“How far away are you?” Alun asked over the phone. I could hear his smile and it made me smile, too.
“Hmm…maybe a few minutes. I’m glad you called because I’m a bit lost…where on earth is Dirty Nellies???”
Alun laughed “It’s on a little hidden lane way…where abouts are you?”
“Across from the Mantra hotel”
“Then you’re almost here, keep walking forward and take the next left, it’s a little laneway and that’s where the pub is”
“I’ll come get you!” I heard Mom’s voice sing out. Alun laughed “She’ll be here in a second” he assured her. “No. I’m going” and I heard the scrape of chairs and Alun’s chuckle.
“Haha. See you soon, Gorg” and he hung up.
It was a 40 degree day so I was glad at the thought of respite in a dark, air-conditioned pub in just a few minutes.
I walked and walked, wondering if somehow I’d missed the “little laneway” when there she was. My Mom.
She was standing under what little shade the lamp post offered and threw her hands in the air when she saw me.
“Janny!” she cried out happily.
Oh my heart.
I love my Mom.
We linked arms and I turned towards the arrow pointing to “Dirty Nellies” (one of my Dad’s new favourite pubs) but Mom turned me the other way “cigarettes first” she giggled.
At the corner store, Mom purchased her’s and Dad’s favourite brand of cigarettes and we finally met Alun and Dad at the bar stool they were occupying. Dad’s bald head shone in the sunlight. We couldn’t go inside to the lovely aircon because Mom and Dad are hard-core smokers and their designated area was outside in the sun.
We talked, and after a few horribly hot minutes in the boiling sun, finally headed inside to the cool air con, gathering around a booth while Dad warned us all not to order the “pie of the day” (apparently it’s “too salty”) and Alun brought everyone new rounds of drinks while winking at me as he left for the bar.
We all had lunch. We all talked. We all laughed. Every time a word or phrase reminded Alun of a song, he’d sing out loud and Mom would join in. They’d look at each other across the table and laugh.
I’m writing about that afternoon on Saturday with my parents because it was the last time I was to see them for a very, very long time indeed.
Mom had grown her hair long – it was down to her waist and framed her cute little moon face perfectly. Dad still had stick-thin legs and arms but a round, happy belly. Like Santa.
I tried to savour my parents the way I would savour an expensive cake…a little at a time, committing everything I could to memory.
The time came to say goodbye and no tears came.
Instead, my heart and all my feelings about my parents leaving (sadness that was so deep a thousand oceans couldn’t cover it) seemed to shrivel and shrink until they were so small, they could easily fit through the eye of a needle.
An occasion such as this required something BIG.
But I couldn’t feel anything. Just numb.
WHY AM I SUCH A ROBOT WHEN I NEED TO SHOW EMOTION?!? WHY, GOD???
Mom hugged me first.
“Love you, Janny” she said quietly into my ear.
My heart broke into a million pieces. I had a thousand images flash through my mind of growing up with Mom, having her try to brush my afro hair, the times we shouted and screamed at each other because we’re so alike, the times I tucked myself in next to my Mom as an adult because I still needed to have her close.
When will I ever see you again, Mom?
“Be a good girl” I whispered back.
This hurt so much but still no tears. NO TEARS. WHY!?!
He opened his arms wide and held me as if I was 5 years old again.
Oh Dad…you have driven me nuts but I couldn’t imagine not going to you with every thing that bugs me or worries me. I remember the late night pies we shared, the times you did burn outs in the car when Mom wasn’t with us, the hours of sitting together quietly when you used to fish off the wharf, how you and I can recite every single line from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” but still find it the most hilarious thing ever. So many memories wrapped up in you, Dad. You have no idea how much I love you and look up to you.
“Love you, Dad” I managed to get out past the lump in my throat.
“It’s just a holiday, darl” Dad responded, rubbing the tops of my arms as he has always done – all my life – to comfort me.
He looked down at winked and I was SO ANGRY that I couldn’t show how badly this was tearing me up.
Not any moisture in me.
NOT ONE DROP!!!
I’m losing my parents FOREVER and I can’t even work up ONE TEAR???
I’m a psychopath.
“Ah!” Dad exclaimed, pointing “There’s our bus stop”
(It’s only a 5 minute walk to their hotel but Dad loves to catch buses, God bless him).
There was a bench at the bus stop, and like a pair of dragon flies with their own dance already co-ordinated, Mom and Dad sat together, got out their backpacks, gave each other cigarettes and lighters and started puffing away as if their lives depended on it.
Alun took my hand as we crossed the street and started walking away from them.
He didn’t say anything and for some reason, I really appreciated that.
My last ever vision of my parents is of my Dad turning his face to the sun and smiling with a cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth. Mom was dusting something off her sandles – cigarette in her mouth, too and mumbling away to Dad, who was nodding and still smiling into the sunshine, bless him.
Just like that.
Two people that have known each other forever sat on a bench in the sun.
Like it was any other day, really.
I’m at work now and I can’t stop crying.
Really, God? REALLY? NOW???
I want to go home.