Dirt under her fingernails

Corey would be born, November 26, 1993.  A week or two prior to his birth, I was having a banana split with my father in law.

As I write those words, I hear the voice of “adult Scout” in the opening lines of the movie of To Kill A Mockingbird. Something about Maycomb, Alabama and the summer she and Jem  will never forget. That is my favorite movie and book of all time. That commanding voice of Gregory Peck when he all too often bellows “Scout.” Can’t you just hear it? Book of course being better than the movie.

I am not sure what she said when she called but the news my sister was to deliver didn’t come as a complete shock. Stacy found my mom in the little apartment in Pearland  in a semi unconscious state laying in a pool of vomit.  My memory of that call or the scene that my sister walked into is foggy to say the least. I do know there was a bottle of aspirin involved. A near empty bottle.

Enter another character in my story, my father in law. He is a man that is loved by all animals, domestic and wild.  A Grizzly Adams of sorts. One of the most talented men I’ve ever met.  He can take a piece of wood and turn it into a masterpiece whether he is cranking something out in his shop or whittling away sitting in his recliner. He loves the Lord. I appreciate him. Even though lately our relationship has been strained, I appreciate him.


Stuart was at work. I wanted to go to see my mom. Stuart didn’t want me driving by myself. I had been having contractions off and on for a couple of weeks. I don’t remember if I was staying with Stuart’s mom and dad in Houston or if I was chilling at the Love Shack with Mattie. Mattie or Matilda, the red heeler that we were blessed to love during the early years of our marriage.

Anywhoo, where I was staying isn’t important. The journey that follows is what marked my heart for life.

Stuart’s dad and I headed out to Clear Lake (I think) so I could visit my mother. The ride there was awkward to say the least. I don’t think much was said between us. Seriously, what banter can commence when you are headed to see your mother who tried to kill herself by ingesting aspirin, with a man whom you have never been alone with?

I didn’t spend much time by her side. Partly because I was uncomfortable. She was also in ICU and visiting was limited. Sort of a saving grace for me.

She was unresponsive. I think what I remember most is the dirt under her fingernails. I knew said dirt was not an indication of the gardening that had taken place prior to her ingesting who knows how many aspirin but an indication of something else altogether.

There is no telling how long she had not been taking care of herself. I talked to her daily when we first got married. She called or I called when she was at work. I think I did more calling because our phone bills those first few months of marriage led to some of our ugliest fights as newlyweds. I don’t remember what we talked about but I do remember that I cried a lot. I was young. I was pregnant. I was far from that comfy little couch.

The dirt under her fingernails hit me harder than the tubes and IV. Harder than the tiny frame of the woman that gave birth to me now herself curled up in the fetal position.

Stuart’s dad stood beside me and prayed. Don’t ask me what he said. I have no recollection.

As we turned to leave I kept thinking to myself, she always had her nails filed perfectly and painted. Painted in a deep wine color that matched her lipstick.

The drive back to wherever I was staying, be it the in-laws house on Helms or our Love Shack in the woods would be the beginning of a relationship that although not as strong as it was during that season of my life, is one that I cherish.

We stopped at a Dairy Queen. Banana splits are my favorite and dad knew that. I’m sure that he was feeling as uncomfortable as I was. The stop at Dairy Queen was ingenious on his part. Food, especially deliciousness drizzled in chocolate is a common denominator.

I don’t remember the duration in the red booth at Diary Queen. Again, that detail isn’t important. However, I do find it odd that I can remember the color of the booth. Wait, aren’t all Dairy Queen booths red? Never mind, no special recollection there.

Dad started talking about his childhood. I’m pretty sure he shared stories with me that his own children had not heard. I do remember several of them. Oh how I wish I could recall them all. Not for the purpose of this blog. Just for my hearts sake. Some parts of my story I will hold onto, never sharing only hiding in heart.

It is crazy to think that when we started on the journey earlier that evening the Suburban was filled with awkwardness. We now were talking back and forth like we had known each other forever. We were embarking on a father daughter relationship. One that I so deeply needed.

And it all started with a banana split.




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