Home for Summer
So I thought, I’ll take her out, give her something fun to do. So I took her to get ice cream. Vanilla with white chocolate and raspberry chunks in a chocolate dipped cone. Just gorgeous stuff. We sat out on the porch and watched the cars, this cute, cute puppy—long-haired, with big ole paws, you know—some kids come get ice cream, and the whole time I’m trying to make conversation. Joan, you excited about going back to Auburn? You have any plans to meet up with old friends? And she’s not totally unresponsive, but she doesn’t say any more than she has to. Just a yes ma’am, I don’t know, maybe kind of thing. Polite, but not all there.
So the next day, I thought—I know. We’ll get her a new pair of shoes. My mama always told me, you have a bad day, feel like you can’t get through it, you go treat yourself. Wear those new shoes, feel like a million bucks. Now, my mother had her share of bad days, drank herself to sleep nights. My dad, you know. She loved him dearly, but he was a charmer.
So I took Joan shoe shopping. And she was very courteous—thank you Mama, this kind of thing—but she wasn’t into it. Smiled with her lips, not her eyes. Wouldn’t get excited about anything. I’d say, look here at these green pumps, aren’t they pretty? And she’d look kinda disinterested and say, yeah, they’re nice. And that was it.
So then I thought, maybe she just needs a little perspective. Make her stop feeling sorry for herself. So I took her to the cemetery. The cemetery, I did! I figured, she should know her grandfather. Know she has a history. A place in the world.
So I take her to the cemetery, and I’m telling her stories about her grandfather. I say, my daddy was a charmer. Wouldn’t let a woman leave a dance without spinning her round a time or two. Pity you never knew him. You’d have been his favorite.
And she says, he couldn’t have been that great, the way Gran talked about him. And I say, your grandmother loved him dearly. And she kicks at the gravel, and the sun’s all caught in her hair so she looks kinda sweet, and I’m just thinking about how this grownup next to me, that was my baby girl, that baby I swaddled, and Joan says, but she didn’t love herself.
And I didn’t know what to say to that. So I just put her back in the car, leaned over and buckled her in just like she was a little thing, and I told her, I can’t do everything for you, but I’ll do what I can. And she just stared out the window, and I tried to drive without crying, but the sun was in my eyes, you know, just bright and blinding off the asphalt the whole way home.