(I will make my annual pilgrimage to Mom's grave this Mother's Day. This short story begins a week of memories, some factual, some fictional.)
Thumpeta, thumpeta, thumpeta.
The concrete sections of the old WPA highway jolted his teeth and memories as he drove back to his Mother’s grave for the first time in years.
Heavy asphalt covered each of the seams of the narrow highway, exaggerating each bump, forcing him to slow down after getting off the interstate an hour ago.
But after the mind-numbing hypnotism of the 75-mile -per hour ribbon pavement. he found the change in rhythm and speed welcome.
Old pavement reminded him of his childhood, growing up in Oklahoma. The sections of concrete slowly keeping time under his tires reminded him of years gone by when he was a teenager in the red clay Oklahoma town.
Coming back to Oklahoma had turned the clock back even more, he thought.
"Why haven't I ever put flowers on her grave?" he asked, over and over, after his brother suggested a reunion on Mother's Day, at the cemetery.
He'd never been able to find time to go back these 20-something years--something always came up--but when he thought about it, he knew there was something else--as effective as a roadblock.
It was guilt and regret.
"The years stream by like the concrete under your tires on the interstate, but when you slow down on this road, each section jolts a memory," he thought.
He'd been back to Oklahoma twice in those years--once for a funeral of his best friend's wife--and once for the wedding of another friend. He could tell former church friends were uncomfortable around him. Both times he visited the grave, but he hadn't brought flowers.
Instead, he'd drive through the cemetery, searching for the grave site. He'd park, get out and walk over between the other gravestones.
When he'd find it, he'd crouch down on his haunches and talk to her as he wiped the dust and dirt out of the engraved letters on the flat granite. He'd pick at the Bermuda grass growing up around the edges.
Mostly he muttered to himself.
"Mama, Mama, I'm sorry Mama, I just never had time, did I? You were so unselfish, the most unselfish person in the world. I'm sorry I forgot the flowers. You'd sure like them," he said, looking at the flowers adorning the other graves.
He hadn’t even sent her cards in those later years, even though she knew she loved them.
Going through her things after she died, he'd found every card he'd ever sent her--especially the ones he'd made when he was in grade school.
"Mama, mama, what is it with me? I was too busy for you, and then too busy for family."
Now the thumping sound of the highway was hypnotizing him as his thoughts went back.
"Wish you could see the kids, Mama—our girl looks so much like you. They were sure your joy--since I didn't take time."
He hurt inside as he thought about those last months of her life...when he finally took time for her. His eyes misted as he thought about driving her to the hospital that last time, and holding her hand tightly, trying to reassure her. He swung around the curve and saw the cemetery hill in the distance.
(To be continued)