My father is a loud man–but not necessarily in the sense of volume (although that can be true, too.) He does a lot of things loudly. He likes to laugh loudly, grumble loudly, express his opinion loudly, live loudly, and talk. He’ll talk to anyone and everyone. Shyness is a thing I believe my father has completely abolished. If you’re respectful to him, he’ll do the same. It’s a small town sort of quirk I think, to be able to ramble on with just anyone, which doesn’t always translate well into the big city he moved to. But it’s something he’s always had. Dad will talk to anyone if they listen. And he enjoys talking to them.
He spent some time after he retired from the military working fixing small engine airplanes for a friend of his, when I was between the ages of 12-15 roughly. It was a small place but it was busy enough to have it’s own little airport with a tower and someone to man it six or seven days a week and pay them for it. There were several homely little hangars, and one large one for mechanic work. One afternoon we pulled into there and dad gave us his, “I’ll be just a few moments,” speech.
By now my mother and I understood that, “I’ll just be a few moments,” could be anywhere from ten minutes to three hours. It wasn’t his fault really–Dad loves people. Dad loves good people and he loves to talk to them and the person who ran the little airport was in my father’s eyes, good people. (I think in a past life, my father was a story teller or some such because he’s really good at it). At any rate, he says he’ll be just a few minutes and my mom gets this look on her face. My mother was never a very open person compared to my father. She was all about being subtle. Often, you didn’t know what was wrong until it was well and truly up-shit-creek-without a paddle. Yet, my mother had warning signs. Like this Look that came over her face as dad left the car parked in the hanger’s little dirt road, and me and her back in the old chevy lumina (it was red and fairly new at the time. It was our first new car after the Toyota Tercel and mom loved it.) Her mouth made a little line and she leaned forward to turn the radio up, and then got herself a players light cigarette, folded her arms across her chest and looked…for lack of a better word: seriously wife-pissed.
Mom when pissed, didn’t always tell you she was pissed specifically she’d just radiate silent danger alarms. And me, being the genius child that I was –was feeling the subtle rays of doom wavering from my unimpressed mother.
It was summer time and the sun was golden yellow in mid sky. Anyone knows that anyone under the age of 20 left in a backseat with nothing to do is going to go batty within the first hour which is exactly what I did. After bouncing around the seats, asking my mother when dad’s coming out, running in and out to use the bathroom fifteen times, get a drink, bring my mom coffee–get sent in to check on dad from mom (and when he sent me out with a yes yes, in a bit, almost ready) I could feel a little black cloud gather over my mothers head.
It was well into evening now. The sun was a summer-popsicle orange. It made the grass in the fields near the runway look golden green and tossed long shadows behind buildings. The dirt path the car was parked on was golden too and in a fit of, perhaps, brilliance, and utterly insane pent-up energy I decided I wouldn’t test my mothers patience any further by getting back into the car. I would remain outside where I could continue living and being an idiot.
I entertained myself for a while by making up songs and driving my mother to consider alcoholism as a sport. She was sitting in the passenger side of the car with the window half-way rolled up with the most dirty, unimpressed look on her face. No matter how ridiculous I was–dancing, singing, (at one point I think I flopped onto the head of the car to pose like a model, which only got a flat-“are you mental?” stare from my mother), I decided to come ’round to her side of the door again. It was time for the big guns. The faces. The silly faces.
It’s been so long I can’t remember specifically what I said to start the show off–all I know is that I could see my reflection in her window with my mother lower than I was since she was sitting, looking straight ahead and angry-smoking. The music was playing in the background, and I, a curly-headed, chubby girl in a yellow shirt and rumpled jeans had decided the best course of relieving my mothers black cloud of doom. I leaned over the window to shove my face in through the window and at the same time, I went (and I quote from memory), “HyurrrHurrrHURRRHURRRR.” Those of you who are experts at the sound know that you can get the derpiest, best effect if you draw your lower jaw inward and jutt your front teeth out, pulling your top lip away from them. This is what I did–and then wobbled my head side to side, accompanied by a strange skkkkkkkkkkssssskkkk sound that had my mother finally look at me side-long and me pause in my hyperactivity long enough to blink.
That had been my front teeth. Along the top edge of the car window. I just drug my front teeth across it like some demented chipmunk.
I blurted the only thing I could think of at the time to cover up my smooth moves, “Sharpen your window for you ma’am?”
In the pregnant sort of silence (the did I just see wtf I thought I saw? sort) after, my mother was the first to crack. Her lips started twitching away from their previous flat line, she snorted and swore–then started laughing for real. This of course, started me in giggling so hard I had to lean on the car while I tittered so hard it was difficult to stand up.
It didn’t hurry dad out of the hangar any faster, but it lightened my mother’s mood. She no longer had her mouth pressed together and she no longer looked ready to murder someone. Making my mother laugh was something I used to be so proud of, as a child, and one of the hardest things I could do. She was a woman who kept her laughter for those that deserved it most, but kept herself a lot too.
I miss her. I miss trying my best to make her laugh. I promise though, Mom, I’ll sharpen a window for you, always.[box type=”bio”] Melissa Pence is wife to the husband and wife team here behind 2 phatgeeks. On December 11th, 2011, Melissa lost her mother to a long, difficult battle to diabetes. In her memory, Melissa is blogging 24 hours in order to raise funds for her through the organization: Step Out: End to Walk Diabetes, and for the personal goal to finish a humming bird tattoo on her right arm in memory of her mother. [/box]