"It's Saturday, right?" I ask my dad as we drive.
"'Fraid not. It's Sunday."
"Really? No way." It feels like Saturday, but then, come to think of it, I don't know what day it feels like.
"Oh it's Sunday alright." He chuckles as the corn streams past the truck like a sea of gold ripe for the plowing. Soon the combines will be out. I can already smell burning leaves in the evening. And the cicadas have all died, their simple songs hushed for another season. It's almost 11:00 am. We were supposed to leave at 10:00, but I took my sweet, sleepy time, still acclimating to the three hour difference. Ate the omelet my dad made, checked my email, took a shower, made some coffee.
The matriarch is dying. And I've come to the Midwest to take part in the reverent process of death. It has a rich feeling. So rich everyone is tired. She looks twice as tired as she did yesterday. Lying in her bed, doped up, adorning silk. The dog sits at her side, staring up at an unfamiliar master. I rub lotion on her cold legs, and she says how nice it feels.
"I've had this movie sticking to my mind..." she says.
"I don't know.."
"Who's in it?"
"I don't know that either, it's just sticking in my mind. It's so lovely. That's the hardest part. Not being able to put the pieces all together. Not being able to connect the dots."
I rub lotion on her feet, and she falls asleep. I kiss her forehead and hold her hand.
"I love you." she says.
The house is thick with family and well-wishers, bringing pies and casseroles. I have known these people all my life. They enter the bedroom and kiss her forehead. They enter the room and say such lovely things about love without talking. The neighbor comes over, the one with cancer, redheaded and eighty-five, "I went to church today, for the first time in 10 weeks, and I prayed and prayed and prayed for help for us little old ladies... you know how much I love you." This love is hushing. It grabs your heart firmly and kisses it with warm and gentle lips. I feel my throat close and I stop breathing for fear of tears. Not yet, I say. Not yet. The grandkids are almost all here, looking at pictures, flooding the kitchen and eating the cookies. She would love it. She would be making us all tuna sandwiches if she could. She would say, "How the hell am I supposed to feed all of you?" and inwardly adore the preparation. That's how she is, absolutely snarky and all love. Don't you ever forget that.
I haven't smoked in a few days. This is my trial for a specific epoch, to quit smoking, to take care of my Grama. But tonight I drove around for an hour, five different gas stations, asking for a pack of American Spirit cigarettes. Driving down familiar back-roads. Everything is familiar and distant when you come home. So many lived and forgotten things. So much silt of memory accumulates and forms a bedrock behind my brain. And presently it is breaking through. Sometimes it seems like I remember everything at once, and I hit it with a pick axe. The scent and sediment of it flying forward so fast into my thoughts. I am struck with such a specific and peculiar sense of living one life. It wells up here, like a dream I know I lived. How much was on purpose, how much was on accident. And where is it going? In this time and place I haven't the slightest idea. I am still so freshly fallen from the world I was living two days ago. A home I enjoyed, a few friends I loved, a man, the music, the food, doldrums of work, too much whiskey and smoke. It feels good to be home. It feels good to have purpose. But it is so very hard to place a finger on life and say, "This is it. This is where we are going." At times that notion of inability makes me wonder heavily, at others, it causes me to stir with the greatest hope.