A Short Story by Christy

Author: Christy
Created: December 28, 2017 at 02:15 pm
Upload Type: Short Story, G (All)  
Category: General/Other | General/Other | General/Other
Upload Stats: 4.5 Stars by 1 users with 1 comments and 175 views

When God Spoke  

My mother was the epitome of the person who felt like they never belonged in their own skin.  She always saw herself in another dimension, holding court during high tea surrounded by Stepford-like loved ones who adored without question and did as they were told before she even told them.  She would spend her time either locked in her room reading gothic romance novels, books with flaming redheaded vixens and dark-haired dashing men who were pirates or beggars by day and blue-blooded aristocrats by night trying to make it on their own and not depend on the family money…at least for now.


When she wasn’t reading, she was sleeping.


Worst, when she wasn’t reading or sleeping she was facing the reality of her life, much like a child being pulled from the playground before they were ready, she would throw adult-sized fits which included hurled words, figurines, flat-palmed hands and punches below the belt, figuratively and literally.  There was no getting out of it – if you did not play your part and willingly and her usual war crimes didn’t have to expose your vulnerable underbelly like a trusting puppy looking for tummy rubs, she would call in the heavy artillery, my dad, who had been in the 100 year war for what he said felt like 101 years and he would sometimes patiently, sometimes not so patiently convince you of the inevitability of participating when the curtain went up.


Two adults with the keys to your room, your clothes, food, shelter and the lockbox that contained the broken fragments of your 3 year old heart, the tattered edges of your 5 year old wonder along with the ½ teaspoon of self-worth you were able to scoop off the floor like grains of salt coupled with a broken salt shaker on the floor in the aftermath of previous matinees. 


And so we played along, limped along, crawled along, giving up all of what we were, for what I know understand were offerings to physically hold onto her.  In the moments you did dare invade in her reading space, or in later years her AOL Chat room space, in the few seconds between her psyche frolicking in a field of iris’s and four-leaf clovers and her mind registering an intruder was in her midst, you could still see her rosy pink cheeks flushed with internal and sometimes external laughter.  You could see the soft lines around her mouth that were indeed laughing lines and not lines caused by a constant state of consternation.  In those rare glimpses of my mother in her story time moment,  showed me a beautiful, albeit shy creature that I would never see in our flesh filled moments.


As I am sure, even as children and an immature father/husband knew, the patch of internet freedom and paperbound moments were not enough.  She was hemorrhaging physical presence muscle mass at a rate no normal human could contain.  She had the aura of a pixelated hologram, what wasn’t a gaping hole could barely be identified as a body part or a human attribute.


After three children of my own, my middle brother’s marriage and my youngest brother’s brief foray into college she finally slipped out the back door to a wondrous new world, filled with friends that really understood her, love interests who could only see her buxom bosoms and promises of sweet southern loving.  A place called…. Ohio.


Who knew, Ohio was a Utopian dream.


You are laughing now because you know it is not.  And you know that fantasy’s kryptonite is reality and reality will not be denied for long. I sometimes imagine her retreating from the community within her communal living.  How they must have been hurt and confused by her silky exodus. Starting with a few moments of “me time”, to a few hours of “mediation” to days spent behind closed doors having conversations with avatars on a computer screen representing other dissenters in other worlds like Nebraska, Virginia and almost any dimension within the United States ending in an “A”.   She either ran or was ousted, we will never know the real truth and came briskly walking back into our lives like she was simply late for an important meeting in our lives and sat right down at the head of the Thanksgiving table.


It had been five years without the constant openings and closings of her Off Off Off Off Broadway galas.  Because the daily grind of life, the busy schedule of working and juggling well-balanced kids that require all of extracurricular activities taken like daily supplements to maintain this balance, we didn’t notice that what we had feared as children, had in fact not happened when she left.  In fact, other than an ache in your chest when you reverted to the childhood home in heart and there was no mom there to welcome you did we even realize she was gone.  Truth be told, even in our youth she wasn’t ever at that door anyway.


There are hundreds of pinpricks in my memory of her return.  Millions of tiny hairs standing on end at the abrasiveness of her words, her detached demeanor with her grandchildren, and the shock that even at the expense of her family she still saw us as the gravity that stuck her feet in the mud.   I thought absence made the heart grow fonder.  I guess that only works if your heart is not made of wifi signals and fictional paper pages.


Because she was geographically more available, that only made her comings and goings more painful as there was not thousands of razor blade studded miles between us.  Just expressways, highways and country roads.  Availability without interest to interaction is offensive.  On both sides of the fence, I would assume.


For me, the ebbs and flows were more like ripples in a duck pond that no longer affected me.  Her health would wan and I would react long enough to be snubbed or lacerated by her tongue and I would retreat again.  Until the day that the battle cry her heart’s literally demise did not stir me to bear arms.  There was no rush to the hospital.  No panic to put the past behind us and make nice before we would not have that opportunity.


The day did come when the prequel to Taps played for the final time and the big reunion lay on a shelf in the hollows of my journal, a storybook story without a storybook ending.


Although I have used many similarities between my mother’s life and a blockbuster movie with fantastical beasts and trees growing in Brooklyn, she did have a rich following of fanboys and girls.  All of them were adopted orphans, stepchildren with evil stepmothers and nieces who she had always been kind too.  It was a true revelation when I realized my mother only loved blind devotees.  And maybe to her, that is what love looked like – if you truly loved her you accepted her on her terms.  For me love is more complicated and relies on honesty, bending without breaking, push back, acceptance, investment, and risk – but none of those requirements starts with the word “blind”.


In any case, when the end came calling the hands jutted forward for payment.  No insurance, no savings, no funeral. 


I am a lot of things, and one of the biggest flaws I have is ego regarding the perception of my success.  Although my children were not gifted with handmade quilts and all things embroidered and knitted from my mom as my cousins and step-siblings were I was the one expected to dig up the cash for the bare bones cremation and life celebration.  So many things happened so fast, with Facebook postings that funds were needed because her husband Philip was broke, and insinuating her selfish children were not helping or worse – could not afford to help.


I immediately combatted that with a resounding “I SHALL PAY FOR IT ALL – HEAR ME YE HEATHENS I AM NOT A POOR RELATION” spoken self righteously and absolutely not for the right reason….in the end, I split it with my middle brother and my younger brother having no qualms about allowing us to do so without his input.  Apparently, my egotistical affliction was not in our DNA as far as it extended to him.


A short while after her death and life celebration/fund raising endeavor for her widowed husband, Philip started uploading videos to a Youtube account in my mom’s name.  The first was recordings of voicemails she had left for a niece.  One said she was just checking on her.  I listened to that recording over and over and every time she said .. “Hey, Amy…” I would quickly voice over “Christy”…and pretend it was for me.  I did it so much that now when I play it in my head my voice is interjected over and I hear it as “Hey Christy” in a knocked off movie kind of way. 


The videos were pictures, mostly about 10 of the same ones posted with different frames and filtered differently, but they all had one thing in common.  None of her “first” family was to be seen for the most part.  Not me.  Not my brothers.  Not my nieces and nephew.  Not my children.  Just her second, third and fourth families.  It rubbed so rawly that my heart still skips a bit when the blood rushes past that particular spot in my aortic valve.


As the weeks went on, the videos were still under her name but more and more about him.  His church family, things he thought were funny or something a little off the wall.  So I quit watching with the zest I had before.  Before when it would break my heart I would indulge, now that it bored me I was able to let go.



Last night I got a Youtube notification.  My mother had posted Christmas 2017.   Intrigued, I snuggled into my bed, cleaned the lens in my glasses, and sit to pay close attention.  The beginning was typical drivel, my apologies, what my cold heart reads as drivel.   Christmas music and pictures of his grandchildren rejoicing in the opening of gifts.  Then, my heart stopped.  The frame was a picture of a Christmas love letter sent to him by his son.  As much as I hate to I would like to share verbatim at the point my world tilted, stood on its head and changed another part of me into something I do not want to be.


“….You’ve had a very difficult year, but you’re so amazing to have come so far & done so well!  You helped me keep going, bought your home & cleared out the land………….”


And there it was.  It wasn’t that he was able to love better than me because he could love her when I couldn’t or wouldn’t.  He wasn’t a paragon of righteous love and loyalty.  He was the sycophant I always thought he was.  He let us believe that he was with my mom all this time walking a tightrope financially without a net.  That they lived in a travel trailer on a rented pad because it was a one-man show.  He allowed my brother and I to pay for the funeral and for my mother’s sister to raise funds for him – all the while knowing there was an insurance policy in the background roaring to life to pay its pint of blood.


But that wasn’t the turning point.  That was angry as hell I could kill somebody point.  That was the “how could I be so stupid” point.  That was the “I want my money back point”. 


But it wasn’t the turning point.


In the background, as happens to all of us,  there are several other stories going on in my world.  Some involve my children, my husband, my job and on soul-searching Sundays, my spiritual being. 


I have always been a Doubting Thomas.  A “show me the money” type of gal.  God and I seem to always be at odds with his refusal to show me a small sign of his presence.  I recently shared this with a friend who let me know she already knew I was struggling and she and her daughters were praying for me.  Surprised..yes…I didn’t realize I was so transparent, especially about something so personal.


In that moment, as I angrily finger punching the screen on my phone, searching for a number to contact Phillip, in that moment when I had nothing but hatred and angst in my heart Youtube started playing a song.


My husband was present – it was completely random.


Once upon a time, my oldest daughter who is far cooler than me introduced me to a singer/songwriter Patty Griffin.  She introduced me because a song she has called “Sweet Lorraine”.  The lyrics go like.. “Sweet Lorraine…the fiery haired blue eyed schemer...Who came from a long line of drinkers and dreamers…Who knew that sunshine doesn’t hold up to dark…Whose mother could only spit at the thought…of Sweet Lorraine”… 


The lyrics were hauntingly familiar and led to a long-standing love affair with everything Patty Griffin…all songs, all albums, all live performances.  There was not a Patty Griffin song stone unturned to my knowledge. 


The blue tooth speaker at my bedside synced up with my phone and from the speaker in my beloved Patty Griffin’s voice came….”Christina...Christina..It’s a wondrous world of ridiculous things.  With nothing so rare as the love that it brings.  In the silence of a smile that understands.  A piece of the action a piece of the gold.  Everyone’s paid well and does what they’re told.  Especially the simple daughter of a simple man.” 


You know when you shut down your browser and you watch page after page shut down like falling dominoes.  The cadence so regular and so efficient.  I felt those pages in my life shutting.  Every doubt.  Every self-destructive thought melted away.


As God sang to me… “Christina…Christina and up in the air they would write your name there…But love would fall to pieces in the rain…Who would know better than you…A hundred love letters and none of them true….Christina… Christina.”



© Christy - all rights reserved

Author Notes

My journey to hear God...did not take me thru the portal I romantically envisioned.  Who knew God was a fan of Youtube.

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Comments & Reviews ( X 1)

March 01, 2018
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A poignant story
Christy, there is no such thing as a perfect parent except for watching old black and white television series ofsuburban families, like watching June Cleaver ('Leave it to Beaver') wearing a starched shirtwaist dress and pearls while cleaning her perfect house. Your short story describes a woman and mother who danced to the beat of a different drummer. In some ways, my mother was similar. Thank you for sharing the poignant story from beginning to the end. ~ Sonia

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