My youth was… rather “rough”, at school for obvious reasons; and at home, with a clueless father still stuck in puberty, and a self-centered mother still stuck in puberty. The Italian grandmother next door raised me while parents were busy. She saw me alone at home, almost everyday, and one day as I was playing alone in the garden, she shoved a freshly picked cucumber through the fence. She said “mangia, mangia," I crunched into the cucumber, but there was a white film quite tannic over it and I grimaced. She laughed, took it back, wiped it clean, and gave it back to me. I think she realized the mean-spirited neighbourhood children had no intentions of playing with me, so she let me spend every day there… learning knitting, some Italian, making and eating bread, preparing vegetables, picking herbs, hanging and folding laundry, carrying her bags from the grocer and butcher… I even went to church with her, holding her purse, skipping ahead of her, asking her to catch me, hiding behind the rose bush, and then running back to grab her hand, warm and leathery, in which I placed a rose I had picked (more like stolen, now that I look back).
She got very sick, I don’t remember exactly of what affliction, but other hospital adults were at her house looking at me strangely, she said she was going away for a bit, and that she would be back when she’s done counting the stars. It is with mixed emotions that I declare, she never came back… I realize now how lucky I was to have met her!
My parents did come around eventually… I guess. At age 20 though… taking me to a Disney movie and buying me a balloon? They showed up at my graduation but won’t be able to tell you what I studied. They don’t understand what I do for a living, sometimes they remember where I work. My mother still asks me if I’m going to school tomorrow, and whether I need lunch or not. For many years now, especially with my mother, I have become Heathcliff after Catherine’s death.
Dinner with my mother tonight… she started by equating skinny trousers to being gay, and then she pulled a Vladimir Putin. “We know you love boys, you don’t have to wear those skinny trousers to scream it to the world, people will think you are a pedophile.”
I was barely starting the bread.
"I look forward to the day you die," I said.
"You’re sober, no wonder you are so cranky," she said, "there’s a bottle coming, and it’s all yours if it will make you more sociable."
My father gets up and leaves, he knows what will happen.
I repeated, “The day you die is a day I throw a big party with a magnum sized Dom Perignon.”
"In a red dress?" she asked, bitchily. Red dress at a funeral is apparently something I say quite often, but that’s a Cher quote from Moonstruck.
"Yes, while I forget about your decomposing corpse at the budget old folks home," I responded.
A moment of silence passes, and I can see she is starting to cry. As I put my pride aside and I get ready to apologize, she suddenly flicks her head, stands up, and flips the table.
It didn’t really flip that well. So I flipped it over completely.
I don’t think we’ll be talking in a long, long time. I wish… I hadn’t flipped that table, but I don’t regret whatever I told my mother.