Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Reunion

I can hear Bea chattering away. The low hum has continued off and on through the night. I go in to tell her to be quiet around 1 a.m., and she asks which gown I plan to wear to her party.

This morning the subject is still apparel:

BEA: “How do you feel about wearing a uniform?”

ME: “No way.”

BEA: “Okay, so you’ll have to wear a dress then. An appropriate dress.”

Talk-talk-talk-talk-talk. How can anyone have so much to say? The monologue seems to spew out faster as the day wears on. Now, at almost 5 p.m., I wish she would stop. Jabbering this way is not normal. Bea has become that wind-up doll whose mechanism has broken, the one from Mad Magazine, Alfred E. Newman.

I feel like shaking her and screaming, “Shut up!”

On a scale of 1 to 10, the sound level must be about a 2, a gentle rumble only I notice as a permanent fixture of the day’s soundtrack. Her eyes are red-rimmed, her lips parched. When I offer ice cream, Bea asks me to serve Martin and Ruth, standing behind me, first. I ask if Helen is here, too.

“Not right now,” Bea says. “I think she’ll be back later though.”

“How about Dorothy?”

“Some family person said she was dead.”

Right! Many words ago, I spoke of Dorothy’s death in Austria. For some unfathomable reason, Bea has retained this information.

I was thinking about her sisters today. How nice it would be to have a family reunion, just us women, four generations, by Bea’s bedside. Helen would come with her cigarettes, picking bits of tobacco off her tongue; Dorothy with her gregarious toothy smile; Bertha, their mother, whom I have never met. I’m sure “little” Dotty, would be here in a split second if I invited her three daughters. The trip for sisters Nan, Sally, and Margot would take longer as they must travel by car and plane. They could bring their daughters, too, and I’d invite mine. Seventeen women in all. We could share insight on life and men, have a few laughs, express what each of us feels is really important. The older souls could pour their accumulated knowledge into a horn and pass it around so everyone could drink her fill. How joyous such an occasion would be!

I share these thoughts with my manic mother.

“Why, I think it’s a wonderful idea!” Bea exclaims.

As I close the door, I hear her voice again. She has already started planning the festivities….

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