Thursday, September 06, 2007

like a rolling stone

It had just stopped raining, and I had just finished driving the two hour route. When I pulled up to the familiar yellow colonial, it was deserted. I dawdled in the small white porch that lined the front of the house for a bit- a pile of dusty books were tilting in a box. I went back to my car and waited inside, not wanting to cause any suspicion.

A few moments later, the jeep pulled up, hopping a curb to get into the driveway. AL and his mom got out, his mom chiding him for jumping the curb. As they arrived at the house, they kept bickering, his mom telling me that the house was a disaster because her son had cluttered it up, while AL quickly pointed out that most of the junk was hers not his. It had been at least two years since I had seen AL's mom, but she treated my arrival like she would have anyone just dropping over for a cup of coffee. Me, I kind of liked that.

You could cynically think that they were just so self-involved in their little world, the little world of mother and son, that no one paid me any mind. But when I got into the foyer, AL's mom turned around suddenly and said, "hey, let me see the soles of your shoes."

I thought maybe she found my Puma's interesting, as AL had been teasing me in Spain that these shoes were very Euro. So, after making her repeat herself once more, I lifted my heel to show her. She grinned. "No moss gathering on them!"

It took me a while to understand what she was saying. She repeated it again with this amused wonder in her voice. Something about the Maine accent or the repetition or the tone just made me feel all warm inside.

Especially coming from her. Now, AL, he's your basic clown, your Labrador Retriever/Man-Child. He's great, but he doesn't exactly exude any alumni status from the School of Hard Knocks. His mom, strangely, doesn't either. But this is a woman who raised two kids as a single mom at a time when that was quite uncommon. She started running daycare out of her house. And when her kids were old enough to go to school, she started getting involved in PTA meetings.

At the PTA meetings, she started to find something. She was good at this stuff, this stuff that required someone to grab a situation by the reins and steer it properly. One thing lead to another, and this single mother of two went on to become mayor. Twice.

I won't lie- I've always been envious of AL for his relationship with his mom, and for his mom in general. She's got such natural confidence in a way that not many women have- she's not threatened by other women, and she's certainly not threatened by men. She connects with people. When I used to visit, we'd go into town, and within minutes, she'd be engaged in some conversation with a random person on the street. It seemed like everywhere we went, she had someone to talk to-- once we were showing her around Manhattan, and she ran into someone she knew.

Beyond that, she's also generous. AL would invite us all over for New Year's Eve up in his hometown, and we'd go out carousing all night. And when it was getting to be around 1 a.m, it was his mom who would show up in her station wagon and give us all rides home. We were all grown adults at this point, and we could have taken a cab, or even walked home. But she's like that. And sure enough, when she pulled up, she'd give the bouncer or bartender a wave, because she knew him from somewhere too.

And now I am jarred. I am really, truly confused, although I am in med school, and I understand science, and I don't believe in intelligent design. But still, my twisted logic overrides any such knowledge and all I can think is that someone this strong is too strong for anything to hurt them. Someone this warm can never be struck with anything chilling. But AL's mom, it turns out, has been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. And I just can't believe it.

Also, since I am a turd, let me just pass this piece of advice on to anyone willing to hear it: don't blow off the good people in your life, because you will feel like an absolute piece of refuse when you find out that they have been tackling some real demons while you've been battling imagined ones.

No comments: