Photo: round barn at Mom & Dad's
I remember the night we learned my lovely aunt had an aggressive malignant brain tumor. My mom was rushing to be with my aunt and uncle but she wasn't very put together and needed me to drive her. The last place I wanted to go was to my aunt, I'm sad to say. I don't do well with such things.
But I went. And all the way there, I kept thinking... I'm going into the eye of the storm.... I'm going into the eye of the storm....
But it's a good thing I did; it was the last time I ever visited my aunt where she was coherent enough to recognize me.
So, too, did I have that same primal fear of "no no no... I can't do this.... no no no...." as we sped to the hospital in Wisconsin. I was mad with panic in the car and I knew my manic energy was doing no good for anyone. So I meditated. I opened myself up and I offered all I had. I visualized healing white light and bathed my father in it. I blessed the surgeons, their hands to do their healing work and their temples to use their healing knowledge. I offered soothing affirmations that they do what they do best. I sat with my father and spoke to him during the entire drive, telling him there was a circle of love speeding toward him from all directions and we were coming and he was not alone and he is strong and he is loved. I called him Daddy.
I believe my father waited for me to arrive at the hospital before he died. I do.
The first glimpse I got of him was unexpected. The docs were wheeling him from surgery to recovery. I didn't know they were taking him past our waiting room doorway and I didn't know we couldn't enter the hall while they were doing it. So suddenly, people were saying "here he comes" and "let Laura through" and pulling me toward the doorway. It all happened so fast and I didn't know what was coming.
When they took him past, the docs gave that sort of grimaced forlorn look that I know now to be their angst at the news they would soon deliver. And when I saw my dad - all tubes and sheets and swelling and plastic with too many docs for good news - I clutched the doorway because I thought I might fall to the floor. Surely that was not my father - so strong in body and mind - on that damn stretcher. Surely I'm not watching from a doorway, unable to touch him. Surely that surgeon isn't about to tell us that my father is going to die and we can be with him.
During the first weeks of return to soccer and lessons and schedules and chauffeuring, I was in a daze, the years of practice allowing me to function on auto pilot. In some ways, this is a preferrable way to travel, no doubt. I didn't have the usual impatience behind slow drivers, or the ritual "let's go, let's move!" pep talks on our way out the door, or a care for how pale and disheveled and undone I looked. There was no primping, only the most minimal preparation to go anywhere. And I had a sort of outsider's view of life happening around me but not involving me. And people didn't expect anything of me. But soon enough the schedule became the distraction, the buffer from the pain, the divide between 'life goes on' and attending to the needs of our collective grief. And I relish it.
But today we had to attend to "bizness." A stout Irish former NYC cop-turned-claims adjuster had to interview my mother in order to settle the life insurance claim, and boy was that unnerving. Curiously, it was, "And this, this here, is your husband's signature?" that sent the tears streaming down our cheeks at the inhumanity of it all. And as usual, the men in suits win the game because if we don't "play nice", we don't "get paid." Wishing it could've gone a little differently....
"State your name."
"Screw you. Coffee?"
But my mother patiently and truthfully answered the insulting questions and the photos of the accident site were brought out and the net worth was checked and double-checked and we could see through the man who told stories like he was our friend but wasn't. And so it is on another day in this new life, where we must create a new reality, where we'll never be the same, and where we still don't know how to be or how we will be or when we'll know we got there.