I recently discovered San Diego Momma and I’m glad I did. She does some great things on her blog, including PROMPTuesday. Today is my first time participating. Today’s prompt: “What’s the grossest thing you ever did for somebody because you loved him/her/it?”
After the initial phone call, the mad scramble to pull myself together and drive 30 miles to the hospital without getting into a car accident,
After the agonizing delay as we waited for the whole family to assemble in that little room pastoral care guided us to — the one with the muted lighting, the pleasant paintings and the nice chairs,
After someone figured out where my mother was and summoned her to the hospital,
After the ER doctor came in, flipped open one of those metal folders and rustled a bunch of papers, then gave it to us straight up, no bull,
After we all reacted in our own ways: hysteria, sobs, stoic sniffs, dabbed at eyes and noses with tissues and walked silently to an empty room to look at his form and say: “Yup, that’s him. There’s been no mix-up here,”
After all that, when everyone decided what they’d do next: the funeral home, the church, the suit to the cleaners, we left the hospital and I drove the 20 blocks to my parents’ house through a downpour of tears. When I got there it was empty. I set down my purse and walked to the living room, to where my father had died.
I stood over that spot and tried to process the last two hours of my life. The first thing I saw was an open medic bag left behind by a forgetful EMT. I snapped it shut and set it by the front entrance. What I wanted to do was grab that collection of plastic and metal and glass and hurl it at the wall, and watch as its useless contents shattered and scattered on the hardwood floor.
I returned to the spot, a rug of amber and burgundy patterned fabric my parents had purchased in Turkey a month earlier. The just-developed pictures of the two-week vacation were tucked in a nearby envelope. I’m sure there was a story attached to the procurement of this rug, something about a bazaar and bartering and haggling. The usual. That story was dead with my father.
That night, the rug and I wrote a new story. Because what was on that rug and the hardwood underneath was the second thing I saw when I walked in the room. I saw it and decided my mother should not come home to it. She should not know of it, ever. So, that rug and I revised history by erasing the secrets it held. We wove the tale using a bucket of hot, soapy water and spray disinfectant and hydrogen peroxide. We kept the secret of what’s left behind when someone dies not-so-peacefully on their own floor surrounded by helpless bystanders who don’t know what to do and those who do know what to do but cannot change the course of events unfolding.
Out of love I cleaned that mess. I straightened the askew lampshade, smoothed the afghan on the couch, restacked the logs by the fireplace that had toppled in some not-yet-explained struggle and carried the dirty bucket to the basement. I washed the secret from the bucket and rags. I scrubbed the story from my hands.
I did all that and then I went home.