The Day After
by Bella Rum
Even though we left the house a half hour early, allowing extra time for traffic, we were a half-hour late, and I considered myself lucky. We could have missed dinner all together. But we didn’t. We sat in traffic on I-64 for a half hour before escaping on the first exit (only four miles away) to old route 60. I berated myself for not leaving earlier. It was a long half hour. For heaven’s sake, if anyone knows the hell that is I-64 on Thanksgiving Day, it is me. Why didn’t I leave earlier?
When we walked in, they were all standing around in a big circle and holding hands. This could only mean one of two things. They were getting ready to say grace, or it was time to sacrifice a member of the tribe. The minister was mercifully brief, and the food was outstanding. Only the turkey had anything to complain about.
I sat with Aunt Ruby and let her talk and talk and talk. It was fine. I didn’t have to say a thing. I haven’t seen her since Easter. Her fine, white hair was limp, and the lines in a face that has remained young for so long seemed deeper than only a few months ago, and her new dentures still don’t fit just right. She’s had a hard life: two good-for-nothing sons, two sweet daughters and an unfaithful husband she adored. It makes my heart hurt to see her wearing her age so openly now, but there you have it. Life is relentless. Ask not for whom the bell tolls and all that. I know that eventually I will get a call about Aunt Ruby. Eventually, we will all get a call until the call is about us. Then someone else will get the call.
If you’re still reading this, there’s more.
I know people don’t read morose blogs. We long for inspiration. So far, this is all silly aggravation and self-conscious navel gazing. No one has fallen down the stairs or broken a bone.
My generous, free-spirited cousin, Aunt Ruby’s daughter, insisted on making a dessert plate for me to take home. She made the most delectable cranberry bread pudding with a beautiful hard sauce that made the harrowing trip, (which I forgot to mention happened in rat-drenching rain all the way there, and I forgot my raincoat, and even though it added five minutes to the trip, I had to stop to pee. Then I was wet. And cold.) worthwhile. I can taste that bread pudding as I write this. If I could only have a piece of it now, it would make this story palatable, but when it was time to leave, I could not find my beautiful, to-be-eaten-and-relished-later dessert plate. Can you believe it? Someone stole my danged dessert plate, my dessert plate that had not one but two pieces of bread pudding on it. Someone is probably eating them right now. Maybe even the minister.
Still, no one in this story has fallen down the stairs and had to go to the hospital with a cracked head. Everything is repairable up to this point. Nothing has happened that cannot be fixed. Well, I’ll never get my bread pudding back, and that counts, but you know what I mean.
My brother loaded up our car with oysters and venison, and soon we said goodbye. We got in the car with hail and sleet coming down on us like the end was near. Hail AND sleet? Is that even possible? What a day! Though it had its ups and downs, there was a lot of good stuff, too. Family is a mixed bag and ours has shrunk, but some of us are still here and still showing up, and that has to mean something.
H promptly went to sleep and I drove… slowly… home. About forty-five minutes into the drive, things seemed kind of dark. Dark! Dark… as in no headlights. I had no headlights on my NEW car. I had to drive with my brights the rest of the way home, oncoming traffic beeping and flicking their brights at me in anger or warning.
H’s cell phone rang. It was my brother. Donna’s father had fallen down the basement stairs and hit his head very hard on the basement floor. Blood was pouring from his mouth and nose and he was not speaking clearly. They called an ambulance and were on the way to the hospital. My brother was beside himself. Sick with worry. Thankfully, it turned out to be his nose, even though he hit his head very hard, it looks okay. The nose, however, was broken in two places. No life-ending injuries, no strokes, no slow brain bleeds (hopefully) and no dessert plate. In the scheme of things, my dessert plate is not important. But that was some pretty excellent cranberry bread pudding with hard sauce. I did mention the hard sauce?