Agnes the Great
That’s what they called her once, the neighbourhood moms, the church people, a long time ago. Agnes the Great. You can count on Agnes, they’d say, if you needed something done, or organized. Or advice. She was especially good at advice. There wasn’t too much she couldn’t do, except maybe one thing. But it was too late to change that now.
Agnes tucks grey strands of hair behind her ears and adjusts her glasses. A book lays in her lap, unopened. Her eyes wander to the clock on the living room wall, the living room Jason helped her paint just before he left for college. That was so many years ago. Seemed like a hundred. She picks up the gold framed picture on the table beside her and traces her eyes over the faces of Jason, and Emily, his new blonde bride.
They were expecting a third baby. She hadn’t seen the first two yet. The west coast was so far away, and Jason was busy. He had to be busy. He had to provide for his new family. Agnes was a grandmother now, and Jason would remind her on every phone call just how great she was, and how the kids would think so too once they got to know her. “They’re going to love you so much mom” his voice loud in the phone, speaking more than listening. “Almost as much as I do.”
“That’s nice dear, but when are you . . .”
Then he’d hand the phone to Emily and let her continue the conversation. With the kids being so young, Emily explained, it was hard to make the trip across country. They never mentioned Agnes visiting them and she never pursued it.
She opens the book on her lap but instead of seeing the words, her mind hears other words, “Hey mom, you’re the best,” as he banged his way through the kitchen door, baseball bat and glove in hand. His face was always dirty, just in different places. She gave up trying to get him to clean it. To wipe the streaks. To leave his muddy shoes outside. He was, after all, a boy, and boys had dirty faces and muddy shoes. That’s just the way it was.
“Hey mom,” he’d grin, his cheeks pushing into sky blue eyes, blonde eyebrows raised in a question. And she’d always answer yes, whatever his request was, because to him, she was the best, the greatest, a title she never wanted to lose.
She sits back and wonders. Maybe being so great wasn’t the best thing for everybody. Maybe she gave Jason too much, but she felt she had to. He didn’t have a father to take his other hand. She had so much to make up for.
“Hey mom,” he called out to her on his last day at home, before he loaded up the mini van with all his possessions when college took him miles away from her. “I’ll be home for the holidays, and summers and stuff. Don’t be crying on me now.” He’d given her a big hug. “Besides,” he called out the window as he pulled out of the driveway, “Now you can relax a bit and take care of yourself for a change. Be great to yourself, okay!!” With that, she watched him roll down the driveway and out into the street, and away from her. He only came home that first Christmas. After that, he met Emily. They were married in a small ceremony between semesters. He emailed the pictures to her.
The book slides off her lap and hits the floor with a bang that makes her jump. It was time to get up anyway, and start supper. Living in an empty nest wasn’t so great, but she’d been here for several years.
Maybe it was time to reclaim that title again. Surely there was someone or groups of someones that needed her out there. She wouldn’t waste time waiting for nuggets from Jason anymore. After all, he was living his life. And she had to move on with hers.
Besides, being great takes work, and the sooner she got started, the better. She pushes the book across the floor with her foot and dials the church office.
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