Twenty eight days after the diagnosis, eighteen days after her mom’s death, and five days after the dog from college decided to do the same, her dad died.
We spent the day together going through pictures and planning. This one is a favorite, she said. The memorial needs to be like this, I said. These apricots are yummy, they said, and it was surreal to see the boys sitting in the same booth we sat in twenty years ago to eat fried zucchini after every work out.
Later, they ran up and down the stairs, in and out of rooms, feet slapping the worn wood floors until I yelled they were being disrespectful. So help me, God, see what happens if you run one more foot!
She laughed and said it was nice to hear laughter in the house, at least. And I agreed. Because it would be too quiet otherwise, I said. And then we were quiet. Awkward. We busied ourselves cleaning what was already clean.
What is weird is that everything is different but still somehow the same. It seems this house should be on end, pictures askew, paint coming down in curls from the walls. But no, everything is the same. Down to the cord stretching across the table so the phone can work.
She’s worried about the fruit. There’s a lot leftover, and she doesn’t want to see it spoil. The boys ate two peaches, two plums, two bananas, and more than six of the tiniest apricots I have ever seen. Your boys are going to be real regular, real fast, J. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but in college everyone called me J.
We share a bad habit of joking at inappropriate moments.
I would take your pain if I could, I joked, but really I wouldn’t. I’m an inherently selfish creature, and I’m not strong enough to do what you’re doing.
I wouldn’t let you take my pain, she joked back. I wouldn’t wish this on my least favorite person, and I know some seriously annoying people.
Sometimes there are no words, certainly not sentences. And when I hear I am a good friend, I cringe. So don’t say it. I’m not. Really. Because only I know that late at night, when I can’t sleep, I pray for her, yes, but I spend a lot of my time thanking God it’s not me.
I wasn’t joking about the inherently selfish part.