“Jane, come out to Long Island for a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.”
“Thanks Dave. But we’re not “dating.” I’m the girl you “passed” on. You know, that Tiffany ring thing. So, I shouldn’t do holiday fraternizing with your family. But, come to think of it, after five years, I should get a gold watch or a plaque .” (other than arterial sclerosis.)
“Ha Ha Pink Slip. Everyone loves you. There’ll be dogs.”
“Listen, I have other plans. I’m going to go to the Harvard Club and sit and the “orphan’s table.” Sorry, they call it the “community table.” Women in funny hats.”
“I’ll pick you up at 2:00 he says. At your mother’s place. Try arguing with an attorney.
He shows up promptly in a blue blazer looking unusually handsome.
“These are my mother’s favorite flowers! How did you know?”
He smiles and looks unusually charming. (Does he know her maiden name too?)
We walk into my mother’s bedroom, her new throne, and take our positions on the bed with her.We watch the “Toy Dog” segment of the Westminster Dog show on TV. This is a sacred ritual and no one is allowed to speak until the “Best of Show” is revealed.
“Remember, Pink Slip, when we there in person? Then we went downstairs and saw all the dogs,” she breaks the silence. We all think about happier days and try to avoid looking at the delicate floral urn on my mother’s dresser that’s housings Dora’s ashes. I ache.
The three of us are mourning the death of my mother’s Maltese dog, Dora, her beloved companion, who died this past May. We look at the pictures stationed around the room–many of which were shot by Dave. My mother’s bedroom is a shrine, not to the memories of her two grown children and grandchildren, but to her departed Maltese. She now exists with the two mechanical cats that I purchased in a drugstore–Miss Kitty and LuLu, “The Non-Life Breed”. My mother continues to babble about how the “girls” are watching the show, but what they really love are cartoons and they have their own schedule. “One ran out of batteries so she’s just relaxing now. We’ll have to deal with that situation.”
I pretend not to hear the request for batteries. I’ve been giving my mother dinner for the past three hours, and I’m about to pass out from exhaustion. So far every aid has quit, but it’s difficult for a daughter to turn in her walking papers. Throughout dinner, she continually lapsed into anger. I don’t know when my mother will erupt. Constantly walking on eggshells makes me feel like I will break. I look at her skin and see that is becoming translucent. There is a sad beauty in what is left–even in a fading leaf.
I drift of to sleep to the sound of a Purina Dog Chow commercial. I’m dreaming. A really handsome man is walking me on a pink rhinestone leash! (I’m not going to tell you whether I’m wearing my dog coat and booties…) Yippee! There is an afterlife.
“Let’s go Pink Slip” I hear Dave command. “We have a train to catch.”
I feel relief as I peel myself off my mother’s bed. I kiss her goodbye. She is angry, but resigned. I wonder if this is our last Thanksgiving together.
We emerge from the elevator onto the street. I feel like I’m under a spell. The cold air hits my face. I’m filled with grief, exhaustion, and loneliness. I can hardly stand.
Dave starts to babble with his nose in a train schedule,” Well, we can catch the 6, then the D, then the trains to Great Neck. They run pretty frequently…”
I erupt in anger, ” Listen, let’s take a taxi to Penn Station. I’ll pay for it. I”m exhausted. Or maybe I’ll just go to the “orphans” table.” I am exhausted from years of frustration.
“No that’s OK.” Silence. I can be a jerk sometimes.
We sit in silence on the train on our way to the “perfect” Thanksgiving. In 45 minutes, we arrive at the “perfect” home in North Shore horse country as the “perfect” couple from NYC.
We walk up the stone steps and Dave turns to me and hurls ” You know, Pink Slip , you really have some of your mother’s characteristics.”
I think about the orphan turkey that I lost…