She opened the refrigerator, and a plastic container flew out and hit the floor with a loud smack. The force of the impact made the lid disengage. The contents then were free to splash upward toward the poor unfortunate soul who was standing nearby with clean clothes on.
His pants were immediately covered in some sort of leftover that I am sure he would have instead had presented to him on a plate. We all stood in shock as he had both of his hands outstretched, looking down in horror at the red meat sauce that was rapidly seeping inward past the outer layer into deeper regions.
She sprang into action to attend to the spill, totally focused on that, not really coming to his aid. He had just been involved in an unwanted food fight and now stood immobile, not wanting to traipse the problem through the living room carpet to get a change of clothes.
While she was absorbed in trying to reign in the mess that had splattered the walls, cupboards, and doors, his annoyance was on the rise at her lack of attention toward him.
“Wipe me! Wipe me!” He suddenly yelled.
My brother, ever the quick-witted comedian, passed by and said,
“I would never want to do that!” Clearly with a different scenario in his mind. He dropped that comment and darted away.
This made my mom burst out laughing to the point of not being able to get up off the kitchen floor.
“Jean! Get up right now!” He ordered.
She laughed louder. She loved physical comedy, and once something struck her as humorous, it would be a while.
As she became more caught up in laughing, he kept on hollering, trying to snap her back to reality. While he swore through the entire process, she could not control what had overtaken her. Finally, she just threw the wet rag in her hand at him and let him start on disengaging himself from the problem.
It must have been contagious because suddenly, he started laughing with her. It was one of many odd things I saw happen between the two of them. I stood there, not knowing if I was witnessing anger or joy.
On another occasion, she came out of the laundry room hysterically laughing, trying to tell me something.
“Your dad…he..he…” she tried so hard to say what was going on, and she couldn’t. Taking a deep breath, she said,
“He was outside staining wood.”
She had to pause between each sentence to get it out.
“He took this big lid off and set it aside.”
Another round of bent over laughing.
“He sat on the lid!”
After many minutes of questions, I pieced together the facts that he had forgotten he had set a lid on a chair and then sat down for a second. When he felt wetness soaking in, he jumped up and raced for the house for her help.
“He has a huge brown target on his butt! You have to come to see this!”
I only got up to help her in case she was not capable. It was almost identical to the sauce incident with him standing there helpless and her not functioning.
“Is it bad?” He asked me with his back to me.
“I think those are going to have to go in the garbage,” I said while she hung on to my shoulder, doubled over in a silent giggle.
“Jean! You have to help me get these off!”
The minute I heard that I was out. Like, bye.
From the other room, I heard her say,
“You actually have stained your skin! Like a big tattoo!”
She never understood the art of telling someone terrible news slowly. She just blurted it out like that, which caused him to go into orbit.
“I have to go in for my physical exam! What will the doctor think?”
“Maybe if I scrub it with cold water. That might help!”
This is when I cut off my visualization skills. There are just some things you don’t even want to see in your mind’s eye. In moments such as this, I didn’t want to possess the ability to have insight. I hit the pause button mentally.
“That is freezing cold!” I heard him screech.
“It’s not coming off!” She said, delivering more bad news.
Cue the cuss words. And more laughing. The blending of these two individuals never ceased to amaze me.
It wasn’t always him having bad luck either. Sometimes it was caused by his own doing.
“I hit him right between the eyes with a spoon one time.”
“I was eating cereal, and he said something that I didn’t like. I was pregnant.”
That would do it, simple as that.
Other times, he did fall prey to unexpected circumstances inflicted upon him by her hand.
One time, he had just sat down to eat this massive plate of food. This man would take his time doing this. Seasoning things. Moving slowly like he was getting it ready for a magazine shoot.
She tripped on her way past him with a bottle of wine in her hand. She fell directly on him, pouring the entire contents on his plate. He was so taken by surprise that he still had his fork in his hand above her head while my brother quickly whisked his plate away, saying,
He had not taken one bite.
“What. The. Hell,” was all he said as she laid there laughing, crumpled upon him.
This went on for years.
“John, do you want a cookie?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, you don’t want one, or yes, you want one?”
By now, she had lost him as he was in the middle of watching something.
“Is that yes or no?”
“A cookie! Do you want one?”
“I already said no.”
“I thought you changed your mind.”
He was gone again.
“Are you sure?”
Feeling that she wasn’t getting through to him, she placed herself and the container of cookies in front of him.
“I can’t see around you!”
“Are you sure you don’t want a cookie?”
Right as he was about to answer again, the entire thing fell out of her hands, and every single cookie landed on his lap.
“Leave me be, woman!” He shouted like he was casting a demonic entity out of his presence.
As she scrambled to pick them up, the laughter and the swearing again.
The other day I was talking to him about heaven. I have seen it and was giving him details.
“Mom is there, right?”
And you would think with their history, he might not want to spend eternity with her. Life on earth just might have been enough.
“That’s good. I miss her.”
For all the times they were in conflict or nearly at their wit’s end with one another, there always was and still is this invisible chord that kept them together. Not once since her transition has he wanted anyone else in his life. Some would say that he finally has peace and quiet.
But he was very adamant with me when she first went on to heaven.
“I will not ever be married to anyone ever again. She was it.”
So all I can do is make him remember the funny moments that maybe weren’t so humorous to him then. But now, he sees it for what it really was.
One of the morning routines that they adhered to was that she would get up early, ahead of him, but she didn’t let him rely on his alarm to wake him up.
She would always say,
“John, it’s time.” And raise the shade to blind him with light first thing.
“I hated that so much!” He told me once. But she did it every day.
I have a feeling that when God calls him up, he will hear that familiar voice saying,
“John. It’s time.”
Some things you look at and think, who decided that this would be good? Like waffles and syrup. Who conjured that up? I think a lot of people are glad it exists.
And while I didn’t always understand them, and I still really don’t, I am grateful that God decided to put them together into a weird, sometimes ugly, but purposeful combination.