Shock, reasoning, alarm, trying to relax, fear, awakening, nightmare, repeating.
I would wake up at about two every morning, and rearrange my pillows over and over again, trying to find a spot that was cool and comfortable and peaceful. But my mind nagged me, accused me: why hadn't I seen how screwy my mother was, and had her committed or incarcerated or brought her here to live with me right away? My mind had the answers ready, though: because she would not have tolerated any of those solutions. And then my mind would argue back: are you just trying to believe that because you didn't want to enter into the battle to help her see reason, and because your stomach turned at the thought of having to live with her again? Enough guilt resided in that sentence to send my mind howling downwards again. If I had just had enough courage, courage to stand up to her, would she be alive today?
The house, the checking account, and all the savings Mom had were in my name -- she had gruesomely insisted , the day after my father's funeral, that we go around to all the banks and to her lawyer and put me on her accounts and 'sold' me her house for a dollar. And her car. "If anything happens to me, then it's all taken care of," she had chirped, her mouth straining to appear cheerful, her eyes slightly glassy. She was right again, wasn't she always?
Her uncle had come to her funeral and picked through her things at the house, taking with him only an old photo album of their family and the paintings I had left.
He had always been remote to us, even though he lived in Sacramento, too. We just figured he hadn't been much interested in kids; Mom had followed suit by remaining quite aloof from Jesse's children. If they came to visit her, fine, but even then she always seemed a bit overwhelmed by them. Perhaps being a grandmother reminded her too much of the advancing years. We never knew.
In her defense, she was always ready to protect Jesse and me from abusive people when we were little, be they the older kids in the neighborhood or our small-town small-minded teachers in grade school. She was inventive, cared nothing for gossip, and backed down from no one. She taught us how to dress and choose clothes that were classic rather than funky (and sometimes we actually did), and she insisted on a standard of manners that has been very welcome to us both all our lives. She was a staunch believer in teaching children whatever they wish to know, and she forced us to expect the best from ourselves that we could do. She was a dragon, and a hero. She was a bully and a tyrant, but she taught us to break down the walls that intimidate most people and stand on the rubble, triumphant.
The mind's final question in the dark hours of the morning: Why did her courage and verve turn into suspicion and weirdness? What did I miss? What could I have done? How could I keep from becoming like her?
I had her house gutted, and had put in new bath fixtures, and new kitchen fixtures and cabinets and counters, and all the carpeting and linoleum torn out and replaced with hardwood flooring after the walls had been painted clean and bright and all the ugly old curtains thrown out. Empty, it looked like no one's house, all the bitterness and memories expunged, and I sold that place of torment, and hoped that the couple who bought it would not be plagued by haunts.