Obeying His Command

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My Mother lived with me in the 1940’s  in the  village of  Pacheco, California. She often went  to San Jose  by bus  to visit another daughter, and on these  occasions  we planned  that I would pick her up at the  Greyhound bus station in Concord, two miles away, when she returned.Her  only  delay  was a two-hour wait in Oakland to change buses.

She  made the trip often, always returning well and  happy.  One Saturday that Mother was due in Concord at  four  o’clock  in the  afternoon was a busy day for me, a school-teacher, and about one o’clock I was ironing when I  heard my father’s voice: “Mabel, go get your mother.” How could that be? I thought. I knew my father’s  voice instantly- although he had  been dead for more  than five years. “Stop dreaming and get on  with your chores,” I told myself.

My father’s voice came again, this time with great emphasis and unmistakable urgency: ” Mabel, go get your mother!”

Something was wrong somewhere- no doubt of that. I could not disobey his insistent command. I disconnected  the iron and ran into the living room where a young visiting nephew was painting. “Lane,” I said, “we have to go to  Oakland and we have to  hurry.”

It was  only early afternoon. I knew right away  I must go  to Oakland. Mother’s bus wouldn’t  reach Concord until four.

When we arrived  at the bus  station,  the San Jose to Oakland  bus was pulling in, Mother,  the first passenger off,  wore a happy smile and looked around the station as if  expecting someone to meet her. When she  saw me through  the glass door, her smile faded.  As we embraced she said in disappointed tone, “A nice  man was going to meet me- but he said if anyone else met me, he  wouldn’t show up.”

I had a  hunch that my father’s urgent command had  forestalled real tragedy. Ushering Mother into the waiting  room, I said, “Tell me all about this.”

“Well, I met him a few days ago. He said we would be  married right away, then leave at once for Florida where he  had a beautiful estate.”

I interrupted: “Mother, did you tell him you owned  some property?”

“Yes,” she admitted in some confusion.  “We will wait  a few minutes longer, then go home.” I said.

Her instant lover did appear so we  picked up lane at  the newsstand and went home. We never  referred to this  incident again, but I often saw Mother looking out a window as  if she expected someone to come.

Three months later, the newspapers carried an account of a man  who enticed elderly women into marriage with  promises of a beautiful estate in Florida. He had been jailed for murder, for poisoning those would -be wives on the way south. The man’s picture appeared in the paper and I showed it to Mother, asking, “Mother, is this the man?”

shocked into tears, she answered, “Yes.”

Irene Mabel  mcDonald

Paradise, California

October 1984

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