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"When This Winter is Finally Over" by John Gower

Gary Miller

When this winter is finally over I’ll paint the house robin-egg blue. The paint was on sale at Sears and I’ve already bought it. The color was my mother’s idea.

Two years ago, just before her heart gave out, Mother and I sat at the dining room table drinking one of her expensive Russian teas; the kind that Mother claimed always gave her inspiration. Holding a dainty cup with her little finger properly pointing out, she slowly waved her other arm to direct my attention through the picture window toward the yard and pronounced in a grandiose and magical tone, as though she were waving a wand; I’m going to paint the house robin-egg blue and plant huge yellow hibiscus all along the drive.

With me, her forty-year old deadbeat son, as her only audience and housemate, the unsaid implication was that I would be doing the planting and painting. After all we didn’t have much money and we haven’t heard from my father since the divorce some thirty-five years ago.

I smiled back at Mother and pretended to be inspired, too. “Mother that sounds gorgeous,” I said, cheering her on. Though deep down we both knew this would be yet one more item to add to the list of how I’ve let her down.  

I calmly watched Mother’s expression as she sat with one old thin leg crossed over the other and let the pain of this ugly accumulation of facts wash through her. She wore an attractive floral dress even though it was only us, always, only us. I don’t know why she had so many nice dresses, it’s not like she ever went anywhere. Sure, she would have liked to go out to dinner or spend a weekend at the shore but she’d want me to go with her and with my anxiety condition going out of the house was always excruciating. So we sat in the dining room while Mother’s unsaid exasperation dissipated and the subject soon changed to something more pleasant.

But now that she is gone I find myself dining here alone and all I can think about is how much I regret not doing more for her while she was here. She was such a lovely person and asked so little of me. I miss her terribly. My regrets are immense.

Last week I dug through the pile of brochures she had hopelessly discarded in the kitchen drawer. I chose a modest bed and breakfast just off the beach and stayed there two full nervous nights. I might as well admit I calmed myself by wearing her summer dress under my clothes when I checked in. Not only did it feel as though we were holding hands but more to the point I was finally taking her to the shore. I have become consumed with righting my wrongs with her. We go out to eat; we walk through shops just as I knew she would. It’s worked out well that we are the same size. I’ve taken to wearing her jewelry, too. Finally she is showing off her nice clothes. I know it pleases her.  

When this winter’s finally over she’ll watch me paint the house robin-egg blue.