My friend/former coworker is more superstitious than she realizes. She must always have cotton swabs in the house because the bad things in her life seem to happen when she's been out of them.
She also looks for bad things to come in clumps of three. When she hears of something on the depressing or tragic side, she almost holds her breath waiting for the other two shoes to drop. She can't seem to relax until they do and she's in the clear.
When I told her we had to put the dog down, I knew what she was thinking. Two shoes have fallen. When will the last one come tumbling down? My uncle in December. The dog in May. When and what would that last one be?
She got her answer yesterday afternoon.
An hour before the traveling spouse was to return home I took a phone call from his brother. My mother-in-law was in the hospital. She had been sick but not bad. Sunday morning was different. The nursing home couldn't help her any more. The ambulance came.
When the limo pulled out of our driveway leaving it's much missed and loved passenger behind, I gave my husband a moment to greet his very excited boy. Then I gave him the message. He took a few moments to see us. To take us all in and hold us tight. Then he called.
No new news.
So he called his oldest sister. She wasn't home. She was at the hospital still, but her husband was there to take the call. He had just hung up with his wife - my mother-in-law had passed away moment ago.
She was in her mid-70s. She was sick - Alzheimer's and congestive heart failure that aggressively stole more and more from her with each passing year. Although no one could have known last week that we'd be sitting here today, it wasn't a total surprise - it had been coming.
A year ago I had gone on a quest for pictures books written to help young children cope with dying. My husband thought I was moving prematurely and as it turns out, I was. . .a little. I knew it was all coming though. His mother. My uncle. Our pet. Death was coming soon to shake up my son's innocent and naive existence.
Bruce packed his bags today and made the 7 hour drive to his sisters. The rest of us stayed behind. Logan has gotten as close as he needs to grief. He does not need to be in the midst of it's greatest fervor. I will go, instead, with Bruce when the church he grew up in buries her ashes. It's fairly local. It's going to be just as difficult for him. We'll do it together.
I have to admit that my ache is for him and not for myself. Although he and I have been together as a couple for 11 years, I've only spent a small amount of time with her. We've lived so far apart that entire time that trips are infrequent. She never did catch up to the Internet age. (My husband's aunt, however, has and is a great fan, (God help us) of the email forward.) And well, phone calls always seemed a tad forced and uncomfortable. We had a cordial, not close relationship. As her memory began to fade, I, one of the newest and least seen members of the family, was one of the first forgotten. For some reason, she always assumed I was the waitress - even when we were at one of the sisters' homes. (No, she did not tip.)
My children barely realized they had another Grandmother. Logan had spent time with her maybe 5 times in his young life. She came down for his baptism. She remembered him easily enough then. Why she was here. Who this young boy belonged to. That was the last time she made the connection though. Each visit after that she struggled to remember who he was, why he was with her family. "Who is that adorable little boy with?" Mom, that's your grandson, Bruce's son. "Oh yes, right." Over and over. It flustered her. He was unphased.
Her name he remembers. Her familiar 'title' within the family. Yet to him, as well as to Megan, she was simply "Daddy's Mommy." The link ended there. Neither were able to pull it back to themselves - neither able to see she was just as much apart of them. They too seem more upset that Daddy is sad and that now Daddy is again gone after such a brief appearance.
And so here we sit. Without Daddy again. Missing him and aching for him. Knowing the third shoe has fallen. Hoping it's over. Hoping we can exhale again. And, for good measure, learning the lesson from my friend, checking our cabinets for Q-Tips. Hey, can't hurt.