In the middle of contract negotiations last February, I got a call. The people in the room were asking me a question. I pointed at my phone, sort of shrugged and walked out into the break out room. .
My brother in law had died. It started last August. Radiation would buy him Christmas with his sons and grand children. By spring, he would be gone. In the late February they moved him to hospice. And then my phone rang. I finished the call, took a couple of shaky breaths and went back into the pitched battle.
I flew to Chicago. Took the train to Crystal Lake. Woke up early and drove my SIL’s car to the funeral home. Arranged the flowers. Handed out the bulletins. Organized the receiving line. Checked on my ex husband. Helped dish out food. I put one foot in front of the other, did what had to be done. Was the woman my mother raised me to be.
A few weeks later, laying in bed next to someone and talking about my trip, I began to cry.
The night of the funeral, my great niece Emma started weeping during her story. Now that the funeral was over, she had to stop loving Poppa because he was gone. She didn’t think she could. I explained that the world didn’t work that way. God doesn’t work that way. We don’t stop loving those who have died. We tuck them in the space between our hearts and our lungs to keep them safe. The hurt, it fades. But our love? Oh no. That never ends. We carry that with us, as close as our breath. You keep loving Poppa, little girl.
This time, the call came in the Costco line up. It’s my quarterly trip. Garbage bags. Toilet paper. Furnace Filters. The prosaic, the mundane.
My nephew in law, Emma’s father, has a mass in his brain. They’ve called it a tumor, although they don’t know if it’s cancerous.
It’s a mass. In his brain. He can’t see.
I’m not sure if the distinction matters.
I finished up at Costco. Paid for the furnace filters and the batteries and the saran wrap and the hallowe’en candy and whatever the hell else made up four hundred dollars.
I drove home. Put things away. Stashing the furnace filters, which may or may not be the right size, next to the furnace, I looked up. Spoke to an empty basement.
“You can have me.”
If there is some great karmic debt, if the lord of the universe has decided there is one inhabitant too many on this planet, fine. You can have me. I’m not good for much. I’m a drain on the health care system, I’m foul mouthed and I smoke too much. I admit that. Honestly, given that my estate goes to a charitable foundation for dead babies, and given that I’m worth more dead than alive, we could argue I’m a great candidate.
Someone will sell the house. Find new homes for the animals. The contract will find another project manager. You can give my ex-husband my scotch collection.
I will hold my son. That child I have held in between my heart and my lungs. The love that made me promise Emma that she didn’t have to let go at all.
I will go. In whatever way the universe would like. Quickly, slowly. So very willingly. I’d prefer non painfully, but we can negotiate. So, hey. Universe. For the sake of a little girl who had to learn too much about death too soon.
You can have me.