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Item # 36 – Christmas card from Grandma
I found this Christmas card in some of Mom’s old papers. She kept it all those years. I think she would want you to have it. I keep it in my purse hoping for a good time to give it to you, but I’m not sure that time will ever come. So if I haven’t given it to you yet, take it. They would want you to have – Grandma and Mom.
Remember I love you. We all love you.
Bryan hadn’t answered any questions. In fact, he just added to them sending the table. I was going to make one more attempt to find the brother I was missing, the brother of my childhood.
When I pushed the door open and stepped into his world, I felt a pang of envy. He wasn’t in the main studio. Instead I found myself alone with a completed bronze horse and rider.
I heard the sound of steel hitting steel in the courtyard beyond the studio. I picked my way through saw horses holding plaster molds. Large chunks of granite and marble, their half hidden inhabitants waiting to be revealed. A woman roughed in bronze was reaching for the sky. Her face seemed sad almost pitiful.
In the courtyard, I found Bryan with a hammer in one hand and a chisel in the other working to free a sleek modern form swirling in and around itself from the tan granite. Dust had settled on his head and clothes mingling with his sweat, so that he almost looked like a sculpture come to life.
He saw me and paused mid-swing. It was hard to tell if he was expecting me or was shocked to see me.
“Back so soon. I was giving you a little more time.”
His hammer continued rhythmically slamming against his chisel.
“Why did you send that table?”
“Direct and to the point, you’ve changed since we were kids.”
“Why did you send a table from Olla Podrida?”
“I wanted you to know it’s not too late. You have a gift and it’s not too late to put it to use. It might take some time, but you can still be an artist. You have real talent,” he replied.
Bryan spoke in rhythm to his hammer.
“I’m afraid I’m past that now.”
My mind raced ahead to what my last days would be like if I went down the same path as Mom.
“You talk like you’re an old woman. You have plenty of time.”
Metal against metal rang clear.
“I’ve come to a point in my life I’m afraid I can’t turn back from.”
“You sound like Mom. She never had what it takes to make it,” he continued.
“She got sick. She didn’t give up.”
I knew she didn’t give up because, like me she never really started. I felt the need to defend myself through her.
“I know more about Mom’s illness than you ever will,” Bryan yelled.
He slammed his hammer into the granite, cracking the statue in half. The pieces fell to the ground with a heavy thud. His face was twisted with anger.
“What do you want Jo?” he asked.
“Some explanation of why.”
“There’s only pain back there. I’ve finally got my life together and I’m not going to let you drag me back.”
“I just want to know why? What happened? What did we do?”
“There’s no explanations, no answers. Why are you here? After all this time, what do you really want?” Bryan asked.
His voice sounded like his hammer, slamming each word.
“I don’t want anything. I just wanted to see how you were.”
“Is it money? Do you need money for drugs?”
Until starting the chemo and radiation, I’d never done drugs in my life and now only for nausea. I didn’t even smoke or drink.
“God, Jo,” his voice softened. “You look like hell. What are you on, meth?”
He thought I was an addict. I looked at the window behind him. I wouldn’t have recognized the woman there. I’d lost at least forty pounds. My cheeks were hollow, my eyes dark, I looked tired.
“I have connections. I can get you into rehab,” he offered.
I remember how he looked when Mom was sick. He didn’t look that different from me now. He’d lost weight and looked tired all the time. He lost the look of a child, looking more and more beaten. I didn’t want to see him look like that again. Not when he looked at me anyway. He was right. I did want something from him. I wanted to use him as a crutch and he didn’t owe me that. I hadn’t bothered to find him until I was sick, until I needed him. I didn’t need to drag him back there.
I took the card he offered me, from some rehab center nearby. I left letting him think I was a meth addict rather than his worst nightmare.
God, let him have some peace. He seems to have been a long time coming to it. I’d rather he think I’m a drug addict than to know I have cancer.
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