Another Suitcase, Another Hall

Well, hello there, Constant Reader! Gregalicious checking in on you from the road, from a motel in Jasper, Alabama. It’s a bit surreal being back in this part of the world, once again seeing for the second time this year the part of the country from which I sprang, as it were. I got up yesterday morning and headed north in a brutal thunderstorm; got Whataburger in Tuscaloosa (and it’s right off Highway 59! I can get it on all trips north from now on!!! Huzzah!), and then cut over to Highway 69 North and found myself driving through the backroads and back ways of where we are from; and before I knew it, I was at Fowler’s Crossroads (which appears in Bury Me in Shadows) and heading through the twisting back roads to meet Dad at Mom’s grave. A second cousin was also at the graveyard visiting her parents (she might be a first cousin once removed, or something. Her mother and my father were first cousins; I don’t know how all that degrees of cousin works, figure it out if you want for yourself), and then my aunt showed up to keep us company. Dad was tending the grave, and he and my aunt got some lovely flowers for the graves (her husband, my father’s brother, passed in either October or November). Afterwards, we drove back over to Jasper where I checked in and hung out with my dad for the rest of the day. I’m glad I made this trip. I am really glad I got to see my father this weekend, and we started thinking about my next trip up north to visit him (and stay in Mom’s house).

I also think that I’ll be able to get back to living my life once I get back home, too. Coming here, being here, has lifted a weight off my chest and off my subconscious mind; in fact, on the way here I was thinking about the book instead of giving as much of my attention to Carol Goodman’s The Ghost Orchid, which of course is fan-fucking-tastic, as all Goodman novels are. (I am hoping to finish it on the way back to New Orleans tomorrow–it has everything I love, including a dual time-line! EEEE!) This trip has been cathartic for me in ways I didn’t think possible, and of course, tomorrow I’ll be spending the late morning/early afternoon visiting graves, and remembering my so-far-distant past. I get it now–the whole graveyard visit thing, which I had always thought before was morbid and part of our weird American cult of death. Now I understand why visiting the graves matters; it’s a way to feel close to our lost departed ones, to remember loving them and being loved by them (Dad said something poignantly beautiful to me today–“she was the first person who loved you” which is both beautiful yet horrible at the same time: beautiful because it was true, yet horrible at the same time for not understanding and recognizing that when she was alive so I could be more appreciative. I saw Andrew Garfield the other day on a Youtube clip from a talk show, where he talked about grief being “all the unexpressed love you have for the person you lost” and that he hoped that the grief would never completely go away, because the pain, no matter how bad it is, is a reminder of that love. Maybe someday I will have something profoundly beautiful to say about grief and loss; I am simply not there yet. Dad also had copies made of some photographs of her–when she was FFA Sweetheart in high school; a “glamour shot” photo she had done for my dad when they were in their fifties; and a candid photo he took of her on a beach in San Diego when they lived there briefly. Mom aged really well, I have to say; in the candid shot she was at least fifty-seven but could have easily passed for her thirties. She had gorgeous skin that was luminous when she was younger; in that FFA Sweetheart photo when she was only fifteen–if she wasn’t wearing the FFA Sweetheart jacket it could have easily been a classic Hollywood glamour shot from Hurrell. Her skin literally glows, the way Ingrid Bergman’s did in black and white. I was very lucky to have a beautiful mother and a handsome father; how their genes and DNA somehow mixed and came up with me is a mystery for the ages.

She certainly aged better than I have. I look like Uncle Fester now but she was beautiful till the moment her heart stopped.

I suppose it’s normal when you lose someone that you love that there are things you wish you could have back, that you have one more chance to talk to them. I wish I could go back to the Friday after Thanksgiving, which was the last time I was able to talk to my mother, and hold her and hug her and kiss her and tell her that I love her, instead of sitting there at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and feeling tired and dreading that twelve hour drive. The coffee was starting to make me feel nauseous because I hadn’t slept well and I realized you’re wasting time sitting here and the more coffee you drink the worse you’re going to feel so I abruptly announced I was going to just go ahead and go. I startled both Mom and Dad, and I know she didn’t walk out with me. I gave her a hug and a kiss at the top of the stairs and told her I loved her and went down the stairs, got into my car, and drove back to New Orleans at ninety miles per hour most of the way so I could get home as fast as I possibly could. Had I known that I wouldn’t see my mother again when she would know who I was? I would have stayed another day at least, or could have stayed another hour that morning, or something. I comfort myself slightly by reminding myself that of course she knew I loved her, that she always knew, even when I wasn’t the most lovable or best son–I was far from being a good child to either of my parents, really–but listening to my dad recite his litany of what he considers his failures as a husband and a father last night made me understand the futility of allowing myself to go down that path.

The first person who loved you.

That’s just wrecking, seriously.

I do think I am slowly starting to heal. I will never not miss my mother, but I think I am beginning to learn how to live with the loss.

One thought on “Another Suitcase, Another Hall

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s