She woke up around two in the afternoon. She would wrap herself in a robe, pour a diet coke over ice, and sit in her pink reclining chair patched with duct tape along the arms. Back then there weren’t remote controls so she yelled for me to turn on the TV and switch the channel to number seven. General Hospital was on. She’d watch and sip her coke. Sometimes she might chastise a character and clap when a character did something she approved of. I really didn’t care. I was biding my time on the couch. I was waiting to control the TV. I had my after school lineup – Scooby Doo, Flintstones, Jetsons, He-Man, then She-Ra. The Smurfs and Care Bears was on Saturdays. When General Hospital was over Mom would lay in bed again and then start the long process of taking a bath. She did nothing quickly or efficiently and she prided herself that she was always bath and powdered by five in the evening when my Dad came home.
“What did you do today?” he would always ask.
“Oh, I did so much. I cleaned, organized, tended to the roses, looked after Reilly.”
“That’s so great,” he would say and then she would start dinner. She sighed a lot during cooking. Frequently she would yell at me.
“Get your stupid butt off that couch and do your homework.”
My favorite was, “Get your stupid butt up and do something. You’re going to waste your life away watching TV.”
All this would piss me off. My mother spent most of her days sleeping. Sometimes I would go into her bedroom and looked at her red dresser with a massive collection of pill bottles. I knew some were tranquilizers. Long blue pills and square pink pills. There might have been more. There was also blood pressure medicine and other things. Insulin. And a jar of strips to test her blood sugar. It was the tranquilizers I was fascinated by. When she was in the kitchen I would pour them into my hand. I wondered how many it would take until I never woke up. One day I swallowed five. I went outside and fell into the grass. When I woke it was the night I could see the moon and Jupiter.
“I guess it takes more than five pills to die.” That’s what I learned. If you want to die you have to take the whole bottle. I was afraid to because if I didn’t die my mother and scream and hit me for wasting her pills and that might be worse than death.