Has it already been a week since my mother died? I feel like I’ve been in a haze, dropped in the middle of the ocean and swimming only because I have to, not because I actually know where I’m going. I’ve found a new appreciation for Dory, a different nuance in Finding Nemo.
I don’t know why life insists on dumping everything on us all at once instead of pacing things one month at a time, but it seems to be a rather consistent theme. What I’d like to be doing right now is sitting in bed with the sheet over my head, but there’s just too much to do.
When a death ends, the work just begins. Closets to go through and memorials to plan and family dynamics to breathe through. In this case, all these tasks are intermingled with the other responsibilities of being a mother as well as a daughter. I pick my mother’s casket, and on the way home pick out a birthday cake for my son. That sort of thing.
My daughter graduated fifth grade this week. I was not really aware fifth grade graduation was a big deal. I thought we might hear a song, clap politely, and get on with it. I was sorely mistaken. What we were in for was a two hour event with five speeches, two processions, music, slideshows, choreography. It was longer than my high school and college graduation combined.
The line for the auditorium starts an hour and a half early. I walk into the auditorium with the grandparents behind me, mentally counting off the number of seats I needed: 2, 2, 2….oh. 2, 2, and 1. It’s the little moments like this that catch you unaware. Mom would never have missed a graduation.
When the ceremony finally ended and the kids file into the lobby, I pull out the flower bouquet my father picked up for us on his way over. I hand it to my daughter, who stands surrounded by children wearing leis made of dollar bills. Mom would have brought a lei. She always did stuff like that. My daughter smiles politely, seeming vaguely disappointed, but she always seems vaguely disappointed. I am told this is part of being a tween. I am too tired to care.
I was supposed to volunteer at the promotion picnic today, but I leave early because I have to get Brody to the groomer in advance of the family arriving this weekend for the memorial. That, and order programs, write a eulogy, bring an end of the year gift to the teacher, bring a blanket to the funeral home, clean the house, find something to wear, pick up the kids from school, celebrate something, I guess. People offer to help, but these are all tasks I need to do myself.
I am exhausted, in a bone wearying way I didn’t know could exist.
Brody comes back from the groomer, and sits next to me on the couch. He is never disappointed with his lot in life. He just is. I put my head on his back and inhale, feeling the rising waves of grief intruding on my to-do list. He smells like one of those old Strawberry Shortcake dolls. When I cry, he doesn’t say anything or search for unhelpful platitudes or edge away uncertainly. He is surprisingly absorbent.
He is here, breathing with me. It is enough. For now, he is enough.