Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Today, there is no title.

Brooke's dad is the oldest of Grandpa's five children. He was born in 1945. Uncle S was born in 1952. Uncle P, Aunt K, and Aunt L were born in 1957, 1958, and 1959, respectively. Except for Brooke's dad, all of the kids live within a few miles of the home they grew up in, about 30 minutes away from us. Brooke's dad lives way the fuck away.

Grandpa died on Saturday morning. Brooke's dad wasn't going to come out. He has an old but serious workplace back injury (he was a high school science teacher) that his doctors were unable to repair, and traveling gives him trouble. All that sitting and being cramped is hard enough for someone who is 6'2", but to add a serious back problem is asking for trouble, and the trip out to see Grandpa two weeks ago took a major toll on him. Aunt L said that yes, he was going to come out, and he was going to bring that wife and little kid of his. Brooke's dad said he doesn't listen to his baby sister, but the next thing we knew, he was making arrangements to fly himself here.

Well, not fly himself. You know what I mean.

The visitations were to be Monday from 2 to 9pm and Tuesday from 1 to 9pm with VFW prayers at 7 and the rosary at 7:30. Mass is at 10am today. Knowing I had a shitload and a half to do at work, I asked Brooke if it would be okay for me to stay behind on Monday, go to part of the visitation on Tuesday, and take all day Wednesday off work for funeral festivities. She agreed that that would work for her.

As I tend to do when no one is waiting for me at home, I stayed a little late at work and got a lot done. I hopped on the 6:48pm bus home and walked in the door at 7:13, according to the clock on the stove. There was a message on the machine from Brooke, which I had kind of expected, but it was muffled and all I heard was something about her mom and that I should call but the phone would be on vibrate and she might not hear. I called. No answer. I called her mom. She had just gotten home from the visitation and was in the process of getting ready for bed because she was to work at the polls yesterday. She said something about food at Aunt L's around 9 and that Brooke would probably be there.

I tried the cell again, and she picked up right away. She told me to hold on and got off the other line with Frog. She sounded frazzled. Uncle P, the uncle who is in end-stage self-induced cirrhosis and who we all believed would be dead by the end of last summer, had gotten drunk, had a seizure, and was being taken away by ambulance.

Brooke: "I. Can't. Do. This. By. Myself."
Me: "Uh…"

Brooke was also trying to tell her father when she should come out and when he should leave, and she totally forgot about our trip to Chicago on Friday and the fact that we have to be in Chicago at 7pm CST. I tell her to call him back, to let him know what's going on and that we can't get him to the airport Friday evening, but that all four of his siblings live within 10 miles of the airport, and one of them can fucking entertain him. I get off the phone with her and call my father. Since Brooke has the cell and we don't have a long-distance plan at home, I ask him to call me right back. The phone rings. I say, "Hi." Pause. "Um, Brooke?" No, no, no. It was Brooke's dad. I explain that my dad was going to call me right back, and he keeps me on the phone for ten minutes to give me his itinerary and take me on a guilt trip. "Hey, you can just drop me off at the airport Friday morning. There's a lot to do at the airport. I'll just go shopping."

I get off the phone with him and call my dad. Dad calls me back. I answer, "Hello?" and it's my dad.

I give him the whole story: Grandpa, Brooke's dad, Uncle P, seizure, mass at 10, etc. "Oh, geez," Dad says. Dad writes it all down and asks if it's okay with him that he stays with us Tuesday night so he can come to the funeral. It's Lent, so I don't shout Hallelujah, but I want to. Yes. Yes, you can come and stay with us. Please come and stay with us. Thank you for coming to the funeral and staying with us and entertaining Brooke's dad while you're here. God bless you, Daddy. He plans to arrive in time for the rosary on Tuesday. I hang up and get a beer, broom, vacuum, and a set of clean sheets. The rec room needed me.

Tuesday morning, I head to work and amuse the aforementioned Frog by telephone with my very own bitter rendition of the story.

Then Brooke calls. Uncle P needs brain surgery, and her dad missed his flight. No clue on Uncle P's medical situation, but her dad plans to catch the next one and arrive later this evening.

We make it to the funeral home, and over tea and brownies, Brooke turns to me and says, "Nothing else can go wrong." It made me wince. I learned once never to tempt fate like that.

Later on, after I encounter such extended family members as Greasy Cousin Richard and his wife Fuzzy, and we spend two hours trying to figure out when in the world Brooke's dad is arriving, he calls. He couldn't get on the next flight out. The next one he could make would arrive after the funeral, and there didn't seem to be any point in that. Uncle P's brain surgery is scheduled for Thursday. Between my various sources, I learn that he has two clots, bleeding on the brain, and a subdural hematoma. I have no idea if any of these things overlap or preclude the others.

This is just getting absurd.

My father arrived about an hour and a half later, and we sat through VFW prayers (and put "In memoriam 2003" poppies in Grandpa's casket) and the rosary. The coolest Coney Island I've ever been to (they have a wine list and veggie burgers) is just around the corner, so we went. Only we didn't just go. Dad was going to follow us there, so we piled into our car and it wouldn't start. It's never not started, and it make the most horrifying noise I've ever heard that car make. Brooke goes in to tell the funeral home people that we're leaving the car there overnight, and I brought two purses, two laptops, and a work bag into the back of Dad's SUV. And then we went to Coney Island. I was in heaven. Or, at least, I was getting grease and alcohol and didn't need to cry just yet.

Dad thinks it's either a bad starter motor or that the battery needs to be replaced. Brooke turned to me and said, "It's going to be easy and inexpensive." There was to be no discussion about that.

If you read this far, I should probably send you a dollar or some cookies or something.

And we haven't been to the funeral yet.


At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made it this far, but you and Brooke can keep the cookies and dollars. I think you need them more.



At 12:27 PM, Blogger frog said...

Holy shit.

At 1:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thinking of you both, Em.

Hang in there.

Anna Phor

At 2:38 PM, Anonymous a different brooke said...

goodness.. *i* should be sending *y'all* cookies and homemade bread!

*sigh* i'm sorry february sucks so bad for y'all. if it weren't the month of my birth i would probably be pretty ambivilent about it as well.

my best to you and brooke and your family. really. sounds like such a cliche, but i really mean it.

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

catte beat me to it - you can keep my dollar and cookie as well.

At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Sheena said...

catte beat me to it - you can keep my dollar and cookie as well.

At 10:15 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

oy vey, friends, what a *LOUSY* mess. I am so sorry. many hugs coming your way.

and you'll find out what I think about cookies soon enough.


At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Jen said...

Oh, yeah, and I vote for the starter motor. That bad noise? I can hear it in my head and it's unmistakablely starter-motor-ish. Not too expensive as car things go but sucky all the same.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Emilin said...

Jen, you suck. However, you were also wrong, so you're forgiven. We weren't able to jump it with Dad's SUV, but the nice people at AAA had a tow truck come out and jump it. It worked.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Sandee said...

OMG Emilin... I think you need a hug right about now! *hug*


At 11:41 AM, Blogger k. said...

also thinking of you both.

hugs to you, and take care,

At 2:36 PM, Blogger Grace said...

Oh Em...I'm sorry. But thank God for your dad, huh?


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