Word Count 512
By Anne Nassar
His mother died in a car accident, when he was twelve. He began having panic attacks that were so severe, he sometimes ended up in the hospital. He was told that he had a heart condition and advised to “stay home as much as possible”. He was happy to comply. He disliked school.
Most mornings when he didn’t go to school, he walked across town to his grandmother’s house.She painted in the mornings. She didn’t like to be disturbed, so he would let himself in and make breakfast.She left books and articles that she thought he ought to read in his “mailbox” – just a shirtbox with his name on it. As he ate, he would read.
When she emerged from her “studio”, they’d talk about what he’d read. He loved talking to her, because she spoke to him like he was her intellectual equal. He realized that he wasn’t – she was exceptionally intelligent, and uncommonly informed.
When he didn’t understand what she was talking about, he just nodded and kept his mouth shut. She would take him out to lunch at the Polish restaurant. They were usually joined by one or more of her friends. Through listening, he eventually learned to understand Polish, although he never could speak it.
After lunch, it was time for her nap, so he would take out the garbage or dig up weeds or whatever she needed him to do, and he’d go home. His father got home from work at around six. He began drinking straight away. His tolerance was incredibly high. He almost never seemed drunk. Once he began drinking, his father would not leave the house, no matter what happened, no matter what invitation came his way. He was in for the night, every night at six. And he was asleep in his armchair, in front of the tv, every night by ten.
All of this changed with the advent of Jeanette. She was one of his father’s students. Along with her final exam, she handed in a note, suggesting that she would be receptive to any advances that her professor made. Their courtship was brief. Their marriage took place a year and a month after the first Mrs. Muller died.
Jeanette was a very social person. She never wanted to be alone. She was happiest in a room full of people, with all eyes upon her. She expected to be taken to dinner parties and concerts and fundraisers – any event where there would be dancing. He didn’t like Jeanette very much. They had nothing in common. Her incessant chattering irritated him. He thought, secretly, that she was self-centered, dumb and extremely judgmental. But there was no denying that she adored his father. For his father’s sake, he tried to get along with her. On Mondays, they played cards. Oftentimes, he would throw the game, just to make Jeanette happy. She became fond of him, if only because she liked to win.
So, growing up, he had two mother figures. But they did not make up for the loss of his mother.