Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Flash Story for Mother's Day


Calling Me Home
by
Robert S. Wilson

When I was a kid, my mother told me about the time she saw her father’s ghost. Looking back, I can’t help but think she imagined it or maybe caught a glimpse of something explainable and her mind, still mourning his loss, filled in the blanks. I used to be a believer. In all sorts of things. I grew up a believer in Greencastle, Indiana a small college town smack in between Indianapolis and Terre Haute. Now, I’m what you call a skeptic. I only believe in things like evidence, peer-review, and verified theory. Things you can see, touch, smell.
Almost seven years ago I moved out of state, away from those rows of corn fields, dry cold winters, and beautiful fall mornings when gentle shades of orange, yellow, and brown blend and blanket the ground. Packed up my guitar, my family, and headed south to Nashville, Tennessee.
Mom calls often. I don’t get to visit much, though.
The cost of living here and the lack of time both make it hard to make it up north very much. In fact I haven’t been for at least two years now. And she’s been calling a lot lately. So last week I decided it was about time I headed home to say hi. Spend some quality time with Mom.
It’s about noon. I’ve been driving 65 North about three and a half hours now. I just crossed over the bridge from Louisville, Kentucky into Jeffersonville, Indiana. Every time I cross this bridge and see that big blue sign with the red Indiana shape on it, no matter how long I’ve been gone, no matter how far I move away, I always feel like I’ve come home.
In typical Indiana style, I drive for two or three hours through at least three seasons. At one point its raining enough I can’t see more than a blur in front of me, then it’s a wintry mix, and by the time I’m passing Seymour, the sun is shining and the sky is blue. And of course for the entire trip, there’s very little to see that I’ve not been seeing practically in a loop since I crossed the Ohio. Fields. Exits. More fields. A tractor here and there. Cops hiding in the median under overpasses, and even more fields. But still it’s home and I can’t wait to get to Putnam County.
Exiting onto 465, Indianapolis seems like such a small quiet city now compared to Nashville. And yet so much more urban. Maybe it’s all the factories, the smoke stacks sending huge plumes of smoke up into the endless sky. The smell of some highly processed something I’d rather not be able to identify. Or the constant roadwork that’s always happening somewhere. Maybe it’s the contrast between downtown and the rest of the city that Nashville just doesn’t seem to have. Maybe it’s just all in my head.
The circle brings me around past East Kentucky Avenue, and then I’m crawling up the ramp for 70 East. Stealing my way into traffic from the exit, I can’t help but remember the first time I drove on this very highway when I was only nineteen years old. I’d gotten on Westbound from State Road 231 in Cloverdale with my huge green ’79 Cougar, it was morning or maybe afternoon. I felt so exhilarated trying to keep up with the fast-moving semis and cars, and now, so many years later, they almost move like slugs compared to what I’m used to.
Before long State Road 40 takes me to a large white barn and what looks like the largest Bonzai tree known to man and I veer right onto 240. From there it’s all corn fields and farm houses until Greencastle springs up from nowhere. Several vast factories greet me as I enter town and then the “new” Wal-mart pops up and before I know it, I’m really here.
Turning onto the roadway that cuts through town, a few minutes pass and I pull in front of Mom’s driveway. A large black open gate greets me as I drive the car onto the thin gravel stretch that circles between rows and rows of headstones of various shapes, sizes and colors. Some are old, weathered, dark, and hard to read while others are new, clean, lightly colored and then everything in between. Looking up the hill I see her tree.
I pull the car into the little fenced-in parking lot that didn’t exist when Mom first came here to rest her bones beneath the earth. After I park the car, I have to sit and take a deep breath. The weight of how long it’s been hits me like a ton of bricks. I get out of the car and walk around looking for her. She’s never exactly where I remember, but about three or four wrong headstones later I find myself right in front of Mother’s grave.

Sharon L. Gastineau
October 2nd, 1948 to April 28th, 2006

“Hi, Mom.” I give a half-hearted wave.
My brother’s left flowers again. He comes by often. He was always the better son, the one who was there when Mom needed him most. And just like when she was alive, I’m late again. I sit down Indian style unsure of what the dice will roll this time. Sometimes I sit here and feel nothing at all. And others… Others I have to peel myself away, tears streaming, and head back out into that huge empty world that’s never been quite the same since she left.
Today, I feel something I haven’t in far too long. I feel her presence.  And then I think back to her father’s ghost and that nagging doubt I’ve had over all these years. And the tears stream as I realize she didn’t imagine anything at all.
I should know. No matter how long I’ve been gone, no matter how far I move away, my mother always calls me home.