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A Diffrent Kind Of Goodbye
Stale pretzels and flat soda spill as turbulence shakes the plane from right to left. Exactly the way I wanted to spend the day after my mother died. I hold back tears, not wanting the old lady next to me to get any ideas that I want to explain my problems to her, like in a cliché movie. I decide to focus on the grey clouds we fly through. The lightning below is a good distraction. Though it makes me think, does God purposely make this symbolism to my grief? You read it in books and see it in movies and I finally realize why. Because it really happens. The rain is the cold tears, the thunder is the loud screaming in your head, and the lightening, sharp agony.
That pain is worse then any other. My mom has been fighting breast cancer for years now. The doctors have always been able to remove the tumor, but it always found its way back. A year ago she refused to have any more surgeries, saying “I’m too old and death is trailing right behind me anyways.” She was prepared for her fate and I was convinced it was years away. She must have known I was wrong. But then why did she practically push me on the plane to move to Chicago?
Before I know it the pilot announces our arrival. I gather my carry-on bags and wait another fifteen minutes for the people ahead of my to squeeze through the isle. My Dad, still the gray haired chubby old guy he was when I left, is already waiting for me at the gate. Within seconds we are hugging so tightly it’s hard to breathe. The noise of the airport seems like mumbling whispers, though I bet if you listen close enough you could hear the sound of my tears dropping onto the shoulder of my father.
After a silent thirty minute car ride we pull into the gravel drive way. I’m not sure why, but I was afraid my house would be completely different. But it still is the small farm house I’d grown up in. The white door and windows, snug between the baby blue siding, and it’s all surrounded by a picket fence. Practically pulled right from a movie, just what my mom wanted. The only thing that’s missing is the miles of corn stalks, my back yard. The winter has turned into nothing but dirt.
“Your room is exactly the way you left it. Your brother wanted to turn it into a game room but your mom wouldn’t allow it.” I could hear a tiny smile come to his slightly wrinkled face.
We grab my bags from the trunk and, for the first time in six months, I walk through my front door. I take in the memories, scanning for any changes. Not a single one. It even seems my seventeen year old brother hasn’t moved from the couch, where he was when I left.
“Tyler, I heard you wanted to make my room into a game room. Dream big.”
I expect the finger or some rotten comment, but no. He walks right over to me, throwing his arms around my neck. In shock, I hesitate but then hug him back. Within seconds he is pushing away and fixing his shirt.
“Uh, sorry. I just figured this was a hugging kind of time.” He says after clearing his throat and rubbing his eyes. Rubbing away tears?
“No, it’s ok. Wanna help me with my bags?”
Tyler and my Dad drop my bags in my room and then leave me alone. Dad was right, nothing has changed. No pinball machines or Pac Man like my brother wished for. Just my dresser, still covered in old books, my night stand, and my bed. My bed! I dive onto the rectangle of endless comfort. Just as I decide to never get off, Tyler calls for dinner.
I’ve done my best so far to keep my emotions for the funeral tomorrow, so I try to keep the dinner conversations light. I sit at the head of the table and fill my paper plate with potatoes, chicken, and green beans.
“Tyler, I’ve noticed that you have grown quite a bit.” He must of grown another inch, maybe two. He got that from Dad for sure. Mom was barely over five foot. He has let his hair grow out a lot too. Completely opposite of the buzz cut he normally sports. His resemblance to Mom, with the chestnut wavy hair, is overwhelming. I’m almost jealous because I got stuck with Dad’s previously mud brown hair.
A silent awkwardness fills the dinning room.
“Dad, how was the harvest this year?”
His face shoots up from staring at his peas. “Huh? Oh yeah, it was good.”
Maybe talking isn’t the best of options. The rest of dinner is quiet and full of thinking, thinking that will only make everything worse. I scarf down my pasta and head back up to my room. 8 o’clock and all I can do now is sleep.
“Sorry to wake you up, but it’s already eleven and I need help picking out the outfit for your mother.”
I’ve never heard such a weary, monotone voice before.
We walk to his bedroom, where Mom’s things are untouched. Her slippers are still resting next to her side of the bed. Dad already had one outfit lying out. A red button down shirt he said she bought a month ago and a pair of black work pants. It may fit Mom’s working personality as a high school math teacher, but it certainly didn’t match her quirky at home attitude.
“What about her pink sundress?”
“Of course, I don’t know why I didn’t think of that. You should probably start getting ready. The funeral begins at one.”
I’m glad my dad respected my mom’s decision to not have a wake. She always said wakes were awkward and she didn’t want people’s last memory of her to be pale and soulless. Although it may be better than my last memory of her, waving goodbye as I boarded a plane, leaving her behind.
Just as the urge to cry starts to build, I decide to take a shower a relaxation method I’ve used since my mom was diagnosed. I turn the heat up all the way, filling the room with steam in seconds. I shampoo, condition, all that jazz and then just sit-Indian style, the water hitting my back, my hands holding up my head as I begin to cry. The salt water is camouflaged, just more drips from my hair. I cry for my mom, because she is gone. Dead. A new, fierce flow of tears starts to pour as I whisper the words out loud for the first time. Dead. Gone. Realization sets in. Never will I see her, never will I touch her, and never will I speak to her.
The water starts to turn cold and my eyes are running out of tears to cry. It seems just in time too. Tyler screams that we have to leave in a half hour. I decide that no eye make up is the best option. My swollen eyes will make me look awful enough; I don’t need rivers of black to top it all off. I decide to put on blush, give myself a little color to make it look like I’m not a complete disaster.
I head down stairs after putting on my black dress. Tyler is already heading out the door, keys in hand. I forgot he had his license. I forgot he isn’t the toddler that used to follow me all over the house.
We make it to the graveyard. Me and Tyler stand by Dad in silence. Mom’s friends, co-workers, and people I’ve never seen before start to show up. Grandma, my mom’s mom, walks up slowly. She lives in Florida. I wonder where she’s staying. She embraces Dad and then Tyler. She turns to me and looks me in the eyes. I can see the pain behind her mask of calmness. I imagine that losing a mom is right underneath losing a daughter on the misery scale. So we hug, tight. Because we understand each other.
Then there’s Mr. Steven, the principal of the school my mom works at. Ms. Garder, the woman that helped Mom coach my AYSO soccer team when I was ten. Eventually the faces start to blur. An apology here, a “if you need anything just ask” there. Soon the priest announces the start of the ceremony.
He makes us stand next to him by the coffin. It is almost like torture, having to stare into the wet eyes of my mom’s friends. He begins to speak, saying things like, “She is in God’s hands now. She is looking down on us wishing she could stop the tears.” The tears won’t ever stop. They are in the eyes of the strangers, my grandma, Tyler, my father. But not me. I don’t know if it’s because I wasted them all in the shower or if it’s because I’m cold hearted. I feel like I should push out one tear, but I just can’t. I look at the closed coffin, stone faced and imagining, imagining what she looks like behind the freshly waxed maple. It can’t be comfortable in there. My mom deserves a bed inside her coffin, filled with Temper-Pedic pillows.
I remember when she would tie my closet closed with a scarf, assuring me that no monster could get out to attack me in my bed, when she would put off grading her math tests to make sure I would ace my own. And when I first started college she made sure all my professors were being nice to me, threatening to call some made-up teacher association if they weren’t.
I’m snapped back into reality when the coffin starts to be lowered into the ground. I hear women let out loud wails. It seems it took only seconds for her to be lowered out of reach. My dad immediately takes me into his arms. A single tear finally falls from my eye.
When all is said and done, people form little groups, talking about my mother or anything but my mom. I walk from group to group thanking everyone for coming. Mom’s friends and co-workers are beginning to leave when my dad puts a piece of paper in my hand.
“I didn’t know when to give this to you but I suppose now is okay. Your mom gave me this to give to you…since she knew she was…yeah.”
I take the note and sit under a tree, away from any grave stone views. I begin to read:
I miss you so much. I still can’t believe my little girl is grown up and living on her own. I’m so proud of you. Always have been. Well by the time your father gives this to you, I’ll be gone. But remember it’s a part of life and, like all those romance movies say, we will be together again one day. Not soon though! No way, you still have to give me and your father grand babies and keep an eye on Tyler. It’s your job to approve of his girlfriends from now on. Take care of your father as best as you can too, even if you are in Chicago. Make sure to call often. Anyways, I knew we wouldn’t get the goodbye we both wished for so I figured this note may help with some closure. I love you more than anything, honey. I know it was hard leaving home, especially with me in such a bad condition. But I didn’t want to be the reason you stayed home and missed out on all the opportunities fate planned for you. I know you will be great. Remember I will always be watching from above. I love you Mora, my daughter. Be the best darn journalist this world has ever seen! I am sorry again for not staying around long enough for a proper goodbye. Stay safe and healthy! I love you.
With undying love,