When the kid asked me where grandma was, I started off honest.
“I don’t know,” I said.
I’ve always been against the unnecessary lying to children: Santa Claus, Easter Bunnies, etc. Still, his reply made me shift.
“That’s the second time she’s disappeared,” he said.
It was funny because I’d never spoken to him about it, though he typically realizes if/when people lie to him. Other innocence preserving adults in his life do it all the time, then, while they sit proudly atop their accomplishment, believing they’ve tricked him, he comes and tells me how silly they are.
I decided to tell him grandma was at home. That’s where I guessed anyway, so it wasn’t a complete lie. She’d been staying with me for a while, helping with the kid while I was at work. The night before, she paused the television, a rarity for her, and asked me what was wrong.
“I just been noticing you seem really down,” she said.
“I’m just dealing with a lot right now,” I told her.
She explained that she needed me to talk to her more. About what? I thought. There was no way I could translate cultural capital to her–that, after all, was always the most dividing force between me and my family, especially her.
“You’re just the least reliable person I know,” I told her. “Why would I be leaning on you for anything?”
She denied my claim and it would have taken all night to cite the evidence, so I just said fuck it and told her everything. I dug through the sources of all my current anxiety, anger, fear, loathing. I spent most of my night telling her all of the things people always claim they would like to know. It was exhausting. She told me that I should talk to her more.
“My life is changing now, and things are different,” she said. “You can talk to me, and I can help.”
I felt an uncomfortable relief. Sure, I had gotten some things off my chest, and my mother, either absent or deleterious over twenty eight years, had listened? I tried to let myself believe in her. My guard was down as she told me her own story; not once did I step in during teachable moments or de-bunk any of her logic on the spot. I just listened. Afterwards, I told her I was going to bed and she turned the T.V. down without me having to complain about it.
The next day when I got home from work, she and my son were gone. I called her phone several times but it was off. She’d known I was dealing with money problems and kept making offers to buy groceries, saying that she and Jojo might be at the market and she’d call me to pick them up. They weren’t. Her phone was off. I was furious, but I tried to act like I wasn’t. I sat down on the couch and listened to myself breathe. Then, I sent my brother a text message to ask if he knew anything. Turns out Jojo was there, playing with his kid and I’d have to just drive over and pick him up, but I didn’t discover that until later. He didn’t know where my mother was, but said she took his girl’s transpass and hadn’t returned, though she said she’d be back in the morning. Her phone was still off and I had work at 7am the next day, dependent on her making sure Jojo got on the bus.
Then she called me from some unknown number.
“Come get him,” she said.
“Where is my kid?” I asked her.
“Come get him,” she said.
I knew she was high, but I kept trying to reason with her like a dumbass. She kept repeating the same things over and over, telling me to come get him, but not from where. During the call is when my brother responded to my last text, letting me know Jojo was with him. Even then, I didn’t snap on my mother, curse her out and hang up the phone like I’d done before. I just listened.
“What time you need me back?” she asked.
“I have work at seven.”
“Okay, I’ll make sure Jojo gets on the bus in the morning,” she said.
After I hung up the phone, I called work and told them I wouldn’t be able to come in the next day.