’s wife] Sue’s uncle is working on the Olds. I’ll buy you a tank of gas.”
Good one, Mom–way to slip that in there. I have a beater Geo Prizm with 200,000 miles on it. She has a 3-year-old Honda Accord with 10,000 miles on it that she can’t drive. Dad kept the Olds years beyond its expected lifetime and put an insane amount of money into it to keep it running. When Dad lost his license and Mom bought the Accord with a bequest from her Aunt Alice, Dad was adamant that the Olds stay in the family, and my brother Rich accommodated him. It continues to require an insane amount of repairs, subsidized by Mom and Dad and Rich’s mechanic uncle-in-law. And whenever the Olds is in the shop, Rich gets to borrow the Accord.
The upside, I remind myself, is that I get to play my iPod in the car. Wrong. (Have I mentioned the trip is an hour each way?)
I’m keeping the music low, but we’re not on the road five minutes when Mom says, “I know it’s your car, but could we have that off until we’re on the way home? I can’t stand that beating. I’m afraid it’ll drive up my blood pressure.”
I wait a long ten seconds, let her see the steam blowing out my ears before I turn it down.
“There’s no reason to have the radio when you have a passenger. We can talk. So, have you bicycled lately?” she asks.
“Did you go anyplace interesting?”
Before too long, the conversation dies (go figure) and I turn the radio on again. Mom seems to have a deep-seated need to take me for granted, but enough is enough. “Look, Mom,” I say, “let’s try to find a compromise.” I switch the iPod to a mellow playlist and keep it low. “It has nothing to do with the company,” I explained. “If the radio’s not on, my head finds something to play anyway, like a really bad rendition of ‘God Bless America’ from the ballgame I was just watching—over and over and over.”
After the appointment, Mom suggested we eat downstairs at the hospital deli. I reminded her about the last time we tried that. She picked the least unpalatable of the limited options and complained about it the whole time. “Oh no,” she says, “I think we should eat downstairs. I’m sure they’ll have something.”
Okay, Mom. They have one hot sandwich (Reuben) and two soups. She settles on the vegetable beef and we decide to split a Reuben. We sit down and dig in, and she proclaims the Reuben delightful. “I’m flexible,” she says, making her point.
Okay, Mom, whatever you say. I’ve met one person in my life who’s less flexible, and that’s Dad. See case in point above. She’s trying to get off cheap. She won’t slip me any walking-around money, and I won’t ask. When Mom and Dad were in the condo, they used to throw 20s at me like jujubes. But now Dad’s rent at the nursing home is $4900 a month. I’ll settle for the tank of gas.
On the way home, I find an even mellower playlist and play that. I put it together for Carol and me to make love to in front of the fireplace, but I don’t mention that. It even includes some classical music. Mom mentions the Arts Channel played the Hallelujah Chorus, which she enjoyed very much.
“Actually, Mom, I find the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ kind of boring,” I say, merely as a point of interest. “I have a music degree. To my ear, it’s like Beethoven’s Ninth–the ‘Ode To Joy’–just not very interesting. The Messiah does have some beautiful arias. You know what, though? I want to play you something.”
I find “How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place” from Brahams’ German Requiem on the iPod and play it. “This never fails to make me cry, it’s so beautiful,” I say.
We pull up to the retirement village about halfway through. Mom says, “Don’t turn the car off,” which pleases me. Mom and I sit in the front seat with the car idling and listen, I with my eyes closed. About five minutes along, Mom says, “Okay, I think that’s enough.”
Really, Mom? What are you in such a hurry to get to? It speaks to a lifetime of being a sacrificial lamb. It’s all too easy to get too much of a good thing, and that’s bad.
“I think this is the end, anyway,” I say, and let the track run for the final 30 seconds.
“What was that again?” she asks.
“It’s from Brahams’ German Requiem. I can’t keep the German name of the chorus in my head.”
“What does it have to do with the Hallelujah Chorus?”
There’s an odd question. “Well, they’re both pieces for full chorus and orchestra. But ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ is Baroque and this is Romantic.”
“Well, thank you for sharing it with me,” she says sincerely. “That was just beautiful.”
Write a sketch about sharing a moment. Try to incorporate one or more luminous details which reveal the inner character of at least one of the principals. I keep reading this is what makes for a good short story.
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· Put Sharing A Moment in the title field.
· Comment on this article with the link to your post so I’ll be sure to find it.
· I will comment on every submission and include a link to it in the next column.
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