Telling Mom about the dent in her car was going to be less difficult than letting her know Mike was driving. My heart beat faster as I turned into the folks' driveway. "Thank God the dent's on the other side of the car so she can't see it from the house," I said, trying to relieve some anxiety. "She'll be watching for us. She's always gawking out the windows, especially if she's expecting someone," I quipped, then added, "She used to peek through the Venetian blinds with binoculars to see what was going on at Sis's house on the corner."
"Why bring that up?" Mike cupped his fingers around the door handle but didn't pull.
"I don't know. To vent my frustration, I guess." I took a deep breath, exhaled slowly, then pushed down the foot pedal to set the parking brake and shut off the engine. "It wasn't right, what she used to do! And this won't be right either. This wasn't our fault . . . wasn't your fault, but she's going to blame you plenty and make a point to tell everyone she can for as long as she can. I know it!"
Mom stood behind the oversized dining room window, watching us exit her car. She smiled, as if she already knew the results of my job interview. Please, God, grant me the right words to say.
She opened the front door before we quite reached it, and greeted us with a smile. "Do you have good news?" she asked.
"Well, yes," I responded, "The good news is I got the job. I start next Monday. The bad news is that somebody hit your car today." Might as well get it over with.
"Somebody did what?" She questioned, pushing by us on the steps to head toward her car.
I whispered to Mike to go on inside the house, to let me handle it, then followed Mom.
She stared at the dent, an over-sized blemish on her treasured blue Biscayne, but said nothing.
I broke the awkward silence between us, "We were driving down Roosevelt when a guy turned and smacked into us."
She made no response.
"He didn't realize it was a one-way street," I continued. "His insurance will pay to fix it. I've got all the information and a copy of the police report."
Still, she said nothing.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean for this to happen." Should I put my arm around her? Should I apologize again? God, help me, I don't know what more to say.
"We'll talk about this when your father gets home," she said, and marched into the house.
I followed, closely enough to see her hurry into the kitchen and close the door. I knew that meant to leave her alone.
Mike sat in the living room, reading the daily newspaper. "Well, what did she say? How mad at me is she?" he asked, lowering the paper to his lap.
"Actually . . ." I paused to think it over. "She doesn't know." I let go with a half-laugh. "Your name didn't come up. I think she assumed that I was driving. Let's just leave it at that."
"Can you live with it?" Mike knew my penchant for the truth.
"Swallowing guilt will be easier than listening to her demean you for the next six months," I assured him. "She said we'll talk about it when Dad gets home."
"Well, okay," he agreed, and resumed reading the paper.
I turned on the television, adjusting the rabbit ears until a news channel came in fairly sharp. Between Mike's paper-reading and the TV distraction, it seemed not long until Dad arrived home from work. He parked in the driveway, next to Mom's car.
I met him at the front door. "Hi, Dad! Welcome home."
"Hello, hello," he responded, smiled, and hugged me. "I see Mommy got a dent in her car today."
"No, not Mom," I confessed. "We got that on the way to my job interview this morning. Some guy turned into us on Roosevelt Way, on that section through the U-District, you know, where it's one way traffic?"
"Did you get his insurance information?"
"Yep, we did. Also a copy of the police report. The other guy's insurance will pay for the repair."
"Good. Then that's all we need. Did you get the job?" he asked, reaching out to shake hands with Mike who had left his newspaper to join us.
"Yes! I start Monday."
"Good for you. I knew you would! Is Mommy in the kitchen?"
"Yep. She's upset over her car. I don't blame her. I feel really bad about it."
Dad went to the kitchen, easing the swinging door shut behind him. My eyes connected with Mike's. We stood in silence, listening to my folks' muffled voices, but not understanding a word they said.
Within minutes Mom pushed open the door, letting it catch on the carpet so it wouldn't swing back shut. "Helen, would you please set the table for dinner?"
"Of course!" I hurried to wash my hands and set the table, something I'd done many times growing up in that houseeither set or cleared, depending on whose turn it was, mine or my sister's.
Dad helped bring food to the table, and we all sat down together. After a perfunctory table grace from Mom, we shared a hearty dinner of roast beef, potatoes, carrots, green beans and salad. As was her habit of forgetting to serve one or more components of any meal, Mom excused herself to the kitchen and returned with piping hot gravy. For an instant, I thought of how my brothers and sister and I used to make the most of that break to mess with Mom's foodwe'd either take something off her plate, or add something more, just to see if she would notice it when she got back. Sometimes she did, and laughed. Other times she didn't, or at least pretended so. Once we put an extra slice of pie, a different kind, on her dessert plate. She ate both pieces without spotting our prank.
But this night, after passing the gravy boat along, she fixed her eyes on us and announced, "I've got news."
I cringed and glanced at Mike. Here it comes.
"Cuz and family finished moving into their new house today, and she told me that you two can move into their old place this Friday!"
Not what I expected to hear. I sat in shock, flabbergasted. "Finally!" I smiled. "That's very good news! Thank you, Mom." And thank you, God.
"You're welcome," she replied, then rose from her chair and picked up her dinner plate and mine, to take to the kitchen. "I'll get the coffee."
I stood up also, and took Mike and Dad's plates to the kitchen, then returned to clear more dinner dishes from the table.
Dad took hold of my arm. "Don't worry about Mommy's car," he said softly. "I'm taking Friday off to help you kids move, and I'll take it for body shop estimates on Monday. You give me the papers, okay? You kids got enough to worry about right now." He patted my arm.
Gratitude overwhelmed me with a gush of tears I could barely hold back. "Thank you, Dad. Thank you."