Mom, 40 years ago: taking care from far away

trudy.pearlsAfter my sister Leslie and I left my grandmother in Charlotte, NC with my parents and my sister Marcia in January 1975, I went back to Binghamton, NY and stayed in my grandmother’s house. She had a coal stove, and I had SEEN her operate for years. But seeing and doing were two different things, and soon, the fire went out, and the pipes froze.

I was pretty depressed after the breakup of my marriage to the Okie, so I mostly watched television. I mean hours at a time. My grandma’s set got only one station, WNBF-TV, the CBS affiliate. So I watched the soap operas As the World Turns, The Edge of Night, Guiding Light, and Search for Tomorrow. Don’t remember watching any game shows except Match Game. Viewed the bulk of the CBS nighttime schedule, except perhaps the movies. And, heaven help me, I watched
Hee Haw, which by that point was in first run syndication. I told you I was depressed.

Usually on Thursday evenings, and occasionally other nights, I’d visit my friend Carol (not to be confused with my wife Carol), washed up, watched TV at HER house (The Waltons). The then-current travails of her life probably kept me sane.

Occasionally, I’d walk downtown to the library, if it wasn’t too cold. Don’t remember reading books, though I did read the newspaper. I DO remember listening the LPs on the record player. One time I was playing the first side of the Beatles’ Abbey Road, and I cranked up the volume louder and louder. The song I Want You (She’s So Heavy) ends abruptly, which I knew from plenty of previous play; in that moment, however, I thought briefly that I had died.

The electricity at my grandma’s house was spotty. I had a space heater that I could not run with the refrigerator, lest I blow the circuit. Didn’t matter; the house was so cold, I didn’t NEED the refrigerator. I DID need the space heater, though, and the colorful quilt that kept me from freezing.

One night in February, I woke up with a start. The quilt had caught fire, having fallen on the space heater. It generated an acrid stretch, which might have killed me, if the fire, which I was somehow able to smother, hadn’t.

A day or two later, I called my mom in North Carolina and told her this story. And she told me that she knew this had happened. She woke up from a dream, or a vision, and called me mentally to wake up, and I did. This is NOT the type of tale my mother generally told, so I believed her, believe her still.

This being the fourth anniversary of her death today, I want to say, “Thanks, Mom. I love you, too.”

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