One of my loudest laments is that there's not a damn thing that stays the same. It never matters how prepared I believe myself to be, or how ready I say I am for change. Once it is set into motion, the activity churns up the silt below the surface with its velocity. Change has a domino effect, one condition follows another, then another, and next thing you know, you're hips-deep in strange waters.
For example, my mom, Eileen, retired last December. I knew she was going to do that, it is something that is expected of people of a certain age. I was actually hoping she would many years ago because working nights for 29 years makes a body tired. Of course I wanted retirement for my mom. I knew that it would bring other changes, such as the sale of her house which is where I grew up, and what I consider to be my one true home.It is a change I want for her. No retiree should have to look after a 5 bedroom house with a lawn unless they want to, and I knew she didn't want to. I know that all things come to an end eventually. This is just something that proves to be true, over and over again. I don't want to buy a house in Utica. I would have bought it myself if that were my plan. My one true home-- after having moved about 13 times in 23 years, always having a place to come back to-- is no longer going to be there for me. Loss happens, and I can experience it without freaking out.
So, fast forward to September 1, the day before yesterday. I was over at the empty house with Patrick, trying to put out her last bag of garbage. A million things were going wrong. It was hot. I was hungry. I was worried about my health insurance paperwork. My recently-injured back was still sore. My car was disorganized. The garage door wasn't working. I ran upstairs to take a leak and while I was at it, the doorbell rang. I thought it was the next door neighbor. I zipped up and went downstairs. I had a moment of maternal pride because Patrick was being very friendly to whoever it was. She was some insurance agent for the buyers, needing to take a photo of the electrical box. She didn't take her sunglasses off, which struck me as poor etiquette.
"I'm Eileen's daughter," I hear myself. "I didn't know anybody was coming. We were just here at random to take the garbage out. I don't know who you were planning on letting you in." I held the door for her. "Good thing you caught us. Pat, show her to the basement." Very confused, I stomped out the back door to try and get the goddamned garage open. Pat came out shortly, the agent had her photo and left. He told me she'd said to say thanks to your sister for letting her in. Of all days that I got to be mistaken for my teenage son's sister, it was today. Just great.
It was hotter outside. I was still hungry. I still had to go to the post office, and my car was still disorganized and now I was pissed that nobody told me the insurance agent needed to be let in, and what am I, a mind reader anyway?
While I had my ass practically through the garage window, the big frame of the real estate broker came through the back door and down the walk. "Hi," I said. I'd met him before. "Are you the buyers?" He asked."No, I'm Eileen's daughter." I'm sure I was giving him a dirty look. I wasn't wearing heels and a dress like the day I'd met him, but the frizzy red hair should have clued him in. "Are you looking for the insurance lady? She's gone, we let her in." "Oh." Yes. Oh. I was ready to give up and come back some other time. Instead I went inside, got the key for the garage and let us in that way.
When I went back in the house to make sure the lights were off, I went down cellar and inhaled deeply. The cool air smelled the same as it did when I was 5 years old. It would go on smelling this way forever, without me. The stairs made the same sounds, the cellar door closed with the same flat clank and the kitchen door locked with the same quiet crunch.That evening, still feeling sore and morose, I lay flat, resting my back. I remembered that I hadn't given those people my first name. I imagined the insurance agent telling her husband about the two sweaty disheveled teenagers she'd encountered. "Eileen's daughter is bitch," she is saying, "but her son was very nice."
I imagined the real estate broker splayed on his couch, empty beers on the coffee table, his wife and baby in the rocker. He's talking about the commission he made off the house. "Nice lady," he is saying. "But Eileen's daughter is a bitch."
Well, when I'm hips-deep in strange waters I suppose that's true. I can't sincerely say that I am sorry.