A year before Mom got sick, Dad installed the net in the driveway. It wasn’t just for Derick and me. Mom’s yearbooks were full of pictures of her taking shots in funny looking bloomers. When we sat with her on the sun porch, she would urge us to grab the basketball and play. I liked to watch her eyes widen when she heard the thump thump sound of my brother bouncing the ball. I felt as if she was memorizing her son in that sound.
“Brooke, go join him,” she would say, taking my hand into one of hers, shrunken to half its former size. One sunlit afternoon, she saw me notice her scrawny fingers, and said,
“I guess I got the diet I was looking for all those years.”
“What else is there for me to do but accept it? Promise me you’ll get Dad to play with you both,” somehow foreseeing the blue hell her husband would descend into when she was gone.
He held it together pretty well while she was still among us, asking Mom about his cooking.
“Ellen, did I overdo it with the oregano? “
“Can you tell I used fresh tomatoes in the lasagna?”
“It’s great, but learn to lighten up on the ginger,” she would say, knowing he wouldn’t want a pat response. Letting him know her spartan spirit was still burning.
Derick and I got through the funeral doing the best we could. When the minister visited our home, Dad let us pick out the readings for the service.
“You guys are the best,” Dad managed to say while the minister struck his cane across our front walk to meet his driver.
The icicles on the trees around our home matched our mood during that first winter without her. We spoke little. We took turns cooking and food shopping.
When spring arrived, I grabbed the basketball and asked my Dad to shoot some hoops with me.
And he did.