Synopsis: After being released from the hospital Jason sets about to get ready to say good bye to his mother the only way he knows how.
Walking the aisles of the local market was nothing new, I had done it a million times, at least it felt like a million times. I was grabbing a few things that I needed. I left the hospital two days ago after spending two days in it after I had regained consciousness at Dr. Thompkins insistence. I acquiesced, because I new that she would not let up if I tried to leave any earlier. She meant well, she always did, but I also knew she was attempting to determine what was gone to be done with me.
I was in a hospital and I’m pretty certain that DCFS was contacted. I wanted to become a ghost, but that was complicated by the fact that my mother. That was until Dr. Thompkins asked me what I wanted to be done. What did I want done with my mother?
There was no hesitance in my voice. If the good doctor was offering then I would provide the most convenient and least expensive solution. It’s what they do when John and Jane Does can’t be identified. The price tag is usually a couple hundred bucks if the city is involved. I knew who my mother was, but let’s be fair. I was not capable of paying for a funeral. I would not have that expensed by anyone. However, cremation that I would bargain for.
I would volunteer to pay it off. Square my debt and decide the next move.
If it was one less problem I had to deal with good, because there would be plenty more headed my way. I was certain of it, but right now everything is a big jumble for everyone. I am far from glass I will not break, but they are not aware of that. I use it to my advantage. I gathered my clothing and left the hospital and made my way home.
If the cops were not at my door good. Perhaps for the first time living in the East End would provide some kind of perverse benefit. One less problem for someone to deal with. The specter of crime would provide me the cover that I desired at the moment.
Did we…I have money. I had some, most of it stashed away in different places. Being a minor meant that my options were limited, and I had already experienced what it meant to have a juvenile account in the bank. I really control anything. My parents did. They could withdraw as much as they wanted so anything that I got through birthdays and Christmas could easily be withdrawn under the guise of doing it on my behalf.
One account closed, the other the money simply vanished just enough to keep the account open until it went to a negative balance and we owed…I owed the bank money so I opened up an account at the National Bank of Jay with branches in various places that I only knew about. I would use that to see how far it would stretch. It was the result of odd jobs here and there some legitimate and some not so legitimate.
However, most of all I would have to crack open the rainy-day fund. It was stuffed in my pockets now as I grabbed a few more items from the shelf and set them into my shopping cart. It wasn’t a lot just things I forgot.
Thirty minutes and forty dollars later I’m carrying the groceries back home. I may look like I’m lost in my thoughts, but I’m not. My eyes constantly scan the area. The world doesn’t stop because someone in your life is gone. Not around here at least. You’re just another mark for someone to take advantage of, whether it’s words or some other means it depends on the person. However, I luck out and make it back to the apartment building where a few people have gathered, men and women who I know and know me.
I don’t offer them a smile, because I’m not in a smiling mood. I’m not sure if I’m happy to see them either. I suspect that they have come to pick over my mother’s nonexistent bones.
“Jason…” My eyes move to the man speaking. A “friend’ of my father. His wife is a friend of my mother. I’ve had a few requests to be taken in, but let’s get real. It is either about collecting foster payments, that will not be used to offset the fact that there is new person in their house, or they are under the impression that my parents were financially responsible and that there’s money somewhere in an account, safety deposit box or insurance. My mother was an addict. what insurance company in their right mind would insure her?
“Mister Peterson.” I held onto the bags of groceries. “I will be seeing you later this evening?” I make the attempt an smile, because maybe it will make this go a little smoother. Probably won’t, but hey it’s worth a shot right.
“About tonight. Mrs. Peterson and I and a few other friends of your parents are concerned about you doing this on your own. This little gathering that you’re having.” Little gathering. Little gathering for a little kid. There was some collective lemming nodding by all of those gathered.
“I understand why you opted not to have a traditional wake.” We didn’t do wakes. Though i suspect you can say that this is a wake of sorts, but it’s a repast. These are my parents friends. People they considered family. Some of which that are grieving.
“I would like to help by offering to have someone come in…” Whatever was going through my head at the moment halted. it was like a deep record scratch across my mental turntable.
“No, thank you. I have it covered.” Let’s end this before it starts. I begin to turn back towards the door.
“Surely you’re a bit overwhelmed. Just out of the hospital. Coping with the loss of a loved one. You’re all alone now, Jason. What would your father say? Your mother wouldn’t want you to bear this burden alone.”
But that is beside the point. My mother taught me many things. Love of 80s music. True my library extends past that, but it is something that we shared. She also taught me how to cheat at Monopoly and cards. She also taught me about what to do when you lose a love one, because there had been many.
“No, thank you.” There I said it. Now I shall enter the apartment building and continue on my way.
“It would be my pleasure to have some people come and handle all of this for you. Your mother’s friends…..” These are my mother’s friends? Associates yes. Friends. No. I know my mother’s friends. None of them were holding hair hair up when she was up chucking into the toilet. Nor were they at any of the card parties or trading pills.
“Are you deaf?” I reply. “I said no thank you, not once, twice.” I did. I heard me said the words. I was very polite about it. I could feel the look of offense on spreading across Mister Peterson’s face.
“Henry…” His wife started, but she was silenced with a look.
“I will let that go, Jason. It sounds like a child suffering from duress.” Now I’m being insulted. Yay! I can see closets, straps and other such manners of punishments in my future if I was to accept the offer he wants to make.
My father taught me how to read people. Not because he was a genius at it, but because he was bad at it. Horribly, horribly bad at it. He was good at teaching me how to lift wallets and other items without getting caught. He said I had a gift. Is that really a gift? Rumination for another time.
Right now I focus on how to resolve this situation. I have ice cream in my bag.
Mister Johnson clears his throat. He must be the alternative. “You should let us help, Jason. It’s all we want to do.”
“We can help you. We can have it at my hall and Mr. Peterson can have people come in and assist with the food and drinks. It will be easier for you. You won’t have to worry about anyone. They will be taken care of.” Peterson nodded at what Mister Johnson said.
They would pay for it. They would bail me out. I know it’s a cynical way to look at it, but I had to. Everyone was a mark, they were a mark if they allowed themselves to become one, but even if that was not the entire reason why I continued to refuse it was part of it.
“It is not a burden. This is not a burden. Honoring my mother is not a burden.” Let’s make that crystal clear.
“No, no that’s not what we meant, Jason. You’re twisting our words,” Mister Peterson insisted.
“I don’t need a hall. I don’t need someone to serve people. If people wish to help sure they can do that, but it will be at the apartment. My neighbors are fine with people being in the hall. They understand what’s happened. They’ve offered to let me use some of their chairs.” Furniture had been moved around with the help of them also.
The frustration on their side was starting to show. “Food has been made. Some has been donated.” But a lot of it had been made by his hands.
“Jason…” I almost wish I could change my name right now.
“As a wise woman once said, “We do not honor our family by sitting friends and family in a hall. We do not honor our family by having strangers serve those grieving. We serve comfort food to those that need comfort, and we do it with our own hands. That is how I choose to honor my mother. That is how my mother taught me to honor those we have loss.”
“That is how a family does a repast. That is how I was taught to pay my respects. I am not the only person that lost my mother, and there are those who will need comfort and care. That cannot and will not be outsourced. There is nothing of my mother in a hall. Nothing of her in strangers who could be paid to serve them. Nothing of her in the food that they will make.” I let that sink in before I continue, because it was apparent that my gentle rebuffs were not producing the desired results.
‘’I will grieve for the rest of my life. The depth of my grief will outstrip every person there, but for one day for several hours they will grieve with me. It will be on the surface they will want to share and remember. They will want to know that I am okay and the way to show that is to show them comfort. To open my home and my heart to them. To serve them. To let them help me serve others, but by their hands not by a stranger’s in a stranger place.” I could feel my jaw tighten just a touch, because I felt that I was being diplomatic. Yet I’m continued to be challenged. For a couple of hours. I can be the person that my mother wanted me to be and the person that her friends need me to be. After that I have to figure out what next.
“So, thank you for the generous offer, but no thank you. I think it’s well taken care of, but if you wish to bring a dish you’re more than welcome to.”
I move to the door smiling to Mister Wallace who was on his way out. “Hello, Mister Wallace. I’ll make sure to save you a plate.” He was on his way to work, but he stopped by earlier. As the door began to close behind me it was caught by Mister Peterson, but I kept walking. There was nothing more to say.