The sound of the wind through the storm windows reminded him of his inability to fix anything. After five years of graduate school and twenty years administrating in three school systems, he couldn’t stop a window from chattering in a stiff breeze. Karin didn’t stop playing because she never heard the wind rise; it was as much a part of her environment as the rumbling of the trains that ran no more than a half mile west of the house. He heard the shrieking because he was trying to read an article on evaluation of instruction in a journal he read to stay on top of things. Maybe the wind made it a good night to be home, he thought.
“Karin, you’re home because you knew she was going to be gone, aren’t you?” he said. “That’s really why, isn’t it?”
She put both hands down beside her on the bench and stared up at the family tree hung above the piano. “I know it’s good--what she does. I know it is. Shoot, people say it all the time: ’Boy, Karin, your mom sure had me crying.’” She laid her hands on her thighs. “I know it’s so helpful, but I don’t always like it.”
“She’s your mom,” he said.
She took the hymnal from the rack with both hands and closed it reverently. “Some facts go right through me, in one ear and out the other.”
“You don’t like her talking about it, do you?” he said.
Karin turned towards him on the bench, the hymnal still there in her hand. “I’m glad I can talk to you, Dad. I just can’t say anything to her anymore without it coming out like fire or something.”
“What is it?--”
“It’s the way she broadcasts all that stuff--all that stuff that belongs to us. It’s like she’s on a mission or something. She thinks everybody’s got to hear how she’s strong enough to handle the grief. It makes me sick.” She pulled at the buttons in the vinyl top of the piano bench. “It’s just that I got a right to my dark side, don’t I?” She twisted herself toward him, but didn’t face him. “Besides, it’s over. It’s all two years ago already now.” She tapped an even cadence with her fingers. “So where is she tonight?--some church somewhere?--some PTA? ’Feature speaker, Angeline Fields will talk about dealing with grief--please bring plenty of Kleenex. She’ll be discussing every detail of her dear, sweet daughter’s death.’”
How could he tell her that it made him nervous to think about her up front of some church group telling it all--all the last things: how they lined up patients for Lisa’s organs--retinas, bone marrow, kidneys, everything shopped out like rummage? How could he say he knew exactly what she was feeling? There were things he didn’t need to hear replayed again and again and again.
“I’m sorry,” Karin said.
He remembered how he’d left some enrollment data at the office, something he planned on looking at over the weekend. He thought about leaving to pick it up, about the track meet going on at the athletic field and how he used to attend those things, every single function at school.
“Next thing you know she’ll be writing a book,” Karin said, “and there we’ll be--both of us--in her television show.”
“Look at the dozens she’s helped,” he told her.
“I’m sick of hearing that,” she said. “It’s a trade-off--Lisa’s life and death and our grief and our own feelings--all of it swapped for ’the dozens she’s helped.’ I keep losing on that one.”
Out the front window he watched the branches of the big maples sway like long stalks when the wind caught in the thick buds just ready to leaf.
“Lisa’s death is the best thing that’s ever happened to Mom, isn’t it?--it’s made her a celebrity.”
He shrugged his shoulders, waiting for his daughter’s tears.
“Tell me I’m wrong, Dad,” she said, standing. “I really want you to tell me I’m wrong.”
She didn’t cry.
To be continued.