Mother’s Keeper

Mother’s Keeper

her mother
leered 
across the street
with envy
as the children
and grandchildren
of her neighbor
raucously
came and went

like another person's
pile of gold
she was jealous
of the feelings
of that neighbor
that grandmother
so wanted
so cared for
with her children's 
dogs and children
brought to visit
regularly
running all about
the children
joyfully
screaming while playing
outside
barks
and cries of glee
breaking the heart
of the lonely
forgotten
grandmother
leering between the curtains
from across the street

lonely and forgotten
without her own
children or grandchildren
ever coming or going
so heartbroken
she finally
begrudgingly
rang her daughter
saying,
"please come see me. it's been far too long."

her daughter asked,
"what do you need, mother?"

her mother replied,
"just to spend time with my family."

her daughter came
the following week
with her family's dogs
and her mother's grandchildren
in tow

the dogs
and children
were unloaded
like the ones 
across the street
barking
screaming
crying 
complaining
running and playing
causing an unfamiliar
unwanted ruckus
in her mother's
normally docile
home

her mother complained
her daughter saying
it's what she asked for
it's what
dogs and children do
her mother
knowing and understanding
having had children too
with her daughter
explaining
perhaps
she should have bought
some toys for the dogs
and games
for the children
to help keep them 
occupied and calm

her mother defended,
"why would i 
go through all that,
knowing you won't
be coming back? why should i 
have bought when you
could have brought?"

her daughter countered
she'd
already
brought
far more
than enough

distressed and perturbed
with those dogs
and children
running about her house
afraid
they might spill
or piss
on the carpet
or break
whatever there was
to break
things
began to feel
far different
than what she'd
imagined

the children
and the dogs
running around
caring no more
for the old woman
than they did
for each other
as children
and dogs
mostly should
so she settled
on trying to speak
to her daughter
through the chaos
wishing to tell her
all about
petticoat junction
and frozen meatloaf
while her daughter
sucked all the air
out of the room
with all her concerns
about her children
her business
her marriage
and their
bills

her mother
couldn't be herself
from all the tension
and anxiety
from the kids and dogs
doing whatever
living in the moment
a profound disappointment
compared to the fantasy
she'd constructed
disappointing in the now
as well as the future
in imaging
all the mending
requiring her
effort
after everybody
leaves

her daughter
complaining
of their ills
the children
interrupting
asking for drinks and snacks
their grandmother
never cared
to get
the constant
interruptions
of the dogs
needing water
and needing to be
let out
to shit
then let back in
so as not
to run off
into the street
she began 
to imagine
how much better
it would have been
to have warmed up
some frozen meatloaf
watched another rerun
of petticoat junction
then taken a nap

months and months passed
and her daughter
grandchildren
and their dogs
never returned
while the laughs
and screams of joy
of the children 
playing across the street
continued
to taunt her

so she called her daughter
again
frustrated
it was her
always having to call
explaining
to her daughter
again
how upsetting it is
that she never 
calls or comes

her daughter said
they could come again
but her mother
said,
"maybe just you, since the grandkids
and the dogs
fill me 
with such anxiety
running around
my house. and it's a lot of
work, cleaning up afterward."

her daughter asked, "have you asked
you're neighbor if it's too 
much work
to clean up 
after her family visits?"

"no," her mother replied.

"maybe you should. or you
can come over here.
i'll put the dogs outside
and the kids
will be happy
in their rooms
playing games."

but that 
wasn't what
her mother needed
so she said,
"how about just you coming here? 
and bring me some things."

"what things?" her daughter asked

"anything," her mother said. "just to show
you care."

"i'm not going out 
wasting time and money
on things you 
may or may not need," her daughter
said. "i've got a family and job
and we have no money or time to waste."

"i could give you some money," her mother said.

"for us to pay our bills? or for us to buy you
things you don't even need?"

"mostly for me," her mother said. "but you could
keep some to help with your bills."

"i'm sorry, but no," her daughter said.

her mother's heart wretched from the sadness of
having produced such an ungrateful daughter

"you need to come," her mother said.
"it saddens me so much to not see you."

"then it's about us? about you and me? not only
about you?"

"of course," her mother said. "it's all about us."

"if i come, then who'll 
take care
of the dogs
and kids
while i'm there?"

"you can't find someone?" her mother asked.
"what about jerry?"

"jerry's busy too," her daughter said.

her mother knew 
it wouldn't feel 
nearly as good
to tell her neighbor 
how she went 
to visit her daughter
than for her neighbor
to see
or be told 
about her daughter
visiting her
especially
when bearing
gifts
from the whole
family

"it would be way easier if you just came here," her
daughter said.

her mother said, "you never want to do
anything for me. you can't even
drop by for a few minutes
to visit. even after i offered 
to help with your bills."

"what about your grandchildren? don't you 
care enough to want to see them?"

"of course i care," her mother said. 
"they mean everything to me. you've
seen their pictures on my walls."

"then why do you never call
to find out how they've done in
their recitals or tournaments?"

"you're so busy with your work,
the kids and dogs
and all their activities,
i don't want
to be
a nuisance."

"you're being a far bigger nuisance
playing these games," her daughter said.

her daughter
understood
what a convenient excuse
her own schedule was
for keeping everything
as it always had been 
as it needed to be
completely about 
her mother

"maybe you could help us with a few things
from time to time," her daughter suggested.
"like taking the kids to a movie or the museum.
they'd love that. they'd probably love you
for that. that might even be a better use
of the money you've offered for things
you don't need."

"i wish i could. but i can't. you know how 
i need my prescribed rest," her mother 
replied. "and i don't like driving very 
much anymore. too much driving makes me 
too nervous."

"would you consider going to a movie 
or the museum with us then?"

"i need my rest. the medicine makes me weak. 
i can't go too far. i can't do too much."

"call when you want to come here," her 
daughter said. "we'll gladly
make time. we'll even have the lemonade
you like."

her mother
accepted the offer
ostensibly
but never went
instead
staying at home
inside
leering 
between the curtains
across the street
forever
discontent
over the gifts
delivered to her neighbor
the same
as she
was entitled to
but never
got
since her 
family
never
cared

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