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Two birds, one pair of pantyhose.

Updated: Jul 1, 2023




This is a piece from 2016, during my sister's recovery from her brain injury. She's all better now, but most nights, she'd call me so I could help her get settled for sleep.


So, my nightly phone conversations with Frankie go something like this. This is known as, “Talking Someone Out Of Their Tree” Otherwise known as “Phone Call of the Day #29”. (Frankie calls me back for the third time in 20 minutes) Me: "City morgue, you stab 'em, we slab 'em!" Frankie: "Were we talking?” Me: "Yeah, and then you had to go.” Frankie: "Oh. What's wrong?” Me: "Nothing, I'm just in bed. I'm so tired I'm slurring.” Frankie: "Oh. I can't sleep.” Me: "Well, that’s better than being bored. Maybe you just need to talk to a sleepy person for a while.” Frankie: "I don't know.” Me: "Well, have you tried going to your happy place?” Frankie: “God. You're funny.” Me: "No, I'm serious. I know it sounds lame, but if you just let yourself get really still and close your eyes and think about something good, you'll calm down. And then you can sleep. And stop being such a colossal pain-in-the-ass.” (Frankie laughs, quietly) Me: "Okay, think about being at the cottage when you were little, and I would lay down next to you on your crappy little bottom bunk, and we’d squish in there and look up at the little glow- in-the dark stars Mom stuck to the bottom of the upper bunk so that people wouldn't get claustrophobic when they had to sleep there." Frankie: “Oh, yeah.” Me: "Remember how, if you squinted your eyes, they almost looked real?” Frankie: “Yeah.” Me: "Funny, only Mom would stick mildly carcinogenic fake stars up when we were in the middle of the Bruce Peninsula and could literally have seen a galaxy of stars if we'd just lain in the other, more comfortable bed and opened the blinds.” (Frankie laughs) Frankie: “Yeah. Mom's kind of awesome, isn't she?” Me: “Yeah.” (Frankie yawns) Me: "You know what one of my favorite memories is from when you were little?” Frankie: “What?” Me: "When I'd come home from being out with the youth group and free you from Mom's pantyhose door shackle and sneak into your room." Frankie: "No way!” Me: "Don't you remember? Mom would tie a pair of her pantyhose from your bedroom door knob to the banister across the hall so you couldn't keep coming out. I wonder if she ever tried wearing them after that.” (Frankie laughs) Me: "You know, when she was late for church and all out of hose? She'd be the only woman at church wearing a pantyhose turtleneck.” Frankie: "God, my drink just came out my nose!” Me: "Did you forget who you're talking to? God, I remember coming home drunk and tripping on that stupid thing. Mom must have been trying to either kill me or catch me being drunk, or maybe just lock you up. Either way, two birds, one pair of pantyhose. I walked straight into them once, and those babies were taut, across the hallway, and the light was off so I didn't see them and I just flipped ass over cocktails right over it. Just flipped, legs in the air, head straight down and tumbled in some kind of demented cartwheel and landed on my ass. And Mom was like, "WHAT was that????” And I was like, " I dropped my purse”. And she was like, " Honestly, I don't know why on EARTH you need to carry that thing around with you everywhere you go, even in the house!”" Frankie: "OMG, that sounds JUST like Mom!" Me: "Like the bigger question wouldn't be, "How is your purse so heavy, it sounds like a human when it falls?" And of course, I'd say, "Why, to hide my peach schnapps, cigarettes and birth control pills. Yeesh!” (On the inside, of course) And then she'd go back to her 1980's miniseries and I'd release the pantyhose from your door knob with a 'poosh!' and sneak into your room.” Frankie: “Yeah, you always knew I was awake." Me: "That's one of my favorite memories. I’d sneak in and you'd still be wide awake, of course, and you'd say, “Stay with me?" And I'd say, “Okay, but I can't sing to you because Mom will hear me." And you'd say, (immediately), “Will you sing to me?" And, of course, the narcissist in me would love that, because we're all mentally ill, in our own special way, and Mom really didn't care, as long as we didn't interrupt Stephanie Powers or Richard Chamberlain, or whoever was emotionally manipulating who for the broadcast viewers pleasure that particular night on TV, so I'd say, “Fine then, come sit in the chair with me, and you'd jump into my arms and snuggle in with your head on my shoulder, soft and warm. And I'd rock and sing 'Heartlight' to you, over and over again, until you were asleep. Remember the carousel in your room?” Frankie: "No, what carousel?” Me: "That mom made.” Frankie: "Oh, yeah.” Me: "God, the macrame in that house was mesmerizing!” (Laughs) Me: "Remember the lion head she made?” Frankie: "He was scary.” Me: "And hilarious!” Frankie: “Yeah.” (Yawns) Me: "Where was I?” Frankie: "Singing to me.” Me: "Oh yeah. And then I'd stay there for another hour or so, just listening to you breathe, and thinking that this must be what it's like to be a mother.” (Frankie sighs. And yawns) Me: "All you ever wanted was to be with us. "I want to be with you!" Frankie: "I did, didn't I?” Me: "Yup. See, even then, you were a pain in the ass.” (Frankie laughs softly) Frankie: "You must have wanted to kill me.” Me: "I thought about it.” Frankie: “Carla, what's wrong with me?” Me: "You've got a brain injury. You're an enigma. But you're gonna be fine. See, you were exactly the same way when you were four years old. You've just reverted, that's all.” Frankie: "I'm pretty sleepy now.” Me: "I told you all you needed was to talk to someone sleepy.” Frankie: "I love you.” Me: "I love you too.” Frankie: “Goodnight.” Me: “Goodnight." (Pain in the ass) (smiles)




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