“That happened to me,” their mom blurted out during a commercial break.
“What?” Karen asked.
“That,” their mom replied, as though, THAT would clear up everything for them.
A television commercial was blathering on. “Buy Gold. Hold on to something solid in this dying economy. Don’t wait for the depression to swallow up whatever savings you have in the bank. Gold. Solid gold.”
Shelly’s face lit up like the old cash registers with a ka-ching! A greedy smile sputtered around the corners of her mouth. “You bought gold? I didn’t know you had any cash stashed away?”
Mom just stared at her.
The two daughters were sitting on either side of their mother sharing a big bowl of popcorn, watching another made-for-TV movie of the week. They were always depressing, but this family liked a liberating cry and mom’s buttery popcorn on Sunday afternoons.
Karen had been sniffling throughout the movie. The main character was Jessie. She was a teenager who had just exposed her cretin, slithering stepfather. He’d been molesting her for years and her mother had pretended not to know. Now the mother and daughter were face-to-face with the issue. It was finally in the open and Jessie’s mom was screaming at Jessie to get out.
Karen and Shelly started yelling obscenities at the TV mother. “You bitch!” screamed Karen, “I despise you, you hemorrhage!”
“The bitch threw her own daughter out in the street to protect that son of Satan,” screeched Shelly. “Un-freaking-believable.”
Karen was just about to stuff another handful of popcorn in her mouth when she got what THAT was. She looked over at their mom who was slumped next to her staring off into space. “Mom, you mean…”
Shelly gasped and turned toward their mom as well. “But you didn’t have a stepdad.”
Mom grew older by the moment. Her wrinkles engraved themselves further in her thin face. Smaller, paler, rumpled, her voice was barely a whisper when she spoke. “You know, I was just a child. It was so long ago.”
Karen and Shelly looked at each other in shock.
“Who was it, mom?” Karen asked, grabbing her mom’s cold, shaky hand.
“Uncle Gordon.” Mom no longer blinked. “He was married to my mom’s sister, Rosemary, when they moved in downstairs. He didn’t have a job. Said he’d love to babysit whenever my parents went out–said he loved kids. Wanted his own someday.”
“Oh my God,” Karen said. “Why didn’t you ever tell us?”
“Never told anyone. Didn’t see any reason to raise up old wounds.”
Their mom was a spot in the distance.
Karen opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
published 6 July 2011