In the airport bathroom I put on the red lipstick I brought and can’t help but envision what lipstick I’ll wear at the memorial you say you don’t want. Tomorrow morning I’ll wake up in a different state and put on my black pencil skirt and non-wrinkle blouse and I’ll drive myself to work. This is the life I live.
As I walked through the airport I wondered when I’d walk through it next and what I’d be thinking. Sometimes I feel premeditated grief clogging my pores. I breathe and breathe until it passes–sometimes seconds, sometimes minutes. Will this breathing be enough to carry me through what comes? Will I forget that in these early stages breathing carried me? And will I forget the downy feel of your hair against the bony ridges of your skull? Or how your skin wrapped, leathery and soft around the flat bones of your wrists and arms? Will I fail to remember the sharp peaks and valleys of your shoulders and torso, and how you made it to the airport to see us off?
If these things escape me, here is what I will labor to keep:
- Your stoicism, which is thoughtful and steady and drives Mom insane. People say it’s a shame that you don’t talk and share. I used to hate that about you, but more and more it makes sense and I reach for it.
- Your humor, which is still very much intact, although quieter. Are you where my love of the absurd originates? Because for a long time I never suspected it could have been you.
- Your charitable practicality. This is the hardest to put into words. From your request for a “no frills” cremation to your wish that Mom be supported and that I not worry. You know what you want and you want the best for us.
Here in the airport, waiting for the plane to arrive, I pack away these thoughts. I am confident of the inevitability of the day of their reemergence and simply grateful that today is not that day.