I only came back because she asked me to. No, that's a lie. There were more reasons. One was an inherited belief that I owed the universe a tragedy. But when Jayne called, I said only for you.
Mom died six years ago. A week after the funeral, Dad pulled his old record player out into the den and listened to iconic last names - Cash, Kristofferson, Nelson, Campbell - he just sat and spun records one after the other all day long for two solid months. Best I could tell, it was some sort of compressed-country-music-Kübler-Ross thing. Then, after almost sixty days of grieving at 33rpms he said I'm done and made a trip out to Taos to visit his only sister, Ruth. The next we heard, Dad had married Tab, short for Tabitha. He met her at a rest area outside Amarillo. Yes, I said a rest area. At first we couldn't believe it, and once we thought about it, we still couldn't believe it. Aunt Ruth said hear me now, there's nothing worse on this earth than bein' lonely.
Tab was nothing like my mother. I know people say that all the time but Tab really wasn't like Mom, at all. The woman who gave me life lived in constant fear that everything she'd scrimped and saved could be completely wiped away if one little thing became one big thing, like a spot on a lung or a seed of gossip. Not Tab though. She had time by the ass - she used those exact words more times than I can count. My mother would never say that, ever. Tab never wore shoes, even in the winter, and sported three toe rings. I don't ever remember seeing my mother's bare feet.
Tab was the kind of woman who always made you just a little bit nervous, or at least she did me. I guess the best description is that she was full. You could place that adjective in front of Tab’s anatomy: full breasts, full hips, full calves, full lips and cheeks, full head of braided hair. She was the antithesis of fat; she was full. You felt like at any moment she might just spill over on you, or at least I did. Tab was nothing like my mother.
After their Taos wedding, Tab lived four years. That was it. One morning of that final year she woke up and discovered a lump in her right breast. That day was March 7th, my mother's birthday. Dad insisted Tab take the treatments that in no time took her hair, both breasts, and finally her smile. Once, there near the end, she said you don't know your father, do you? Tab died in late November, the Friday after Thanksgiving. Dad scattered her ashes somewhere in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
When my mother died, my father cast off the life he'd known. Dad became someone new, or different, at least someone I'd not known. But maybe you can only do that once in a life, truly change that is. When Tab died, there was no one else for him to become. My father had long lived a life he'd chosen, then briefly lived a life he'd dreamed. What do you do after that? Die, I guess. Two strikes, you're out.