I used to feel anxious every time a letter or two got delivered in my mother’s mail, not because of the sender, but because of the receiver, my mother.
My mother worked as a bank accountant, she never lacked money. In fact, the only thing she always lacked was a new accessory every week, and sometimes it could be every a couple of days, due to her feeling of solitude and self-care.
I don’t blame her. I mean, after my father died in the war, everything changed for her. Everything changed for us, we didn’t go swimming anymore, we didn’t drive in the green fields for hours anymore, and we didn’t go fishing again.
But I think I recall his bequest to her before he left the house. She laid her head on his chest at the front door. He held a backpack and another bigger one was near his feet. I’m not sure if I saw tears drop down from her popped-out eyes, but I’m sure he was very reluctant to leave.
“I love you Vita, I’ll always do. Take care of Rudolph.”
That was it. He was out of our physical life since then.
The first week of his absence passed quietly with my mother wiping a lonely tear escpaing her eye, and me hiding in my messy room, trying to forget what time will he be home, and sometimes trying to remember if he even mentioned it at all.
She had received a letter, and then she dropped another tear, holding the letter in her right hand and the coffee mug in her left. Heat radiating from the fancy furnace she had bought, caressing her face and warming the room.
“Rudy,” she said, gradually raising up her voice. “It’s your dad!”
I was so naive, looking at myself leave the room in intense enthusiasm and run down the stairs. Yes, I was disappointed to find her holding the letter, smiling with tears because I thought I would be seeing him, not her.
That afternoon was the only day she actually had a conversation with me. That night, after she had poured out all of her memories with my father, on the honeymoon, the international concerts, the world tours they enjoyed together — she read the letter in her hands.
Dear Vita and Rudolph,
I hope you’re doing well. I want you to know that I’m doing really great. The enemy lines are backing off as we’re making huge progress on the way. I have been missing you both, and I can’t wait to come home and be with you.
I’ll be back soon, Rudolph. Enjoy your company with your mother for now.
— Love, Dad ❤”
She said the last words and put it aside as if she restarted the crying process again. I smiled and stared at her before she grabbed my body and gave me a hug. It was cool, warm, and saddening.
Three weeks passed, and I stayed in my room the whole time; looking down the window to see my mother scrub the snow off the car’s windshield in the morning, and glancing across the window to see the mailman carefully put an envelope inside the mailbox, and then looking down again to see my mother park her car, then glancing again to see her pick the envelope out of the box.
I ran downstairs and sat on the warm couch, and I watched her take off her coat, gloves, and put down her gold-labeled purse, then accelerate to her office on the end of the hallway, right where I could see her desk. She sat down and opened the envelope. Her eyes went left and right, reading every letter carefully, sighing in relief and some kind of fury. I waited for her to call me, tell me it’s my dad again, and reassure me that everything was fine, that he was coming home. But that never happened.
She walked around the house without paying attention to my presence, just like I wasn’t there at all. As if my father hadn’t said “Take care of Rudolph.”
But I was all right, I didn’t need anything special from her. I just wished my father returned faster than he thought he would.
Five weeks passed silently, I thought maybe she forgot his words, maybe she thought I went with my father, maybe she thought I’m not home, it’s fine. The mailman came back and forth our lawn, pushing the envelopes inside the mailbox every couple of days, and I saw her take them out, read them silently at her desk, and leave for work the next morning.
I had enough.
“Anything from dad?” I asked as she exited her office, a day she had came earlier than ever. She gave me a surprised look, then nodded, quite hesitantly.
“Yes, he says he’s fine, and he’ll come back soon.”
That’s it? That’s all he said? I couldn’t doubt her answers, because I’ve read books about wars and battles, I know that it’s frustrating for families to keep waiting for their loved ones, and I know I shouldn’t doubt her, not with our sad situation.
But I couldn’t help myself from going to her office, at the end of the hallway. It was locked. Why did she lock the door to her office? I didn’t steal bank papers, and the windows in it were really big anyone could have access to everything inside with just a small rock.
I tried opening the door every morning after she left, and I tried searching for a spare key I knew she hid somewhere but didn’t find anything. I was frustrated, and I needed to know something about my father.
Was she trying to protect me from the heartbreaking and saddening truth of paternal death? Was she scared to tell me my father had died in the war against the terrorists?
My life was falling apart, at least from my perspective; when did one’s life actually fall apart from other people’s perspectives? That’s the point.
The letters didn’t stop coming, and my mom didn’t stop reading them. It was very irritating and almost got under my skin, but I tried to be as patient as my body could offer.
Days after that, I went to the backyard of our house, the windows were very big I could see the whole office through them, I thought of a way I could get through them to her desk. I looked down at my feet, where the snow had piled up in glorious shapes, pyramids and anthills. The snow-covered rock covering the humid sand. And I shook my head in total disagreement with what my mind was suggesting.
There was me, sitting in her office, looking back at half of the glass window, clearly open and inviting. The wind blew all the papers sitting in the corners, and the glass slapped down the piles of files under it. And I was in trouble. Unless…
I started searching for a hint, a letter, a pen, an envelope, or even just any paper on her desk. There was nothing, and she was going to enter the house at any moment.
The office had a simplistic design and a very inviting aroma. I had to do something to indicate that it wasn’t me, and that’s where my excellence played. The door, I scratched with the rock, I threw handfuls of snow across the office, on the desk and on the mat. Next, I went to the bathroom, got the blades my father had been keeping in the drawer, and I made a cut on my face as if I dodged a knife. And then she knocked on the unlocked door.
A few minutes passed before she opened the door, looking around the living room, and then on to the side of her office.
“Rudy?” she yelled, “Rudolph!”
I lied down on the circular mat at the end of the staircase and took my time before I answered with a crackled voice.
“Mom!” I yelled back when she approached me.
There she panicked, her eyes widened like never before, her face turned red and looked like it was about to explode. Her hands gestured anxiety and fear, and worry, about me, the house, the wind blowing on her neck, coming from her office, and the probably stolen papers.
I explained not what happened. It was a theft. And probably was our turn in the weekly burglary in our district. That’s what I believed she thought.
“Could you be having important papers in your office?” I asked, sitting in front of the kitchen table, two days after the incident.
She stared at the kitchen wall, leaning on the countertop, and holding the coffee cup in both of her hands. She took some time to process my question into her head. “Nope.”
“What’s with my dad?” I asked right away, not paying attention to her answer. “Did he send any letters? It’s been weeks.”
And then I knew. I knew that my father had died. He died in her mind. He wasn’t physically dead, but she believed he wasn’t going to return. Her eyes spoke with unbearable frustration, and her stare at the bricks on the wall said that she didn’t want to remember. Two months were enough for her to forget.
But I didn’t, and I never will.
She knew for sure, not with the slightest doubt, that it was me who did it all. She knew I missed my life, but she also seemingly did too.