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Camille’s old Jeep Cherokee choked to a stop in front of the familiar broken down house. She took a deep breath as she grabbed the grocery bags and tried not to allow the usual memories and feelings of sadness to flood in. She forced herself to get out and onto the overgrown lawn. If she could make it that far, she could make it up the steps, and into the house.
After a few moments of indecision she was finally able to make it through the entrance, nearly tripping over an empty bottle of tequila in the process. She sighed and kicked it to the wall, making a mental note to pick it up later. She continued down the hall, slowly moving up to the kitchen, in an attempt to take as long as possible to get to her meeting. Taking her time putting away the food, gathering up the bottles from the kitchen (and the one from the hall) before throwing out the trash, was probably the most enjoyable part of these visits.
At last everything was cleaned and Camille was left with one thing to do. If Gran had been there she would have marched into the living room, adamant to have the meeting, determined to see her. Camille did as she had done in the past and reluctantly walked in but stopped at the doorway to stare at the head leaning against the back of the couch. She imagined Gran sitting beside her, talking about all the things Camille had accomplished over the past month. She could see a smaller, younger version of herself sitting with her arms crossed over her chest, pouting, thinking of any other place she’d rather be. Instead the head that looked so much like her own suddenly turned to look at her and she saw her mother’s worn face.
She broke into a sloppy grin. “Hey Baby.”
“Hi Ma,” Camille replied.
“Come, come sit by me,” she patted the spot on the couch beside her. Camille did as she was told, but made sure to sit on the opposite end of the ancient couch.
She was surprised when her mother didn’t immediately ask about Gran’s funeral. She hadn’t gone to the ceremony and Camille had expected her to at least give an excuse for why she hadn’t attended.
She remembered asking Gramps which bouquets he would prefer for the ceremony. He simply looked at the lilacs, Gran’s favorite, with a sadness that tore at Camille’s heart. He wore the same expression with each item she held before him. She couldn’t help but wonder if Ma had even cried when she’d heard about Gran’s passing. Shouldn’t Ma be wondering how he’s doing, having lost the love of his life?
“How’s school?” Ma asked, interrupting Camille from her thoughts.
“Fine,” she answered simply, not bothering to mention she’d be graduating soon and already had a job waiting. She’d probably forget as soon as she told her.
They sat in silence for a while, neither used to having to support the conversation. That had been Gran’s job. During their other visits, Gran had usually been the only one talking, and seemed content with that. Gran didn’t mind the fact that her companions didn’t know what to say, she’d simply wanted to be with her daughter and granddaughter, and give Camille the chance to see her mother.
Gran had insisted they need to visit her mother, no matter how many times Camille had tried to convince her otherwise. She’d drag her out to the car and lock the doors, afraid she’d try to make a break for it. Camille would give any excuse as to why they couldn’t travel to her mother’s house. It was across town and a waste of gas. She had too much homework. Her mother wouldn’t want to see her.
Ma chuckled, “It’s so quiet.”
Camille couldn’t hold back her frustration, “That’s because Gran is gone. She’s gone and you don’t even want to think of her.”
“That’s not true,” Ma turned away and clutched her bottle closer, as if it were her anchor and Camille was trying to pull her out to an ocean of feelings she didn’t want to face.
“Really?” Camille turned her body so she was completely facing her. “Why haven’t you asked about her? Why didn’t you call Gramps to see how he was doing? He’s heartbroken and lonely, and his only daughter going to see him might have helped. Why didn’t you at least go to her funeral?”
Ma simply stared down at the bottle as if the answers they were looking for could be found in the clear liquid. Camille studied her for a moment, wishing her feelings were as clear.
“Forget it,” Camille growled before marching out.
Camille’s Jeep came to a sudden stop in front of the cemetery after she’d sped over from her new job. A year had passed since she’d screamed at her mother and she hadn’t been over since. She’d replaced those trips with visits to Gran at the cemetery and had convinced Gramps to come along, something he wouldn’t have done if they were going to see Ma. He usually began to cry by the time they reached where Gran was buried and Camille would give him some time to be alone, feeling as if she were intruding. He wasn’t with her today, having accepted a ride from their neighbor since she couldn’t get away. She’d hurried over as soon as she could leave work, feeling guilty for every moment she was away.
She quickly grabbed the bouquet of lilacs from the passenger seat and hurried to where Gran was buried. The grass was still green from the last rain and the flowers were scattered across the grounds. Everything was coming alive, unlike those that were buried beneath. Gran wouldn’t have seen it so hopelessly. She would have looked at the green grass and bright flowers and only think of the “blessings” they had been given.
Camille passed the statue of an angel with his arms outstretched, as if waiting to welcome her into an eternal embrace and knew she was almost there. She had so much to say to Gran, about the wedding, about her job, and she could hardly wait to tell her about it.
She froze when she saw a woman standing over Gran’s grave. At first she thought she was mistaken and was looking at the wrong spot, but she recognized it as Gran’s because of the small statue of Mary sitting atop her headstone.
Ma stood over the grave, her lips were moving, and she stood stiffly as she looked down. She suddenly knelt and touched the stone, running her hand over the name, her shoulders shaking as she began to sob. She was not only crying for her mother but for herself as well. For the life she’d lost to addiction and the daughter she didn’t know because of it. Camille quietly approached, careful not to disturb her, before wrapping her arms around her for the first time in a long time. Ma froze for a moment, as if unsure whether the hug was real.
“Hey Baby,” she whispered.
“I miss her,” Camille said through a sudden fit of tears.
“Me too, Baby.” Her mother replied, “Me too.”
“I miss her stories,” Camille laughed, after a few minutes of silence. “She used to tell me about the troubles you caused. My favorite was the time you tried to have a party when they were out of town.”
Her mother laughed along with her, “Nobody came.”
“They were too scared of Gramps,” Camille finished and they laughed together for a moment.
“I miss your stories,” her mother added quietly. “I looked forward to them every week.”
Camille realized she was still clinging to her mother and pulled away in order to look at her. To really look at her for the first time in twenty-two years. There were streaks on her face where the steady stream of tears had fallen and it was clear she had been in pain for a while. Camille had been in pain too; she’d wanted her mother to be there for her for so long that she had stopped hoping. She could feel that little spark of hope resurfacing and instead of pushing it down like she used to she allowed herself to open up.
“Why don’t you come over to my house?” Camille asked. “I can tell you what I’ve been up to.”