1/7/91 – Part One

Hearing the answering machine faintly kick in from the dining room late one night, I tune out the voice, husky and unrecognizable. My sleepy mind only recognizes the words “mother……..ice.” I drift off. Soon, the phone rings again and I let it ring. The machine once again clicks to life. This time I am a little more coherent. I hear my father say my mother has been in a serious accident. The police will tell him nothing because they are divorced, only that she is in intensive care at MCV Hospital. She may even have died, he doesn’t know.

As odd as it seems, my initial reaction is to think, God, what has she gotten herself into now? Has one of her dream dates gone and gotten himself into a fender-bender? Maybe she bumped into someone (literally) on the way home and now needs a lift because her car was towed from the scene. It can’t be as serious as Dad says, the Jordans always exaggerate. They’re known for it.

Stressed out from work, completely exhausted, and thinking I would lose the rest of the night’s sleep over a few bumps and bruises does not put me in good spirits I have helped her through scrapes of this sort before, so “serious” just doesn’t register. The only thing I’m thinking right now is, “Not again.”

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This was my frame of mind on that night so long ago. It seemed in spite of our ages, and her “declaration of independence” (divorce), I was often more of a mother to her than a daughter. Usually, these personal traumas were not as catastrophic as they first seemed, including everything from boyfriend problems to not balancing her checkbook. We’d never had a great relationship, getting along dutifully at best, each of us never understanding the other’s choices in life. Recently, I came across a note Momma had written when I was fifteen. One of the lines read, “I wish you could act as maturely as your sister does, and I hate it when you lock the door to your room.” In the aftermath of all that was to come, I had forgotten her constant disappointment, her disapproval. I had forgotten the woman she was because everything that was to follow made it seem so trivial. What was to come was like scenery flying past in a rapidly moving car, and it called for more spiritual stamina than I ever thought I would have to rely on in this lifetime.

Everything in my life is sliced neatly in half; those occurring before that cold night in January, and the ones that have rolled on after. That icy night is the motionless center of an ever-rotating circle. Before my mother drove her car headlong into a tree, my world seemed to flow pretty evenly. Besides a broken relationship, and the numerous changes of direction I made in my work environment, my life was pretty steady. I distinctly remember wishing, in fact, for any kind of extreme in my life. I’ve always believed in the intensity of any kind of extreme, and I remember the time “before” as one of boredom in this sense. I was so desperate I didn’t even care if the extreme was good or bad. I just wanted to wake up from the doldrums of everyday existence. Thinking back now, this certainly seems naive.

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