Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Fallon Hotel – Chapter Twenty

Slumber my darling, the birds are at rest

The wandering dews by the flowers are caressed

Slumber my darling, I’ll wrap thee up warm

And pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

stone carvingSmiling at the “angel family” that now sat in the front seat of her car, Jeri ran her index finger around the smooth soapstone cheeks of the faceless mother, father and child that linked arms for all eternity, thanks to the creative artistic genius of the man who had sculpted them.  In addition to having crafted what she thought was probably one of the most beautiful and loving works of art she’d ever seen, Metzger had also graciously etched the words “…for Ezra.” deeply into the base of the sculpture.  Jeri was also extremely grateful that he seemed to understand how full her heart was at his generosity, having given her a deep discount and a warm kiss on the cool head of the child before sending the piece out into the world.  As he walked away, she whispered the final line of the song from another time …and pray that the angels will shield thee from harm.

Jeri had insisted that the work of art be buckled into the front seat of her Explorer, in part to keep it safe, but mostly to keep it near her.  Now that she had such precious cargo to deliver to the Columbia Cemetery, there was no way she was going to let it slip and slide around in the rear compartment of her spacious vehicle.  She had to admit that having it near her also brought her a sense of comfort and she hoped that it would be received in that very same way, once she delivered it to its final destination.

Driving through the lush, green winding roads of Route 49 that led back to Columbia, and her now much-loved temporary home that was the Fallon Hotel, Jeri rolled all of the windows down to allow the cool air to fill every nook and cranny of the car.  Having the wind whip wildly around her as she drove had always given her the sensation of flying and made her feel happy and free.  However, the freedom of being alone and unencumbered actually made her feel quite guilty.  The love she felt for her son ran so deep and fierce, but time spent without him was a mixture of pain and ecstasy that she did not quite comprehend.  She had read, time and time again and knew in the center of her being that time alone was important and that “recharging her batteries” was probably the best thing she could do for the two of them.  But she also felt, that being away from Andy just left him vulnerable.  She was the one person who loved and understood him and his quirky ways like no other being could.  Without fail, other people always seemed to be mystified by the unusual characteristics of her son’s autism.  Some were frightened by the outbursts and tantrums that could, and would, come out of nowhere.  Jeri shook her head, thinking about how her own family couldn’t cope with many of the issues that Andy faced.  In fact, Andy’s own father was incapable of dealing with the complexities of his son.  It was one of the main issues that led to the collapse of their marriage.  Andy wasn’t at fault, but the additional strain didn’t help the already growing fissures in the relationship.

Waves of guilt rolled over Jeri as she thought about her son being along.  She found that being away from Andy, even for short periods of time, caused her to question her own mortality and which led to uncertainty about what the future would hold for her son if she was no longer in his world.  Tears began to slowly roll down her cheeks.  She wondered if there would ever be a time when guilt and fear of the unknown did not fill her every waking moment.

She wiped her hand across her face as the bridge over Melones came into view.  She slowed the old Explorer down to just below the speed limit and breathed in as deeply as her lungs would allow, hoping to absorb some of the restorative qualities of the body of water.  Water had always held healing properties for Jeri, whether pool, lake, ocean or bathtub.  There was something magical about water that made her feel deeply connected to the earth and helped her acknowledge that she was part of something greater than herself.  Somewhere in time, she couldn’t recall exactly when, perhaps in the 3rd or 4th grade she learned that over 70 percent of the earth’s surface was covered in water and that the weight of a newborn infant was over 70 percent water.  Having been, in her grandfather’s words, a “water baby from the get-go” she found she was always happiest in water or, at the very least, near it.  Driving across the long bridge over Melones gave her that immediate sense of peace and belonging that only water could bring.  She reached over and placed her hand on the head of the soapstone mother that sat beside her.  She could not comprehend not being in her boy’s life.  She wondered what kind of peace her offering was possibly going to bring Ezra, a boy separated so early in life from his mother and shortly thereafter, torn from the bonds of his father.  It made her sad to think that Ezra had likely suffered loss over and over again, when those that looked after him within the small community of Columbia, California had left him in life and ultimately in death, with no one to tend to his grave.  She felt the bile rise in her throat and knew that more tears were imminent.  The combination of the water below and the release of the salty water of her own brought up the memory of her mother, who would dab at her own eyes with the vintage handkerchief she’d kept in her purse and the mantra Jeri learned to repeat from the time she could copy the words coming out of her mother’s mouth, “Input and output.  Input and output.”  Her mother had always insisted that any bout of crying be followed up with a healthy replenishment of water.  Jeri smiled and shook her head at the memory, then reached for the always present bright red stainless steel water bottle that sat in her car cup holder.  Her ex had given it to her, saying it was “just a little something” he had picked up from a conference he once attended and thought she might like it.  She took a long draw of water to replace her tears.  Input and output.  The irony of her ex-husband replacing any tears that she’d shed made her chuckle aloud.  So many tears had fallen over the years, between her son’s autism and his father’s inability to deal with anything associated with it (or her, truth be told), surely none of them could ever be refilled and the idea that it might, made her laugh.  She could laugh and cry at the same time, something she finally came to understand was a gift.

For the moment, the laughter and the wind whipping through the car made her feel as though everything was going to be okay.  EGBOK was something her dad used to say.  It was a phrase he had picked up from a Los Angeles radio station and he would apply it to just about everything in life, big or small.   Everything’s gonna be okay, Jerilynn.  Everything’s gonna be okay.

Once upon a time, right after she graduated from high school and found that she worried about every possible thing that the world presented her, the acronym was something Jeri had painted on a rock so she could see it each morning, before she left the house.  She wanted so desperately to believe the meaning of it, too.  At times, she thought that if not everything, then maybe some things were going to be okay and if they weren’t going to be okay then she could learn to live with whatever fallout occurred and honestly, that would be okay.  When she told her father about her theory, he laughed and said, “Not some things, not a few things, not a thing or two here and there, but everything, darling girl… is going to be okay, at the end of your final day.”

Jeri found there were times it was easier than others to put her faith in her father’s words. But, she knew that in order to continue to put one foot in front of the other, especially in the most difficult of times, she had to believe all of what he’d taught her.  Not some things, not a few things, not a thing or two here and there, but… everything.  Everything’s gonna be okay, Jerilynn.  Everything’s gonna be okay.

Turning left onto Parrots Ferry Road, Jeri drove the last half mile as slowly as the law might allow.  She chuckled at the thought that she was probably going to be the one person in history who might only ever collect traffic tickets for driving below the speed limit.  She had never been stopped before, but she figured it was all just a matter of time before uniformed officers of the law would notice her tendency to not rush anywhere when behind the wheel of a vehicle.  She sighed and realized her time of solitude was coming to a close and, despite her overwhelming feelings of guilt she was in no hurry to rush to the finish line.  A sharp pang of remorse shot through her chest as she thought of Ruth and what paces Andy might have put the poor woman through while his mother was away.  Accelerating slightly, she pulled into the gravel parking lot behind the Fallon Hotel then skidded to a stop faster than she intended forcing the soapstone sculpture to strain forward in the front seat, pulling at the seatbelt that Jeri had threaded through the arms of the “angel family” in the hopes of protecting them, in the event she might have to step on the brakes too quickly.  It didn’t occur to her that it would happen when she was parking.

She sat and let the motor idle for a moment.  She realized that she had made no plans beyond acquiring the sculpture and wondered if she should just drive over to the Columbia Cemetery and place the sculpture alone.  Would it be best to leave Andy in the care of Ruth while she finished this task?  With the brief history of encounters she had with Ezra, she thought it might be wiser to have someone come with her, in the event that she did nothing but anger the spirit of the boy with her gift.  Jeri was confused.  She turned the motor off and banged her head softly against the steering wheel, not having any idea of what she should do next.

Leave a Reply