The Good Luck Of Right Now
Dear Mr. Richard Gere,
In Mom's underwear draweras I was separating her "personal" clothes from the "lightly used" articles I could donate to the local thrift shopI found a letter you wrote.
As you will recall, your letter was about the 2008 Olympics held in Beijing, Chinayou were advocating for a boycott because of the crimes and atrocities the Chinese government committed against Tibet.
I'm not one of those "crazy types."
I immediately realized that this was a form letter you sent out to millions of people through your charitable organization, but Mom was a good enough pretender to believe you had personally signed the letter specifically to her, which is most likely why she saved itbelieving you had touched the paper with your hands, licked the envelope with your tongueimagining the paper represented a tangible link to you . . . that maybe a few of your cells, microscopic bits of your DNA, were with her whenever she held the letter and envelope.
Mom was your biggest fan, and a seasoned pretender.
"There's his name written in cursive," I remember her saying to me, poking the paper with her index finger. "From Richard Gere! Movie star RICHARD GERE!"
Mom liked to celebrate the little things. Like finding a forgotten wrinkled dollar in a lint-ridden coat pocket, or when there was no line at the post office and the stamp sellers were up for smiles and polite conversation, or when it was cool enough to sit out back during a hot summerwhen the temperature dips dramatically at night even though the weatherman has predicted unbearable humidity and heat, and therefore the evening becomes an unexpected gift.
"Come enjoy the strange cool air, Bartholomew," Mom would say, and we'd sit outside and smile at each other like we'd won the lottery.
Mom could make small things seem miraculous. That was her talent.
Richard Gere, perhaps you have already labeled Mom as weird, pixilatedmost people did.
Before she got sick, she never gained or lost weight; she never purchased new clothes for herself, and therefore was perpetually stuck in mideighties fashions; she smelled like the mothballs she kept in her drawers and closet, and her hair was usually flattened on the side she rested against her pillow (almost always the left).
Mom didn't know that computer printers could easily reproduce signatures, because she was too old to have ever employed modern technology. Toward the end, she used to say that "computers were condemned by the Book of Revelations," but Father McNamee told me it's not true, although we could let Mom believe it was.
I'd never seen her so happy as she was the day your letter arrived.
As you might have gathered, Mom wasn't all there during the last few years of her life, and by the very end extreme dementia had set in, which made it hard to distinguish the pretending of her final days from the real world.
Everything blurred over time.
During her good momentsif you can believe itshe actually used to think (pretend?) that I was you, that Richard Gere was living with her, taking care of her, which must have been a welcome alternative to the truth: that her ordinary unaccomplished son was her primary caregiver.
"What will we be having for dinner tonight, Richard?" she'd say. "Such a pleasure to finally spend so much time with you, Richard."
It was like when I was a boy and we'd pretend we were eating dinner with a famous guestRonald Reagan, Saint Francis, Mickey Mouse, Ed McMahon, Mary Lou Rettonoccupying one of the two seats in the kitchen that were always empty, except when Father McNamee visited.
Excerpted from The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick. Copyright © 2014 by Matthew Quick. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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