Music is the background noise of our lives. Like a movie that we all star in, a situation comedy or drama where all the actors are our friends and family, strangers that make us laugh and lovers who teach us forgivness. These songs help us relate to ourselves a little deeper and allow us to return to the classroom to learn the story again in case the lesson slips out of reach.
At the pool alone, I get a deeper sense of myself (GapGrooves, 95′). What all this means, who I am this season and what the tunes have to teach me. I wish, really, that this season would be over. I just struggle so much with the holidays as I get older. Each year is a new drama. Why can’t people just be true to themselves and each other. At the end of this life, I want to feel like I actually lived it and didn’t just bullshit my way through.
My mother was a good woman. Well, I am told. Its so funny how much that you don’t remember from your childhood. And then again how much you really do remember that doesn’t seem to mean anything. I can remember playing in the sandbox with trucks and cars with that boy Billy that lived up the street from us on Normandy Road in the projects. Dennis Flagg who was best friends with Steven Holden who used to be bullies and beat me up (why, I don’t know). The Posco brothers next door, and Tracey Rameau. Derek Uusatalo, and the McCarthy brothers. That old telephone stand in the house on Townsend street (which later went to Cathy and Ron in their apartment in New Hampshire), and the dartboard on the column in the basement. Dempsys’ Drug store across the street from our house, and Majors’ Cafe where my mother spent most of her time.
I remember always having what we wanted. I don’t think that it was out of being spoiled, but it was more that she wanted to give us a good life. Going winters without a coat for herself so that we could have. She was always playing the lottery, keeping faith and hoping, waiting, that one day that ship would come in. The ship that would sail us all away from the heartache and poverty of living in the projects. Of using foodstamps and waiting in welfare lines. She knew it would happen. Someday. She always knew the word ‘someday’. Shouldn’t there be faith in that? Aren’t we all here for a purpose? Why shouldn’t her someday come? Her ship. The paradise that just waited for us to arrive.
She made herself sick trying to keep it all together. Drinking a lot to ease it up a little. You could smell it on your own breath when she kissed you goodnight. The stench of a ciggarette that had just been smoked down mixed with cheap beer from a cheap bar. Or perhaps the cheap fridge in the kitchen. The comforting swig of alcohol and the aftertaste of a wasted life. A life that I’m sure she wished she could change. If only that ship would just come in. Tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow.
That dream sank at fifty-three when she died of a massive heartattack in her dining room on August 7th, 1985. Was it the drinking and smoking all of those years? The fact that she had become obease. Or perhaps just the stress and fatigue of the light at the end of her tunnel slowly fading to another dark corridor of her personal abyss. It would come out later, after reading medical records, that she was on anti-depressants towards the end.
It was on that hot afternoon in August that I think that my life truly started.
Ma and I had just gotten back from Childworld on the John Fitch Highway where I cohersed her into buying a new text adventure game for my computer. Im not sure the kids these days would know what those even were. Text only games were adventure games that required you to use your imagination.
Can you all say that with me now; imag-in-a-tion. There we go, I knew you could. This word is something that most people are not familiar with these days, I feel. It would start out by describing a room/cavern/dungeon,etc. that you would picture yourself to be in.
“You are in a damp basement that smells strongly of mildue and oil. There are no lights except for a faint orange glow from behind a furnace in the far Northwest corner of the room. You are alone and there is no noise except for the soft hum of a generator that seems to be coming from everywhere. The floor feels like moist sand and It is very cold. You are facing East. What would you like to do?”
From here you would enter adjectives via the computer keyboard like: Go Northwest (or just NW for the advanced player), jump, run, punch, sleep or any other of more than a hundred action words that would thrust your character deeper into the adventure. (This was the pre-teen computer geeks interactive version of books. When one would get older, they may graduate from these games to a pencil and dice game called “Dungeons & Dragons”. But only if they were cool enough).
I am sure that these games of ‘imagination’ are what helped me into such a creative field or maybe why I over-anayze everything in my life.
We pulled back into the parking lot of our Normandy Road address in that big blue boat of a car. With the torn vinal seats and rich smell of dirt and metal. I flew out of the car and waited impatiently for her to work her way across the small section of lawn and up the three concrete stairs to unlock the door. I had already mutilated the packaging and devourered the small pamphlet of information that accompinied my new little gem on the way home. The lock clicked and I flew up the stairs and had the game running in less than 90 seconds. It was everything that it needed to be. In the first 10 minutes, I had battled a vampire and three ghouls using only my wit and vocabulary.
“The corridor glows amber with torches that line the massive stone walls. From up ahead you hear something that sounds like running water. Perhaps a stream or a waterfall. Behind you, the wood from the door you just broke down continues to settle sending dust particles everywh…”
“DAVE”, Ma yelled from downstairs.
“…ere. Thunder accompanies the pounding of footsteps that seem to be getting closer. The passage feels as if…”
“…its getting smaller. You are facing South. What would you like to do ?”
What would I like to do ? I would like to finish this goddamn game.
I push the chair away from my computer desk out in a huff. I think “Ugh, what does she WANT?”. I mean really. Can’t I just have this time ? I want to play this game, I’ve only waited a month til we had the money for it.
I practically vault downstairs. Placing both palms on the wall and leaping over two steps at a time until I end up at the front door on the first floor. I cross through the living room and the kitchen and turn into the dining room where Ma spent most of her time. “Ya, ma ?” I say as I round the corner and stop at her chair.
“Can you rub mummys back?” said says, and turns slightly away from me so I don’t miss an inch. Rubbing her back wasn’t an uncommon thing as she had fallen a few years earlier in a small gully/ditch that the neighbor boys had dug in the small section of lawn on our side of the duplex for their pool to drain. The water would get splashed out of the above ground pool by the obnoxious brats and soak the entire walkway. This gully, however, would create one big refined river of water about six inches deep that would cross the laundry line, on to our side of the apartment, across the lawn and in to the gutter. I’m sure the intention was good. Ever since she tripped in that gully coming home late one night from bingo, her back had always given her trouble. Being overweight didn’t help matters.
I gently rubbed her back as I had done in the past hoping that it would feel better soon. I mean, I just got the game going. Can’t I just play the damn game?
A couple minutes of rubbing had passed when her head fell back as she sat in the dining room chair. She emitted a low groan and I immediatly stopped.
“Ma? Mum ?”, I said confused. The groan became mumbling. “MA?”, I said again to bits and pieces of groan.
I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on, but I knew instinctivly that something wasn’t right. Her eyes were a quarter way open and I could only see the whites. I pulled a one of her eyelids back and her cool blue eye just stared out blankly at the ceiling.
“MA? MA? I Love you…wake up…please, pleeease wake up…”
“llovk tiwo”, she groaned. This wasn’t right. It was in an indescribable moment that I figured out what was going on. I let her head fall back and pulled the long corded phone from the living room and dialed 9-1-1.
“DON”T DIE, MOM, I LOVE YOU, DON”T DIE”
“Calm down…whos going?”, the operator breathed calmly
“My mom, “”Maaaa, noooo…”
“Its going to be okay, whats your address?”
“onefortyonenormandyroadinfitchburg”. Bless those people who are able to speak frantic.
Somehow I managed to mention what was going on and she must have come to the assumption that it was a heartattack, because she had given me some instruction on what to do…
“Pick your mom up and lay her on the floor.”
Okay. Mom was like, um I don’t know, 7000 pounds. And I was thirteen and scrawny. It didn’t work.
“I can’t”, I screamed into the phone.
“Yes you can. Try again”
I can? I don’t really think so.
“I can’t,” I yelled, “Shes FAT”.
The operator not losing a beat said, “Is there anyone there that can help you ?”
I thought about that for a moment. Donna was with Jimmy, her boyfriend at the time. Cathy was in New Hampshire living out some type of life and Lynda was in Shirely, about 20 minutes away.
“NO! THEY’RE ALL GONE”
“Do you have any neighbors?”, the smart lady said to me.
Our neighbors were the Poscos. Four of the most unruly kids in the neighborhood. They hated me and my family. Which of course sucks when you live in a duplex.
“YEAH, HOLD ON…”
I dropped the phone and flew through the screen door and down the three cement steps that my mother always had a hard time getting up. I slammed into the Poscos screen door full force and started banging franticly. “HELP HELP…MY MOM…SHE NEEDS HELP”
I saw two shadows through the screen door sitting on the couch looking at each other, but I couldn’t tell which one of the derylicts it was. They must have realized that something was truly wrong as they both jumped up and ran out the door, past me and into my house. It was one of the older boys that had moved out of the house there visiting, Keith, that grabbed my mom and placed her on the floor and began recesetation. I picked the phone back up and told the stranger on the other end that the neighbors had come over. She asked if he was doing what he was doing and I said yes. She stayed on the phone with me until the ambulance came. They told me that I couldn’t go with my mom that I needed to stay behind.
All of the comotion of the last 20 minutes suddenly came to a halt and everyone left. Even the guys from next door.
And there I was.
I was alone. I didn’t know what to do. When was Donna gonna be back? What if it was really late? I was scared.
But then, all of a sudden, I became very calm. I picked up the phonebook where I knew that we kept all of the numbers to everyone we knew, and I started dialing. I called Cathy up in New Hampshire and she said that she was on her way. I called other people; Lynda I think. I called the ”Casual Male” store where my sister was supposed to be with her boyfriend but they were not there. Lastly I called Rod Rintala who was a friend of the family and a boyfriend of Cathy’s. He told me that he would come over and wait with me and he did. I waited with him in his black TransAm until everyone got back about an hour later, and then we went to the hospital.
On August 7th, 1985, she was pronounced dead on arrival to Burbank Hospital nineteen days before she turned fifty-four.
And on August 7th, 1985, my perspective on life changed forever.