In the beginning of the week I felt like we were back into a normal rhythm of cranky carpools and dirty hands when, BOOM, the events over the holiday break finally hit me. After running into a mom at school who offered her condolences for our losses, my eyes filled with tears and I choked up as if I had taken a large bite of a ham sandwich on stale bread and my arms were too short to reach for a cold, Mexican Coke to wash it down. At first I thought I was hacking on the exhaust fumes farting out from a $120,000 white Mercedes monolith at the carpool, a sparkly, imposing vehicle that looked like a shiny, Kardashian Maxi-Pad on mag wheels.
But as the ferocious feminine product drove away in a cloud of environmental irresponsibility my tears were still there and I realized that I was simply sad and bluesy, not because someone would actually purchase a vehicle that needed to be washed three times a week by a pit crew of cleaning ladies but because I was as despondent as a hung-over jazz singer the morning after a rainy gig at a taco stand.
Having lost my father-in-law and my grandfather in a matter of days made for a very intense crawl through the Christmas break. It was sad, exhausting, surreal and stupefying, much like taking brown acid at a Christian rock concert. Holed up in New Jersey, Dave, Otto and I held my mother-in-law’s hand as people came to the house and ate piles of pastrami, Edible Arrangement fruit balls and Shop Rite cookies shaped like Christmas trees and Hanukah menorahs. The cocktails flowed, the stories giggled and the days were hazy and as happy as could be under the circumstances.
I have tried to write down the details and the feelings and draw a few pictures of the stops along this journey of death but every time I start my heart gets tight and I feel like I just swallowed some bad shrimp at a Sizzler salad bar. While I was front and center for my father-in-law’s last moments, my grandfather was two thousand miles away and nowhere in my emotional view. I posted obituaries on Facebook and read the wonderful comments and supportive quips but somehow I cannot seem to write the stories that I really need to write about two men I knew so well.
This week my dreams were filled with images of these two majestic men and the image of my parent’s slow decline. This macabre admission leads me to believe that I am starting to absorb all that happened in real time and real color. Death is as clear as Saran Wrap and as real as rain and now, for the first time in my life, I know what it looks like and feels like and smells like. It is not a C.S.I. Miami close-up of a hooker’s high heel and a jailed john after a bad night and it is most certainly not a staged car wreck with well-dressed detectives drinking coffee and eyeballing evidence.
It is a real someone you love who finally stops fighting for breath and stops being in pain. It is years of a colorful life and crazy experiences and complicated friendships and ferociously funny family gone in a single moment of exhalation. It is a tragic and heartbreaking and beautiful and blessed snapshot all wrapped in starched hospital bedding that will be rewashed and reused for someone else you will never meet. It is life’s laundry pile on the delicate cycle and as it washes and spins and finally stops you realize that now, it all has to be tumble-dried and folded and put away for another day.