29. September 2015 · Comments Off on Muriel · Categories: NMM.Trajectory.

Muriel met my sister in Paris when she accompanied her uncle on a world tour.  They shared a table at an overcrowded bistro.  Muriel sends me a letter because my chatty sister told her that I am going to college in Ohio.

Muriel appreciates that I left home half a world away to pursue a college degree.   She herself had once left home for college back when precious few women gave a hoot about getting a college degree unless it was a Mrs.  She is a proud member of a club called University Women.

Muriel and I write back and forth.   She and her husband Bill live in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.  Last year, they lost their only child.   Frankie was just four.  He drowned while they were visiting Bill’s relatives in York, Pennsylvania.

Would I like to come and visit during Thanksgiving break?   She assures me that having a young person around is just the tonic they need.

Muriel sends me a roundtrip plane ticket.

Just before Thanksgiving break, a huge snowstorm blankets the whole Northeast and grounds all the planes.   Never mind, writes Muriel, trains are still running.  She encloses train tickets.

Muriel says you look about sixteen.   That old conductor carrying your bag, I never thought I’d see that.

I didn’t ask him.

If you had, he would have informed you it’s not his job.  Your sister was right on the button when she said people came out of the woodwork to help you, you’ve got that look.

I’m not as lost as I look.   Anyway, they say that God takes care of children and fools.

Muriel has a hearty laugh.

Your sister talked a lot about you.

Uh oh.

I heard nothing bad enough to scare me off.

Muriel drives a big old car with chains around its wheels.    We grind and skid on snow and ice up and down too many white slopes, but we keep moving.   I see snow plows but almost no other cars on the road.

Bill can keep his Chevy with its flashy tail fins, she says.   I will hang on to this old tank.   First car I ever bought.   It was a used car when I bought it, but it’s seen me through many winters.   We’ve got plenty of snow in Canada too but not hills like these.

The joke around here is that you can tell a native by his legs – one is shorter than the other.

Muriel and I stamp the snow off our boots on the porch mat and walk in the door laughing.

Bill pushes himself up from his winged armchair.   He looks confused.  I don’t think that there has been any laughter in this house for a long time.

Muriel finds something open we can go to each day – a floral show, a chamber music recital.  Bill stays home.

He shut down after Frankie died.   He made Muriel put away all Frankie’s things.   He doesn’t want her to display even a single photo of him.

Bill needs time, she says.  He was watching Frankie play with other small children by the river.   Then someone yelled out to him – Bill!  Touchdown!    He ran in for just a minute.   When he came out, the children were gone.

Frankie fell in the water and the other children panicked and scattered.

By the time Muriel came back from the grocery store they had dredged Frankie out, but it was too late.

Muriel married for the first time when she was thirty-seven.  She knows that Frankie was her miracle child and there would be no other.

Bill has two grown daughters from a previous marriage that ended in divorce.   And yet, he has been taking Frankie’s death harder than Muriel.  She understands why.

She says that when Bill was coming out of surgery, her colleagues told her that he kept muttering Frankie, Frankie, daddy will take care of you.

Just before it is time for me to go home, Bill asks Muriel to show me Frankie’s photo.  He means their favorite studio portrait that usually sat on the console in the living room.

I see a darling red haired boy with freckles and a happy grin.   It’s enough to break your heart.

They leave the photo on the console.   It is a hopeful sign.





Chevy with its fancy tail fins

Chevy with its fancy tail fins

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