There are some things in life you just can’t control. I’ve come to the conclusion that family is probably the most unpredictable, and old women are the worst. My husband’s mother called last week and told me she was coming to live in Yakima.
I swore silently, decided I wasn’t going to sleep yet and turned on the bedside lamp. Gordon was sleeping open-mouthed beside me, not quite snoring. Envying his ability to fall asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow, I padded out to the kitchen in my purple fuzzy slippers.
The same thoughts were swirling around in my head over and over: Why me? Why was she coming to live with me in her cranky old widowhood? My forehead thunked the counter as the teapot began to whistle. I poured hot water over a Sleepy Time teabag and decided I was screwed. Opal and I have always gotten along on a very superficial basis. I love her son and she does too, but living in the same town and living a thousand miles away were two very different things.
A heavy sigh escaped my lungs. I wasn’t usually so fatalistic, but my husband’s family brought these feeling out in me. The tea began to strengthen me and I squared my shoulders; I’m an adult and a mother of two—I can handle one old woman. With that thought I crawled back into bed beside a snoring Gordon and slept a deep sleep.
Gordon came shuffling into the kitchen as I was finishing breakfast.
“That smells good.”
My husband thinks anything edible smells good. “I made you some bacon.”
I watched him shovel hashbrowns onto his plate.
I met Gordon just after I graduated from high school and he was a student at the University of Washington. Less than a year later we were married and pregnant with our first child. It was odd to think of us as childless, I still thought of myself as a group. Our youngest had left for college in August, nearly seven months ago and I was just beginning to appreciate the quiet. How I had craved a clean and silent house when they were small, and now I was bored.
“Your mom’s plane arrives at 11:30. I figure we should be there at least 15 minutes early.” Gordon just nodded his head, too busy chewing to answer. We ate the rest of our meal in silence; that was Gordon’s way. I learned the value of silent communication long ago. It was either that or go crazy living with a man who only uttered what was necessary and the older he became the worse his communication skills got.
I looked at my watch and realized it was already nine o’clock.
“I’m going to look in on Roger’s cat; I’ll be back in just a minute.” I grabbed my coat on the way out—the biting winds of March had begun. I shook out my wad of keys and chose the key to Roger’s house. He was a good neighbor, quiet and clean. We pretty much kept to ourselves but Roger took a lot of vacations and I loved animals. The two of us had struck a deal long ago that I took care of his beloved cat while he was away.
“Here, kitty, kitty, kitty”, I sang in a high voice. The bright orange tabby responded immediately and bounded down the stairs.
“Let’s get you some food”. Ginger rubbed against my legs as I opened the can and stirred the wet and dry food together.
“Here ya go, pretty girl”, I refilled her water and quickly cleaned her litter box. I locked the door and patted my pocket for my keys while shutting the door behind me. Our houses were exactly alike on a block of older well-kept homes. Most of the homeowners were just like my husband and I, and had lived there for decades. I waved at Mrs. Gillis on her morning walk with her Cocker Spaniel.
I walked through our front door and glanced at my reflection in the hall mirror. I had what Yakimanians refer to as the wind-blown look. My hair looked like I’d stuck my finger in a light-socket. Yakima is located in a valley just east of the Cascades and wind blew March through June with ferocity. Well, I knew where Opal was going to start. Another sigh escaped me.
*There were dishes in the sink and laundry in the hamper, but there was a mystery calling my name. I grabbed the paperback off the shelf and settled myself into my big comfy chair. I looked over at the newspaper sitting in the chair beside me and smiled.