Sunday, September 12, 2004

I'm a Waiter

So, I'm waiting.
It's OK, I guess, I'm used to it.
I've been waiting all my life, really.
This time I've only been waiting 2 hours.
This time.
My mother said she'd be here, "Right away."
On the second phone call she was "On her way."
As I dialed the third call I realized what I was doing and hung up.
I washed the dishes, threw in a load of laundry, balanced my checkbook, dried the dishes, put the wash in the dryer, wiped down every surface in the kitchen, put the dishes away.
I could be done before she ever shows up.
Except that that's not fucking fair!
She promised she would help.
And I believed her.
The thing is, I said I'd do it myself. I did the good girl, martyr thing. I told her I'd just come up today and do it on my own. She said she'd help. So I said she should if she WANTED to but if she didn't WANT to it was fine, no truly, fine, I promise, I'm happy to do it. It was too much. I should have left well enough alone. Now she thinks I'm trying to put one over on her, do something behind her back.
So now I have to wait.
With my dad there is no waiting.
With my dad you head out the door at the appointed time, preparation be damned! If you end up in Timbuktu without your ice pick and your Himalayan-American dictionary so be it! At least you got there on time.
If my dad were meeting me here we'd already be done.
My dad would never have met me here for this. He'd have had a pressing prior engagement.
One he certainly needed to be on time for.
Maybe I'll go out for coffee and when I come back she'll be here.
Yeah. Right.
Maybe it's just hard for her and that's what's keeping her.
Fooling. Myself. Thirty years running.
I mean, I'm sure it IS hard for her but that's not what's making her late. She'd be late if we were just going to lunch. There is no task too small or too great for which my mother cannot be late.
I could clean the bathroom. And probably the refrigerator without her getting too upset. Maybe wash the floors.
Or, you know, I could just wait. Get some coffee, sit on the porch steps and just wait quietly until she gets here.
But I don't want to wait.
I'm sick of waiting.
I've been waiting all my life.

I have waited to be taken to work, to school, to friends' houses, to piano lessons, to movies, to the mall, to Thanksgiving dinner, to the airport.
I have waited to be picked up from all those same places. And more.
I have been forgotten completely at least twice.
I have waited for things promised; dinner, candy, presents, stories.
I have waited for things needed; medicine, towels, toilet paper, to be listened to.
I have waited in stores, in restaurants, at tables, on porches, in bed, on the couch, in the car. In the car. So long in the car.
I never go anywhere without a book to read in case (when ) I need to wait.

There are plenty of books here but none I can sit down to right now.

When I was little I used to work at waiting. First to be patient enough and later to speed her arrival.
If I cross my fingers she will come sooner.
If I can find every letter of the alphabet on the signs on this wall I will turn and she will be here.
She will turn the corner at the end of 6 choruses of Happy Birthday, or 3 verses of O Come All Ye Faithful or 64 bottles of beer on the wall.
If I go into the bathroom to pee she'll arrive.
But what if she leaves before I come out?
Better wait.
Better wait. To wait better. I wait better than anyone else I know. I am a champion waiter. You need someone to wait for a phone call, a delivery, a sign from the deity of your choice? I'm your girl. Because I have waited for things that are far less likely to come.

Not so long ago we waited.
Not for my mother.
For my grandmother.
For her to die.
My mom, Uncle Joe, Cindy, Auntie Glin, sitting in a hospital room with Gammy.
It's pretty close quarters. There was squabbling.
"You should get something to eat."
"Come with me?"
"I don't want to leave Cindy alone."
"I'm not hungry."
"You haven't eaten anything since breakfast."
"Well, you need to eat to take your medicine."
"Cindy can go get something."
"Alone?" With raised eyebrow.
I finally sent them all away. I decided to just do it alone.
So I waited with my grandmother. Talked to her. Cried. Stared fuzzily at the television. Held her already cold hand. Covered our jointly chilly fingers with the blanket. Thought about how silly and useless that gesture was. Prayed for Gammy to go, go before they all get back and start talking again.
But my grandmother was a woman unaccustomed to being either early or late so she was not encouraged to hustle along to fit my accelerated schedule.
They all came back.
I moved so mom could hold Gammy's hand.
And we waited some more.
Listened to the undignified whine of Gammy's breathing. Then to the more dignified intakes and outbreaths. And, almost unexpectedly, to silence.
"I think that was it."
It didn't feel to me as though the waiting were over.
I didn't expect that.
And I suppose in a way it isn't. I'm here, chin in hand at my grandmother's counter waiting for my mother to get her so we can clean out the house.

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