THE BEST LAID PLANS by Tricia Tierney
The rusty porch glider squeaked as I swayed back-and-forth, running through my to-do list. Looking out at the overgrown lawn between sips of tea, I pictured the laundry piled high in the basement and the kitchen floor covered in footprints. I filled my lungs with summer morning air, almost tasting the brine of the Long Island Sound. Using my T-shirt, I wiped the moisture from my forehead and decided: to hell with the chores ¬– a Saturday in July – we should go to the beach. Molly can play in the little playground. A self-sufficient five year-old, she makes friends easily – just like her dad used to before he started sleeping all day.
Sometimes it felt as if Ian had been asleep through the past four years of our marriage and lost twice as many jobs along the way. A bad back, sinus headaches, and upset stomach were just a few of the ailments he complained about while swallowing pills and swigging the neon medicine he drank by the bottle. Lately he didn’t even bother giving me excuses for checking out, and besides, I’d already heard them all. But today might be different, I thought, imagining the three of us sprawling across a blanket on the sand as I spread out a picnic. Anyway, it was still early – even Molly had yet to get up. I’d make my rounds in the garden before trying to wake Ian.
I walked to the back of the house to the small vegetable patch where radishes crowded together, their red shoulders and green crowns jostling for position in the earth. I could never bring myself to thin out plants until it became obvious they were smothering each other. How could I decide which should go? I knew in the end, the radishes suffered from my indecision, growing twisted and skinny from lack of space. But the same technique worked out well with lettuce that thrived clustered together, the ruby reds and arugula provided shade for the more delicate greens of the mesclun mix. I plucked a few leaves for our sandwiches.
“Mommy!” Molly called to me from the bathroom window.
“Good morning, honey,” I answered, happy to see her sweet face and disappointed my quiet time was at end.
“Come join me,” I said.
Her brown curls disappeared and, moments later, reappeared at the back door. The screen door slammed behind her. I hoped the sound would wake Ian. Climbing up three wide steps to the vegetable garden, she stepped through the gate and hugged me. Her hair smelled of last night’s shampoo, her favorite pink, Powder-Puff Girls nightgown clung to her back, damp from sleep. I called her my little radiator, always so warm. We crouched together, searching the twisting plants for hidden peapods we popped whole into our mouths, agreeing they were better raw. Then, my arm around her, we went into the house for breakfast.
Would Ian sleep all day, another Saturday spent unconscious instead of with us? He’d stayed up so late, watching television until the early morning hours, claiming he couldn’t sleep – no wonder he couldn’t get out of bed the next day. I might cajole, nag, and finally bully him to get up – or maybe I wouldn’t. Molly no longer expected anything different from him. Perhaps I should take my cue from her? She and I spent our days together running errands, dropping by to see friends, and enjoying whatever adventures came our way, while he remained at home, comatose in bed.
There were mornings, although rare, when he’d get up and make us breakfast. His six-foot-four frame filled the kitchen as he banged pans around, preparing an English breakfast complete with the canned tomatoes that Molly and I declined. At times like this, his energy was irresistible as he swung Molly over his shoulder, calling her sausage and making her laugh. He’d be helpful, jovially greeting neighbors as he clipped the hedges, or we might drive around searching for tag sales to buy quirky things we didn’t need. Desperate for that man, I continued to hope today would be a good one.
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ABOUT TRICIA TIERNEY
Tricia Tierney was raised in New York but spent many years in other places including sculpting and painting in Kyoto, Japan. In the early 1990s, she worked in the war zones of Bosnia and Croatia with United Nations Peacekeeping Force and UNICEF. Tricia began her most inspiring and fulfilling job in Southern Italy where she gave birth to her daughter, Molly. Tricia now lives contentedly with her family in the suburbs of Connecticut, gardening, kayaking and getting up at the crack of dawn to write before going to work at her full-time job in a bookstore.
‘The Best Laid Plans’ is excerpted from her completed but unpublished memoir, THE THINGS WE CANNOT CHANGE. Writing her story was a cathartic process that helped propel her beyond the grief and shadows of her husband’s addiction and suicide.
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