The Van Man looked down at the ringing cell phone. MOM appeared on the screen. Van Man let it ring. He knew what the call was about and did not want to answer. He was on the two-ten, shuttling fellow Teamsters from Riverside and it was none of their business. Nor did they want to hear it.
When he was a child, Van Man spent many hours with his Grandmother. At her apartment on the down and out side of town, while his mother worked. In her Buick, listening to Buddy Holly and Patsy Cline, as she picked him up from his mother's weekend bar tending gig. At her very own house, one paid monthly with income from the night shift at the steel mill, hiding out from an abusive stepfather...an alcoholic and world heavyweight champion of apologizers. And through it all, he loved her without any understanding of the world around him. He did not need to understand. It was just him and Mommer.
After work, Van Man listened to the voicemail. And he could tell from the way his Mother told him to call her back. He could hear it in her voice. Back at the motel, Van Man returned the call and, as expected, her news was revealed. Mommer was gone. The sorrow in the Van Mother's voice was palpable and fierce. A few words were exchanged. Then, Van Man knew it was coming, he could sense it. Something he hated to hear. The cry of Van Mother was legendary in the Deep South. It signaled an end of the world. Every time.
When he was a teen, Van Man spent less time with Mommer. Something had begun to be out of touch between them. Hormones raged in one, health faded in the other. Neither spoke of the slow division, it just happened before they knew it. And it was new for both. Is that not how it goes between a grandmother and her grandson? And yet, the love continued, even when they did not understand one another.
His mother's scream blared from the phone, making Van Man sad. The scream continued. And continued longer than humanly possible without any breath. The scream got louder and more intense and no breaths were given. Neither were any fucks. Van Man grabbed his mouth to brace it from laughing. It all seemed a bit much. Van Mother's scream evolved into a horrendous wail, ancient and insane. Van Man held onto his face, stifling a shameful laugh.
When he was an adult, Van Man spent very little time with Mommer. He lived across the country and lived a much different life than she had hoped. He knew she was resigned to accept it. And they both knew she was not the same Mommer as she once was. That happens to grandmothers. But with every old photograph she sent him, he discovered more and more that the two did have an understanding. They knew how important it was to remember one's past. After all, one could not make a better tomorrow without looking at yesterday. It was a knowledge she never knew how to teach and he never cared to learn. Until now. That happens with age. And the love reached its culmination of many years. A love that accepted and transcended the decades.
The wail reached its apex: the highest of high pitches, an alarm of loss, regret and confusion with a crescendo into a warbly sob. Van Man let go of his face. It was no longer funny. With zero knowledge of what to say, he told his Mother that it would be okay. After a few words, Van Mother and her son ended the call. Fuuuck, thought Van Man. He dialed The Old Man, his Father.
"Yeah?", grumbled the Old Man, upset at being woken up.
"Well, just wanted to tell you that my grandmother died"
"Yeah, just talked to my mom, she's--she's pretty devastated"
"She just cried like crazy, it got intense...", offered Van Man, hoping his Father would offer a nicety.
"Boy, that's all an act! Your mamma is crazy!"
"Well, it was a lot, but she--"
"She cries for everything, boy. She--why, you'd think it was the end of the world"
Van Man and the Old Man ended their call. He felt a little confused and a little melancholy. And a little ashamed. Was this normal? Do other people find humor when a mother cries? The Van Man had no answer, but felt twelve years old and undeserving of love. And a little more alone.