The Go Between

Neato Picture of Messenger courtesy of Sheila Terry

I walk into the kitchen. It’s 6:35 am, my mother has been awake for an hour and a half. I groggily begin my day, fumbling with the Keurig until it sounds like liquid is coming out.

“Do you know when Dad finishes today?”

“I don’t know.”

“Does he have to go to the bank?”

“I don’t…know.”

“OK. Is he up and in the shower?”

I’m not arrogant enough to think that everyone should know my comings and goings, but since my mother has just awoken me from my blow up bed in the living room and since I walked into the kitchen seconds later and since my dad sleeps upstairs, I sort of thought she’d be able to piece it together that I don’t have any of the answers to any of the questions that she’s asking me.

I respond with a slight grump: “Mom. I do not know,” I respond with a slight grump, only really allowable before 6:50 am and after you’ve been mildly injured in a game of pick up sports.

“Geez, fine.”

I’ve been visiting home for about ten days. Aside from my mild concern at gaining six pounds a week at the greasy hands of cheesesteaks and diner breakfasts, I am in heaven. Mostly this euphoria is gained by eating cheesesteaks and diner breakfasts. But it’s also being ensconced in the pillowy comfort zone of being home.

My dad and I watch baseball and as much of the awful early 1940s movies he likes that I can suffer through. I hang with my mom in the wee hours and while we run various errands. I spend my own time writing and editing.

And answering questions and delivering messages. I have become a go between.

Later in the day.

Mom: “Would you ask dad if he is planning on using my car tomorrow?”

Me (picking up her phone): But can’t you just write him yourself?”

Mom delivers guilt trip based on her enormous generosity. Said guilt trip is conveyed ingeniously without the use of one word. Rather she agrees with my comment and offers a sad look of longing for the days when her kids were appreciative and good-hearted.

Me: “Gah!” I jog upstairs and ask my dad the appointed question. He, knowing that this question is coming from my mom, answers the question with a slight head shake and a grunt that is slightly less translatable than a character named Caesar in a movie about apes I watched earlier. I decide it’s a “no.” Before I can leave my dad asks the question he asks roughly thirteen times a day.

“Do you know what mom’s making for dinner?”

I respond with the same simian grunt, knowing that for him there’s no greater punishment than being left in the dark when it comes to future cuisine.

This is my day.

Every day.

I am a go between. My parents live in different villages and I am the cape-wearing village guy with a wandering eye who rides his horse through the intervening woods carrying a leather satchel with messages inside. I’m just a bit too slow witted to be afraid of the bears and wolves in the woods.

I know my parents well enough to know what’s going on. My mom is a renowned out loud thinker and this is her way of including me in her staccato thought process. It’s nice and at the same time I end up wishing that we had more liquor in the house. My dads questions are geared in one of two directions. Consider:

Option 1.

Dad: “Do you know what’s for dinner?”

Translation: “Go find out what’s for dinner. (Subtext: If it’s not something I would enjoy, find a way to make it something I would like and then report back to me as soon as possible. Bring grape soda.”

Option 2. We are eating pretzels.

Dad: “Don’t you want mustard for these pretzels?”

Translation: “Go get mustard for these pretzels.”

From my mom I have delivered messages and questions about timing, dinner, my niece and nephew, a cat we now own (who has weird legs), and the day’s schedule. From my dad I have passed back questions about breakfast, dinner, lunch, dinner, soda, dinner, snacks, second dinner, elevenses, the existence and possible location of chocolate in the house, pizza, pizza preference, pizza toppings, whether the pizza is going to be delivered or if we need to go get it. And ice cream.  

To be honest, I am not terribly upset by it. I kind of understand. My sister lives at home with her two kids. My sister has enough on her plate (read: two kids) to be shuttling messages and half-answered questions between our folks. Her two kids are frustratingly too young to be of any help. Also they don’t understand subtext the way the rest of us do.

This morning I am walking up the steps on my mom’s insistence to see if my dad has somehow gathered all of his strength to take a shower at 5:15 am. That’s when it comes to me. This is my new chore. I don’t get asked to mow the lawn or do weeding, but I do get asked to deliver messages as a convoy. And it’s not a bad job to be given for being fed and comfortable for a month in August. And so I ensure that my dad’s in bed and try to leave the room but not before being asked to ask my mom if we have any doughnuts. As I walk down the steps, I imagine cheesesteaks and greasy diner food. It’ll get me through the woods.

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