After an uncomfortable night, you awaken starving, since you only had fruit for dinner last night. You’re on your way to visit Mom and Dad, and you can’t wait to see them. You know Mom will have lunch ready when you arrive, Dad will take charge of his grandkids, and the rest of the afternoon will be Scrabble, just you and Mom. You are determined to win at least one game this visit. You wake the boys, get them washed and dressed, turn on cartoons for them while you shower and dress, and then you pack up and check out of the motel. As you promised the boys last night, you will have breakfast at the greasy spoon diner on the way out of town. The boys order scrambled eggs and pancakes, you order coffee, toast and a poached egg. You always eat your eggs poached.
On the road again, the boys doze for a while. First the younger one wakes up. “Mom, how much longer?” About four hours, you say. “That’s a looooong time, Mom.” The older one wakes up. “Mom, will Grandma and Grandpa remember us? What if they don’t know who we are?” “Yeah,” chimes in the younger one. You assure them that they will know who they are, they love their grandkids and they are excited about your visit. “How come dad didn’t come? Is he mad at you? Doesn’t he like Grandma and Grandpa?” You tell them what he told you. “Daddy can’t come because he has to work.” The conversation stalls and they go back to playing their games.
You stop once for gas, coffee for yourself and juice for the boys, and you press on. You crank up the music, stop every so often for the boys to relieve themselves, and before you know it, you’re in the driveway at Mom and Dad’s. They are watching for you through the front window, and as you are opening the doors, they come outside to greet you. Hugs and kisses all around, everyone is relieved that you all made it in one piece. Three pieces, actually, but who’s counting?
Lunch is a splendid array of salads, sliced roast beef and turkey, fruits and veggies. There’s apple juice for the boys and fresh, strong, hot coffee for you. Everyone talks at once. The boys tell Grandma and Grandpa all about the trip, the pool, the movie and the restaurant. When everyone is finished, Grandpa takes the boys outside to show them the neighborhood, and as you clean up the kitchen, Mom goes to retrieve the Scrabble game from the cabinet. Ever since you had kids of your own, grandbabies for her, your relationship has improved greatly and you are both looking forward to a challenging game or two or three.
You play a few games, tell her all about the kids and get the latest news on all your brothers and their families. It’s a pleasant afternoon. You lose each game. Her vocabulary is extensive, and sometimes, you think she must read the Scrabble dictionary while on the potty. She denies this, but you’ve found it in the bathroom a time or two before. Dad comes back from the park with the boys, who fall asleep watching afternoon cartoons, while you and Mom get dinner started. She asks about your husband. You don’t want to upset her, so you tell her that he couldn’t get away this early in the summer. For as little as you have ever really talked, she seems to know you awfully well. She’s not buying it. You tell her the truth. She gives you a big hug and nothing else is said.
Grandpa introduces the boys to the neighborhood kids and keeps them entertained all week. Grandma cooks and bakes all their favorite foods, reads to them and plays board games with them when it rains. You and Mom play Scrabble every day. You win your share of games, she wins hers. As the week comes to an end, you fit in as many games as you can. She has amazingly good luck picking her letters in your final game before leaving in the morning to go home.
The board is pretty full, but you have a seven-letter word, “raining,” that you can place to end on the center triple word score at the bottom of the board. You’re feeling quite superior until you look over at your mother. She has the strangest look on her face and she’s red as a beet. Shuffling her letters on the rack, she hesitates just enough to make you nervous. First, she takes a “t” and places it on the triple word score in front of “raining” to make “training.” Yikes! But she’s not finished. Next, she places an “n” above the “t”, and a “u” above that. You know she’s going to clobber you this time, but when she places the “c” in the double letter score, you are so stunned, you forget to care who wins. Your mother, your children’s grandmother, has just spelled “cunt” to make a double triple word score.
Both of you are now an odd shade of crimson. You look up at her in disbelief and she’s got this little smirk playing at the corners of her mouth. She figures up her score and announces that she has won by 200+ points. Everything you thought you knew about your mother has just been irrevocably altered by one little four-letter word. You are so embarrassed you blurt out, “MOM! How do you even KNOW that word?” She gives you that owly look over the top of her glasses and exclaims, “Don’t be ridiculous! You’d be surprised at what I know.” Obviously.
27 years later, you still blush when you remember that game. You miss your mom.