cotton innards, which we pulled out, back in the drawer, And that may have been part of the problem. Kids with the frayed pink elastic belt and cotton pads. And we and their cases of the “gimme’s.” I always wanted more studied that calendar. The X’s on the dates had nothing to from her, but I adored my father. My mother and I do with holidays or birthdays, or any other special event danced around him like he was a hot rack of clothing we could figure. Except for another blessed event. at a department store sale. He gave me authority; she declined. He preferred my bridge playing and praised My mother always said, Rhythm doesn’t work. my drive and my grades in school. My parents weren’t so happy with the party I threw while they were at a football She just wasn’t meant to have so many children. The game. My hooligan friends tore the place up, drank the youngest of four, she’d never been around babies. She was booze, broke the dining room cabinet, stole his Knights shy, and beautiful, and although strong and disciplined of Columbus sword. I wonder where that sword is today. about meals and the endless, tiring regimen of practices, Probably defending the northern edges of Hammond, lessons, Girl Scout cookie sales -- even doughnut sales Indiana. We declared a truce when I went off to college, (What were they thinking?) -- she wasn’t cut out for it. She earned the grades and the fellowship. I listened to them, ended up drinking: vodka (vanilla) in the afternoon and and I shouldn’t have. They only wanted what was best for Canadian Club (chocolate) in the evening. me, but only ‘me’ would find out what that would be. Growing up, I grudgingly helped out. Diapers, dishes, Shortly before my mother died, the two of us were sitting dusting. I babysat when I was nine for 25 cents an hour, in her sun room. She was curled up on the love seat, a and I had to clean and vacuum three times a week, satin pillow behind her neck, a mohair throw over her which I saw no point in doing since my family continually knees. She was wearing a blue gingham bed jacket. I scummed up the thread-bare carpet and sticky coffee hated that bed jacket. I’d given her one years before, and table. she had lent it to a friend with cancer. “I never got it back,” she told me, and I went out and bought her another. I’m When my brother developed juvenile diabetes at four, I sorry I did. It was just another reminder. was finally able to do something worthwhile. I gave him his insulin shots that I learned to do by practicing on an We were alone that night. Shocker. With six siblings and orange. When my mother found out about Felix, it was the spouses, 20 grandchildren, and one needy father in the only time I saw her cry. The doctor told her he wouldn’t live vicinity, this was a rare moment. The oxygen machine to 30. An accomplished swimmer through grade school clap-clapped behind her. It was the only thing that into high school, mostly due to my mother’s tireless efforts relieved the cancer that was eating her up, that and the to weigh what he ate and drive him to practice, he is now valium. She was way past the vodka stage. collecting Social Security. She napped, and I sat glumly, staring at her, and then She expected a lot out of me. But we just sort of danced suddenly she jerked awake. Our conversation went around each other, my father in the middle. My mother something like this: and I were never close. Not until the end. “I haven’t done anything with my life,” she said. But that was years later. In the meantime, we had our moments, and it’s the weird shit I remember. I was stunned. “What? Why do you say that?” My responses to her were usually clipped. I tried to temper my One day, she was eating an apple from my grandmother’s orchard. She gave me one bite, and one bite only, and grabbed it back. I wanted more. 42 conversation with humor, a bit of philosophy.