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She already felt like a terrible daughter. She didn't call regularly. She didn't visit. She hadn't really spoken to her parents since she moved out. That was years ago. She knew her two younger brothers were still mad at her for it. She hoped one day they would understand why she had to do it. Maybe they would do the same and pull her out of her guilt.
Of course she really wanted to talk to her dad, all of the time. But there was always the risk that her mother would answer the phone and that always stopped her from dialing. She never wanted to make the three hour drive to pull up to the house and see her mother's car and not her dad's. She didn’t have a way to ask one of her brothers or figure out a way to get her mom’s work schedule so she knew when it would be safe. Again, she could have just asked her dad. She could have called her gramma to relay a message on for her. She knew she would understand, probably help her out. But that would mean admitting that as a grown adult that she was still afraid of her mother. That was something she just couldn’t bring herself to do. Or just something she couldn’t do yet.
So when it came time for her youngest brother's Eighth Grade Graduation, she wasn't going to let the idea of her mother driving her crazy stop her from seeing her dad. She showed up, ready for the fights with her mother. The comments. The looks. She thought about running out to her car to throw back a few shots to make it easier, but stopped herself being as how it was her brother's graduation. Graduation from eighth grade. If it was his high school graduation that would have been a different story. She would have been on much more comfortable ground. Getting wasted in their high school parking lot would have just been another day. No big deal. Or if they were just at her parents’ house she would have been through her first bottle.
At least because of the ceremony and people they knew all surrounding them her mother had to be on better behavior. She also knew that sometimes that didn’t stop her. But she was playing the odds. She was able to sit herself on the other side of the table. Far enough away that her mother would have had to shout to be heard. She wouldn‘t do that in public. At least not at a public event where there were so many people to watch her. She wasn’t by her dad like she wanted, but at least not by her mother. She knew if she tried to put herself right next to her dad that her mother would have sat on the other side of her and she wouldn't even get to talk to her dad anyway. They didn't serve anything harder than soda pop, so her nerves were on edge the whole night.
When they got back to her parents’ house, her mother offered for her to stay the night and spend the next day with them. She declined of course, told her dad she had an exam coming up and she couldn't miss the study time, she already had taken the day off to come up for the ceremony. More lies. More squirming around. She told her brothers all goodbye and gave her dad a hug last, told him she missed him. She hurried to her car before her mother could follow her.
The whole drive home she was fuming. She just wanted a minute to talk to her dad. It had been about six months since the last terrible visit. It had been worth it in the end. She had got to talk to her dad for an hour before her mother had come home from work. She took a gamble and a guess on her mother’s work schedule and got lucky. Traffic had been terrible so it had taken an extra hour to get up there, but the hour alone with her dad was more than she had had in the six months before that too. Of course when her mother got home she had to make up an excuse to get going. Work, class, whatever lie on the outside that sounded good.
A week later she got the call. She was at work, busy. It was a Saturday. They were already short staffed. She didn’t remember what anyone was saying to her. She assumed her face must have turned white. Perhaps she shouted something. She fell to her knees behind the counter. Said something to her staff that she had to go, they needed to figure it out, she wasn’t sure. She felt her insides shuffle.
She was halfway there when her mother called her again, told her he was already gone, there was no reason to drive fast. Maybe she should stay home for the night and drive up in the morning. As if there was no point in her saying goodbye before the funeral. As if her mother would miss an opportunity to kick her when she was down.