I got a package in the mail on Monday. Well, I actually found out I had it the day I got back to Guatemala after the funeral. But I wasn’t ready to go get it. I knew it was from Mom. I finally went and got it on Monday. It was a dog tag she’d made for Bay and sent back in October.
It was hard to know that was the last thing I was ever going to get from my Mom.
No, the physical act of moving home would not be that hard. She would pack a few pairs of shoes, shorts and t-shirts, and maybe one sweatshirt, though she would certainly be back before winter. She looked around her room and grabbed her favorite pillow and her eye mask. And that was it. I can get anything else I need when I get there, Gretchen thought. There, she sighed.
Villa Rica, Georgia. Forty-five minutes west of Atlanta, twenty minutes east of the Alabama state line. Nowhere’s-ville, as far as Gretchen was concerned. And a place that she hadn’t been in over ten years. She wondered how much had changed. Her mom had told her they built a Waffle House, McDonald’s, and a Publix right off the Liberty Road exit. And she knew there was a Wal-Mart now. But more than the changes within the town itself, Gretchen wondered how much the house had changed, if at all. Was her bedroom still the same- a shrine, as if she’d died instead of just moved out? Was her trophy case still there, housing the eleven trophies she’d left behind, because her mother had begged her? Was dad’s chair in the same place?
Gretchen was surprised how hard the word Dad hit her. Her knees gave way and she almost missed the bed as she collapsed into a sobbing heap. She had just talked to him last week. He called and told her about the trip- a romantic second honeymoon, he’d told her, and Gretchen could hear the pride in his voice, letting her know he had not only thought of it, but planned it himself. Thomas had asked her to call and check on the kids, “Just make sure someone answers the phone and no one dies while we’re away,” he laughed. She had grudgingly agreed, though she doubted she would make the call. And she hadn’t. Ben and Teague, at eighteen, were old enough to look after fourteen-year old Annie. Gretchen was sure they didn’t need an older sister they barely knew calling to check up on them.
And now, instead of checking up, she was moving in to take care of a family she barely knew. She cried harder, deciding it would be the last time she would allow herself to cry. Gretchen knew she wouldn’t feel like she deserved to cry when she was surrounded by her brothers and sister. She expected that people would wonder why she was even there- at home, at the funeral, wherever- to begin with. After all, if her mother was to be believed, she’d abandoned them all when she left. If someone asked Sylvia about her oldest daughter, her voice held a mixture of pride and resentment, neither of which could completely mask the other one.
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