Posted on: November 14, 2013
She believes that life is good while he believes that life is not any particular thing. How long has she felt this way? It’s been a good fifteen years since the church thing. Fifteen years since she started waking he and his younger brothers on Sunday mornings and ten years since she stopped trying and let them make their own decisions about it. Before that there’s no telling. He assumes she’s felt this way all along and religion simply extracted it, like a nurse taking blood. But people turn to church for a reason. Hell, let’s be honest. People turn to church because something has happened or something is missing or because that’s just how it’s always been. In the end, is it going to matter? Religion or no religion, she is happy when her children are happy. It sounds conspicuous, but the degree to which she has fused her children’s lives into her own cannot be overstated. She has a most important thing, and the fact that her son knows this and believes it so unconditionally attests to her skills as a mother.
She says that she counts the days since he has been gone, and he has been gone a long time. He knows that she’s kidding but there’s something in her smile that hurts him. Pain births humor and he knows pain props up her smile. He will take bits of this pain back with him along with her smile, and maybe a hundred dollar bill. Don’t tell your father, she whispers as she slips the cash mischievously into his palm. It’s nothing less than beautiful when his father repeats the action five minutes later. Don’t tell your mother.
She says that she knows and has accepted that he’s not coming back, but he doesn’t believe her. He doesn’t believe her because he knows what that lie sounds like - he uses it all the time. She believes that he will come home. For a myriad of reasons, most having to do with family, she believes he will come home. Most of the time he knows he’s never going back. Nothing personal, it’s just not who he is. But then he remembers the night he called her and told her he was thinking about coming home. He asked her to talk to Dad about the job. She refused, acting in direct opposition to her desires. Is there a more honest representation of love? He gets older and tries not to make such declarative statements as he’s starting to suspect most of them will eventually turn on him.
And after all of it, he is selfish. Selfish as he has always been and perhaps always will be. So selfish that it became a running family gag. In typical fashion, he rushes to fix his flaws, but knows deep down that this is impossible. He believes in nothing over the power of the conscious mind and so he wants to believe that he can take control of his own personality, but goddamn, there are certain things in life that simply cannot be grasped or handled or morphed. His brain is neither Play-Dough nor Plato. Once he was too young to care, and hopefully one day he will be too old to care, but for now, he has nothing to do but care. He works to become the man he wants to be, but he’s worried he won’t recognize the final product. It’s in this context that she shines brightest. It’s in the hour-long phone calls and it’s in her honesty with him, something that he would never have expected but would never, ever trade. It’s right there on the surface, his definition of home.
They used to go to movies. He loves movies, thinks they mean more than they do, and she does not. And yet she went with him to the apocalypse movie that said the F-word over fifty times. She really does not prefer the F-word. She went with him to see the movie with the child soldiers and the drugs and the violence. She really does not prefer child soldiers or drugs or violence. The list goes on. They never saw a Meg Ryan movie or a Sandra Bullock movie or an underdog movie or a feel-good movie. And still she tells him constantly, every time, that she misses going to movies with him. But she hated those movies. He asks her if she goes to see films with her girlfriends, or her sister, or her husband. She replies that it’s not the same. What’s not the same? You don’t even talk in a movie. He thinks about her going to a movie alone, sitting there in the darkness, and he has to stop because it will make him cry and he is not in the habit of crying for no reason. He vows that eventually they will go see a movie that she wants to see. It’s the least he can do.
He wants her to know that it’s not all about his father, regardless of how it appears in his writings or songs or conversations. With his father there is ego, respect, gratefulness, stubbornness, and a whole host of other issues that he has yet to unpack. And he wants her to know that its not that those things do not apply to her, only that with her they come under a fresher and more hopeful light. Because of their soft edges, they are easier to swallow. And above all else, he wants her to know that he thinks of her often, though his actions sometimes do not align with this theory. His actions are often flippant and cruel, but never, ever malicious.
He wants her to know that when he sees a wheat field, or a picture of a wheat field, or a drawing of a wheat field, he thinks of home and he thinks of her. He wants her to know that she is home. They are one in the same. They are inseparable. And in the end, words do not do them justice.
Written by: Logan Theissen
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe
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