You Can Keep the Flowers
My mom and dad had been separated for a couple of months. It seemed obvious to me that they should never haven gotten married, (at least that's what I told myself) but I suppose my dad just wanted the status quo.
My mom had been hinting to me for years that she might leave--how my dad wasn't good with money, how he was to blame for my brother's drug and alcohol use. She and I would play card games after school and she would talk, but I guess with the cigarette smoke curling around her face and her long polished nails, I was hypnotized into thinking it was just a store. I didn't think she would really do it.
The surprising thing is, she left my siblings and me, too, moving into a tiny apartment across town with no room for us. I was the oldest, at 16, with my brother at 14 and my sister at 12.
The day she left, she told my dad that she needed some time alone, but after she'd had time to think, maybe they could talk. A couple of months, she said. So there was my dad, hair slicked back and in his best shirt, red and yellow flowers that he's just picked from our yard in his hand.
He returned a half hour later,alone. He didn't say anything and I was afraid to ask.
Years later, he finally told my sister and I what happened. He'd driven over to her place and knocked on the door, flowers at the ready, and when she opened the door, she looked at him like he was crazy.
"What are you doing here, Vern?"
"I thought we could talk, like you said."
"We can talk on the phone if you want, sure Vern, I mean about the kids and stuff. But I don't need any flowers from you." That's when he heard a man's cough from the other room.
So that's how it ended, their marriage of 17 years. I've never asked but often wondered what my dad did with the flowers.