Months To Years Winter 2019 Months To Years Winter 2019 - Page 55

Gift By Paul Rousseau They sat me on a cold toilet, as scraps of morning My mother laid in a casket, like she was asleep, sunlight sifted through the bathroom window. but she wasn’t. She wasn’t even there. The only They stooped and leaned forward, their faces thing there was her chemically infused remains. contorted and unsettled, their eyes pinched She looked like a doll my neighbor Cheryl had. narrow, staring. I could feel the wetness in their But now, Cheryl’s doll was more real, and more breath. I was eight, and I was terrified. alive, than my mother. “Mommy’s not coming home. Mommy’s in heaven,” Still I wondered, “How can she be in heaven if two of them said. she’s here?” They just blurted it out, like I would somehow I don’t remember the service, my mind vacant understand the notion of death. But how could and unsettled, but I do remember being handed they expect an eight-year-old to understand, a glass-encased red rose and placing it on my especially when their words were so clouded in mother’s chest before the casket was closed. I ambiguity and religiosity? And who were these don’t think I understood why, or if someone told people? Where was my mother? What did it mean me to do it, but it seemed, even at my young age, when they said she’s never coming home? My an offering of love. world was suddenly confused and unknown; I felt vulnerable and alone. After the service, I was ushered to a car, and watched as they placed her casket in a hearse. As I sat there, I wondered why I never heard For a moment, I panicked; I wondered how she anything during the night, even though I slept could breathe with the lid closed. in her room. How was that possible, that I heard nothing, that my mother left without my knowing, Then, with several cars lined up in a straight line, that she left without saying goodbye? Her room I rode to the cemetery, directly behind the hearse, was on the second floor at the front of the house in the fumes of death. The cemetery was in a facing the street; why didn’t I hear cars arriving rural part of the county, miles from our house, on at the house, for there had to be cars arriving, a small spit of land called Pasco, Ohio. It was a or people running up and down the narrowed long, slow, winding drive, one of those tortuous, stairs, or voices speaking, even if whispered, or the two-lane country roads with “No Passing” yellow celestial clatter of angels coming to get her? lines. She was to be buried there because her   father was buried there, and it was where her Back then, we didn’t have paramedics, or mother, my grandmother, would also be buried. emergency services, or 9-1-1. I’m not even sure our I wondered if I too would be buried there, when small town had an ambulance. So, there would whatever happened to my mother happened to have been no siren to awaken me. But still, there me. The thought frightened me. had to be hurried activity and rushed commotion, and that, in and of itself, often causes a notable I remember little of the graveside service, other disturbance, if not outright noise. So why didn’t I than cries filling the air, and murmured words hear anything? Why didn’t I awaken? from a priest. Then, as if on cue, everyone stood 55