It was a school night, that much I remember. Winter, too, or at least cold. I was sound asleep, dreaming the dreams of a third grader, when I heard my mom, ‘Lisa? I don’t want to alarm you, but the fire department is coming.’ Alarm me? Why would that alarm me? I bounced out of bed, wide awake, and asked a panicked why: a reasonable question under the circumstances. Her answer was drowned out by the roaring sirens of a fleet of approaching fire trucks.
More than a dozen of them arrived, gridlocking the formerly quiet cul-de-sac where we lived. Neighboring houses were alternately bathed in red and darkness and red again as the spinning light bars pierced the night. Firemen filled our house, it was wall-to-wall helmets and hoses and big boots. I felt impossibly short as they milled around, going about their business.
Watching the chaos with wide eyes, I wondered if maybe we shouldn’t step outside, my mother and I, evacuate this nascent fireball. Well, as it turned out, no. “A small fire in your clothes dryer, ma’am — more smoke than fire.“ With that the firemen gathered their gear and adiosed, my mother closing the door behind them. She leaned against it, looked at me and said, ‘sorry.’
Today is her birthday and I wish I could tell her the same thing, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye. But to be honest, I don’t know that I could have even if I’d had the chance. Those terrible days were the saddest of my life, my heart was broken beyond anything I’ve ever known. How do you do that, how do you say goodbye to the person who was your first and closest friend? The one who rushed you to the emergency room, taught you to walk in heels, who sang along to the radio in falsetto? Who was your Santa Claus and Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy?
I miss my mother. Still. I miss making her laugh, it was such an easy thing to do. I miss calling her on the phone, too, hearing her voice. I miss knowing she’s here. I want her to come back now and celebrate her birthday. We’ll watch A Fish Called Wanda and order pizza and laugh until dawn.
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