“Changes fill my time"
Up until a year ago, Maddy hated Led Zeppelin.
Two years ago, she hated the loud guitars and the singer’s nasal wailing. Then Mom got hurt and things got weird. Everything went downhill. Mom had to go away. They had to make her go to rehab, just like in that song where the singer says, no, no, no.
But when Mom came back, things didn’t get better, even though she was off the oxy.
Mom wouldn’t look at Dad, and he got sadder and sadder. Mom went to work every day and so did Dad. No one sat down to supper at the table any more. Mom made a lot of roasts in the crock pot so that anyone who was hungry could heat some up in the microwave. Dad brought home pizza and Indian take out. Mom didn’t smile anymore when Dad brought her an order of samosas. She wouldn’t even eat them. They went stale in the fridge unless Maddy took them for lunch.
The house was clean, because Dad hired Maid Brigade to come on Thursday afternoons. That meant that on Wednesday evenings Maddy had to go around the house and pick up all her things that were scattered here and there and put them away in her room. Maid Brigade wouldn’t move anything so if you wanted it dusted or mopped or wiped off or vacuumed it had to be clean and bare. The house got emptier and emptier.
Mom moved into the spare room and nothing of hers was ever anywhere in the house, no matter what day of the week it was.
Mom never talked to Dad, but somehow with Maddy she acted like everything was normal. Everything was normal, if normal meant quiet and clean and Dad with red eyes and his black curly hair so messy the way it got when he ran his hands through it again and again.
Then Mom said, “We’re moving to Shepherdstown.”
Maddy immediately pictured herds of sheep.
The town was really not that bad, but it was so small. Even though there was a college there, the high school was a fraction of the size. They had a choir, but no a capellas, no glee, no school of rock. And everything sucked, because Mom and Maddy moved and Dad didn’t. Dad stayed in Columbia.
“I don’t want to sell the house, but I can’t afford it by myself,” Dad told her.
“Why not?” Maddy asked.
“When we bought it, we were both paying for it. Now only one of us is paying, and some of my money still goes to take care of you. I’d rather make sure you’re okay than keep the house. You know?”
Dad always looks so sad these days. So, when he played Zeppelin in the car on the way to drop her off in Shepherdstown, Maddy didn’t complain. She listened closer, trying to learn the words.
“Changes fill my time, baby, no surprise to me.
In the mist I think of you and how it used to be.
Oh darling, oh darling.”
Maddy loved to sing along with Dad. He used to sing and play bass in a rock band back in the day. Dad looked proud, when he heard her sing, when they sang together in the car, and Maddy tried hard to block out the cracks in the rich notes of her father’s voice, trying not to hear anything but the love, trying not to hear the longing and the tears.
They pulled up at the McDonald’s, out on the edge of town. The judge said the drop off should be neutral territory.
Dad turned off the car. The silence was heavy, but Maddy didn’t want to move. She always hated McDonald’s and the greasy smell of the air.
“You and Mom still getting along okay?” Dad asked.
“Yeah,” Maddy sighed. “Pretty much. I mean, I guess we fight sometimes. But, not bad, you know, just regular.”
“I’m sorry about all this. I wish there was something I could do to keep us all together.”
Maddy hated to hear Dad sound so tired. He wouldn’t give up, but after the judge had decided Maddy should live with Mom, Dad ran out of things to try.
Maddy had been angry at Mom for the move, for taking her away from her friends and her school where she fit in a little, and especially for taking her away from their house and from Dad. But after a while, she began to see why the move helped a little. When some teacher started talking about the tragedy of addiction, no one especially glanced over at Maddy and no one uncomfortably looked away from her.
“I wish I could live with you and Mom both.”
“I do too,” Dad said. “But that’s not an option any more.”
Dad’s business in Columbia was doing okay, but he had already explained to Maddy how he couldn’t take the risk of moving shop in the middle of all that had happened.
“I’m glad, that you are Mom are getting along. That’s one good thing.”
“Yeah,” Maddy said weakly.
“No one here is the villain,” Dad said softly. “Just, things change, and sometimes not in ways you’d ever choose.”
Maddy nodded. Mom’s car pulled up in a spot across the lot. Mom got out and walked into the McDonald’s without looking over at Dad. She always showed up five minutes early to the drop off.
“I love you, Dad,” Maddy said.
He leaned over from the driver’s seat and kissed her on the forehead, brushing back her glossy black curls.
“Love you, too, so much,” Dad said.
Dad sat in the car and Maddy went inside. Dad didn’t drive away until Maddy and Mom turned left out of the parking lot.
“How’s that essay for History coming along?” Mom asked.
“Fine,” Maddy said, but in her head, she could hear Led Zeppelin, and she and Dad were singing, never gonna leave you, never gonna leave you...