Bringing Mama Home
Masie Taylor pulled her son to her and kissed his brown cheek. "You a good man, Boo. Just like your daddy." She squeezed his arm. "You go home to Deloris and the children. Y'all don't need to worry 'bout me none."
Bernard had driven down to Edison from Atlanta determined to bring his mother to his home, at least for the summer. It wasn't easy talking Deloris into converting her office into a guest bedroom, but she understood that an eighty-two-year-old woman with a heart condition and diabetes, whose husband had recently died, shouldn't live by herself during a South Georgia summer.
"Your mother's a hard woman to live with," she told her husband. "It'll be difficult for both of us."
"Don't I know it," he said, shaking his head. "Don't I know it."
They had tried convincing her when Bernard's father was still alive to let them install an air conditioner. Masie refused. "I ain't never had no air condition and I don't need none now. I like my air fresh, so's I can smell God."
His father used to say, "Your mama 'bout as stubborn as a three-legged mule. Even when she fall down, she still be kicking."
It would have been easier had his mother gone first, Bernard admitted to himself. His father was easy going, eager to please. He had to be, married to Mama for over fifty years. "Always listen to Mama," his father would say with a wink of his eye. "It be a whole lot easier in the long run."
Still, Bernard thought he could convince her to move in with them. The scar on her forehead from her last fall had left a permanent mark on her dark, wrinkled skin. The doctor told them her diabetes was causing what he called silent heart attacks. She was getting weaker, Bernard could see that, but she could still stare down a charging bull if she had to. He knew it would be easier carrying a baby grand piano up five flights of stairs than moving Mama to their home.
They had decided to call it a visit. They planted the seed in March, when the daffodils had already faded and hints of summer humidity began filling the air. Bernard and Deloris visited with Mama and posed the idea of her staying with them, just for the summer. Bernard pleaded. Deloris added, "You know how Andrew and Danielle love their grandmother. And Monty and Tyra and the baby live close enough so you can watch your great-granddaughter take her first steps."
Bernard observed how she pushed her tongue under her dentures. He knew that meant she was thinking. "I got to be here for when the azaleas bloom," she finally said.
It was now May, the red and white azaleas alongside Mama's house had long turned brown. Bernard and Deloris talked to her on the telephone and made arrangements. At least, they tried. Mama made little more than clicking sounds and an occasional "uh-hmm." Considering that she hadn't cussed them out, Bernard remained hopeful. He drove down to help her pack.
But she wouldn't budge. She may as well have been standing on her porch, pointing a rifle at a revenue man come to force her off her homestead.
Bernard had been arguing with his mother for more than two hours, even during the meal she prepared of baked ham with collard greens, mashed potatoes and fried green tomatoes. She was determined to prove her independence.
"But, Mama, it's dangerous living alone."
"Pshew! You want me to move in with your fam'ly? You think of anything more dangerous than two womens in the same kitchen?"
Bernard had to laugh. "We'll work it out, Mama. Deloris will be thrilled not to have to cook as often."
"As often? The only reason y'all has a kitchen is it come with the house."
Bernard just shook his head.
After dessert of sweet potato pie, she stood at the sink washing dishes as Bernard dried. "Your daddy and Uncle Cletus built this house with they own hands. You think I could just up and leave it like it was nothin but wood and paint?"
Bernard played what he considered his strongest card. "Mama, you've been falling down lately. If Miss Ella hadn't found you the last time, I don't know what would have happened."
"What you think woulda happen? Jesus woulda blessed me home a little sooner, tha's all."
"Don't talk like that, Mama. The kids need you. I want all of them, including your great grandbaby, to know you."
"Then bring 'em round more. Monty and his wife come here with the baby and wouldn't even let me feed 'em the mac and cheese I made special of they visit. Say they on some kinda low-carbonated diet. She so skinny she 'bout split in two when I give her a hug." Bernard followed his mother through the dark living room with the same faded floral wallpaper he remembered as a boy. Family portraits, many in black and white, hung on the walls. Color photographs in new frames filled the tops of almost every flat surface. "Y'all send me some pretty pitures, but you sure don't come by much."
Bernard knew she was right. It was less than a three-hour drive down from Atlanta, but they made the trip at best once a month, and rarely stayed overnight. He'd have to urge Monty and Tyra to visit more often as well.
"Y'all don't want me in you way, and I sure don't want y'all in mines. Let me die in my home. Tha's all I ask."
Masie pushed her son to the door, handing him a sweet potato pie, still warm, wrapped in tin foil. Bernard had refused the leftover ham and collards. He would have gladly taken the fried green tomatoes, but there were none left.
"You don't make it easy." Bernard said, hugging his mother.
Masie pushed her dentures out with her tongue. "Who said it s'posed to be easy?"
Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net. He's published widely, in print and online, including Revealing Moments, a collection of flash stories, published by Thumbscrews Press, (http://issuu.com/pearnoir/docs/revealing_moments.) Wayne lives in Atlanta.