“All life long, the same questions, the same answers.”
Scene 1. A Sunday, 1977.
Dad parks the Buick as close as he can to the church. The bell rings, summoning the congregation inside. Dong! Dong! Dong! I am seven, old enough to know being late isn’t good. Dad doesn’t notice. He says, “Sandy, put some lipstick on.” And we wait the extra minutes while Mom gets pretty.
Scene 2. A Weeknight, 1983.
Dad is coming up our half-mile driveway in his pickup. Crap.
My sister and I scurry to pick up messes. Mom puts meat into the microwave to defrost.
I hear the creak of the screen door and the plop of the mail. Dad’s t-shirt is dirty from prepping the combine. He says, “Food.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Mom says. She puts a frying pan on the stove.
Dad can see Mom is annoyed. “What’s so hard about making food?”
“What’s so hard about coming home at a regular time?”
Scene 3. A Friday night, 1978.
A babysitter must be on her way. I know because my sister and I get to eat TV dinners and the bathroom is full of steam from our parents’ showers. Dad says to Mom, “Style your hair up high like you used to.”
“Women don’t wear beehives anymore, Dave.” Yet she uses a curling iron to make a row of curls and creates a little bit of the height Dad likes with a pick.
Scene 4. A Weeknight, 1995.
Mom and I watch soap operas recorded on the VCR. The phone rings. Mom doesn’t move.
When I answer, Dad says, “Food.” He has a ravenous metabolism but no sense of time. He thinks steak and potatoes can be prepared while he makes his ten-minute commute from our other farm.
I’m twenty-five, visiting for a few days. I give Mom the message. She uses the remote to fast-forward through commercials and watch the last ten minutes of Young and the Restless.
Scene 5. A Friday night, 1981.
A babysitter must be on her way. I know because my sister and I get to eat fish sticks and tator tots–and I get to put them in the oven all by myself. Mom stands in the bathroom in her skirt and bra, curling her eyelashes before applying mascara. She has a pouch for a belly and stretch marks from my little sister. She has skinny legs and fit arms from work around our farm.
Dad walks in to shower. I hear him say, “When are you going to lose some weight?”
Mom says, “When I get damned good and ready.”
Scene 6. A Weekend, 1985.
We need milk and eggs. Dad, my sister, and I will wait in the car while Mom runs into the store. Dad parks by the entrance. “Sandy, put some lipstick on,” he says. She rolls her eyes. She finds the tube in her purse, opens the mirror in the sun visor, applies the color to her lips.
Scene 7. A Saturday night, 1987.
Under the yellow lights of a parking ramp, I walk near Mom and Dad. It is a warm summer night. We are going with our neighbors to a movie. Dad has a cigarette in one hand and with his other he wraps his finger in Mom’s belt loop. He yanks her back. She resists, moving to keep up with the rest of us. He yanks again. “Come here,” he says.
“What do you want?” She tries to sound annoyed.
This is their affection. He pulls her close so he can whisper in her ear. Probably “You look like a real woman tonight” or “That steak you made for supper was top notch.”
Dave and Sandy will celebrate their 48th anniversary this fall.
Writing with the other writers on the Yeah Write challenge grid.