I remember running across the street to my grandmother’s house every week. I’d run there when she made bread or when my mom, Mama, would get into one of her fits. Mama called me a cock-sucking son of a bitch when I was younger. And my brothers did me no better–they told me they’d kill me if ever they found out I was gay. “Home” was the name they called it, but it was really only a house across from my grandmother’s.
I lived in Fredricksburg, Texas, then. I didn’t particularly like Texas, nor do I much now, but it’s all I’ve ever known, and so here I remain. I’ve been single every step of the way–47 years old and never much felt loved.
I ought not to get too much ahead of myself–I don’t want to give the impression that I’m depressed or that my life has been one gigantic tragedy. I want you to know that I am happy–I’m just missing a couple of pieces.
And I’m not like those people you hear about on T.V.–I’m not a head-case who uses his childhood to warrant his own abusive behavior. No. I want the best for everybody. I don’t want people to suffer. I don’t wish upon anyone what it was like for me. I’m a hugger, and a dang good hugger at that.
I guess Mama helped make me this way. She showed me how not to be. But I loved her then. I love her now. And I know she loved me, too.
She worked nights as a waitress. Sometimes she’d come home at midnight and honk the horn from the driveway to lure me to her car. These nights were my favorite–she’d take me to the convenience store to buy Opitz sausages with mustard, and we’d sit and eat in her car. These nights I treasure, however rare they were, because this was how I imagined “normal” felt.
Her perfume was unforgettable. Ava, I think it’s called. To me, despite her abuse, she was my Ava lady–a glamor queen with fantastic clothes and beautiful wigs. Tempting, those wigs–I used to play dress up in them when she was away (and she was none too pleased when she found me out).
So darling in one moment and so vicious the next, I wonder now if there wasn’t something more to it–that she had something wrong with her. There must’ve been something there.
And The Call. I was 19 when I got The Call.
It’s January 7, 1986.
“Hello, is this Todd?” asks a lady calling from the hospital. Mama’s been in the hospital for a while, recovering from a stroke. She had called me earlier that night, around 10:00, worried about the physical therapy she’d undergo once she was released. She was afraid the physical therapists wouldn’t know where she lived. I talked her down, of course.
“We need you to get to the hospital. Your mother has taken a turn for the worse,” says the lady from the hospital. My face heats up. My heart beats faster. Not another stroke. Please, Lord, not another stroke.
My sister and I make our way to Aunt Rosie’s house to grab her car–it’s an old-timey thing with 4 doors. Dark brown. Light top. My aunt wishes us well, sends her prayers, and my sister and I make our way to San Antonio.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do if she dies,” I tell my sister.
My sister consoles me. “Let’s just wait till we get there, Todd,” she says.
By the time my sister and I arrive, we’re told Mama’s on life support. She’s dead by 1:00.
Her casket was open for her wake, and under a veil as sheer as an angel’s wings, she lay. As I made my last visit with her, looking upon that storied face, she looked as if she were breathing, ever so softly. She looked herself quite like an angel, gently drifting away from the world, away from her torment. She’d found peace. I know it.
I don’t want a funeral when I die. I want a party. I want everyone I love to talk about our silly inside jokes and sweet, sweet memories. I want them to talk about what a hugger I was, and how happy I made everyone feel.
When I die, I want to leave the world happier than I found it.
Todd P. lives in Dallas, Texas. He’s currently accepting boyfriend applications… and hugs.