Defending Dads

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Forty-One Years Gone IX

My cousin Gladys has herself one heck of a guy in Curtis. He and I worked side by side to load and unload our rented, 17′ U-Haul 2 days in a row. What I like most about working with Curt is that we think alike. We developed plans of attack together, then executed them seamlessly. Our worst enemy was the clock. It was difficult to gauge how much time each of our tasks would take.

For the last two days of the clean out, management allowed us to work later than the established quitting times. The family took full advantage of the privilege. Without the extra time, we might still be there today!

Friday, September 30, our last allotted day, Curtis and I loaded the last piece of furniture sometime after 7:30 PM. Curtis and I had worked hard, but each of us had just enough in his tank to make the final deliveries.

Curtis’s and Gladys’s place was Stop 1. They live on the top floor of a two-story home with a narrow stair case. This means that each heavy, unwieldly object destined for that stop had to be not only unloaded, but schlepped up stairs and maneuvered into the apartment. What fun after a full day of moving furniture! Fortunately, a bunch of Curt’s and Gladys’ kids pitched in.

It was at this point I first noticed my mother’s mood was less than positive. This was not going to stop anything, but it could have made our remaining time together…unpleasant.

Curtis, the kids and I were unloading the truck when my mom informed me that she needed to use Curtis’s bathroom. I called upon my last reserves of restraint to not question or reprimand her. I knew that the restroom visit would be at least a 30-minute affair. The clock kept ticking.

Sure enough, once we got the stuff off of the truck and it was time to go, my mom was yukking it up in Curt’s living room. Did I mention restraint?

The next stop was my cousin Renee’s place. We understood that, by the time we got there, she would be at work, but she told us her grand kids would be there to open the front door. Renee’s place was also a second-floor walk-up, but sweetheart that she is, she told me we could leave her stuff in the first floor hallway.

Of course, when we got there, I pressed the doorbell and no one answered. I was — er — disappointed, but this was no time get emotional. I called Renee’s daughter Arrielle, who lives elsewhere, and asked her to contact anyone who might be in Renee’s place. Minutes later, my young cousin Corey, Jr. let us in.

Nine PM had come. I had been up since 4 AM. We still had to drop the remainder of the cargo off at storage, then return the truck to U-Haul. They had already called to ask that I bring it back. Curtis was rearranging the load in the cargo space. My mother and I were in the cab. I gingerly asked my mother how she felt about spending one last night in the Bronx.

“No way.”

I gripped the steering wheel and rested my head on the horn. For me, “home” had been transformed from a destination to a fantasy.

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