This is Excerpt 11 from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to find earlier excerpts. XO
The police had gone, the Fire Department had gone, the coroner was expected any time. The news had escaped, would never be contained, and the phones began to ring. My mom and sister were in the house on separate phones. I moved off the patio to avoid direct sunlight. I moved to the back lawn in the shade of the 50-foot-tall trees far enough away from the open back door to avoid hearing the phones ringing. I sat one leg tucked underneath me, percolating everything, my entire life trying to recalculate, absorbing this new reality as I sat on a glider swing very slightly moving it with my one foot on the grass. I sat numbly listening to the magical sound of however many millions of leaves live on the 80 plus-year-old trees hanging over the yard, clapping against each other gently applauding in the uncharacteristic breeze of this particularly beautiful day.
As my brain tried to untangle this problem of reality, I was being overcome with a need to leave, I wondered how long should I stay? Until the coroner left? Linda is here so mom won’t be alone if I left after that. There is nothing for me to do. For all the obvious reasons, I knew that as the news spread, there would be more calls, more recounting the story, more people stopping by, more recounting the story. Besides hating the details of bad news, I am a hardcore varsity level introvert, the thought of this was WAY too many people for me to think about encountering for one day. I was in thought, and people overload. I had a terrible headache probably from waking so abruptly or my lack of coffee or the rabid thought piranhas in there. From everything. Fuck this fucking day is where my thoughts kept resolving.
My parents moved into their house more than forty-five years ago at that point. I was a year old then, so again, almost my forever they had lived there. They, we knew everyone in the neighborhood for a few block radius (not an exaggeration) and everyone knew and adored Dave. The tapestry of connectedness had been woven through the sharing of our lives, backyard fruit, tomatoes. We waved at each other while carrying out maintenance of life efforts, as yards were cared for or trash cans put out and dragged back in on trash day. The common celebrations of life occurred, Halloween and Christmas and other holiday decorations put up and taken down season after season. A collective of every sort of update, stories (gossip) good and bad, potato chips sampled, graduation photos on front lawns, weddings, births, BBQs, anniversaries, birthday and pool parties, blood spilled, stitches were stitched, bandages employed, restriction meted out, and bone marrow tested. People arrived, lived, celebrated, aged, moved away or died, we mourned and were connected just outside our gate.
It turns out that people in a connected neighborhood notice when emergency vehicles rush to and are parked in front of your house. Especially more than one emergency vehicles. Fire Truck, Ambulance, Police car. These vehicles draw a crowd. Neighbors began showing up at the 11-foot-wide open electric back gate that had remained open since earlier that morning when the emergency personnel was summoned. There was nowhere for me to hide. When they, my former neighbors saw me, they inquired as to what was going on with the simple gesture of raised eyebrows and shoulders. My sister had called a few neighbors who lived a few streets away who had talked to other neighbors. They, too, were showing up.
Tomas from up the street and Mike and his daughter Karen from across the street came and had to see Dave. They came in the backyard and went into the house. I heard their breath taken away in gasps as their new recalculating reality hit them, I could not believe how many hearts stopped this day that Dave’s heart completely stopped. I remained on the grass. I felt sad for them but still happy for Dave. I also began to feel nauseous from what had to be residual adrenaline coursing in my stomach. Or I was nauseous from not having eaten anything when rushing out the door in response to ‘surprise’ bad fucking news or I was nauseous from everything.
Tomas, Karen, and Mike came out of the back of the house one at a time, ashen-faced, clearly upset. They made eye contact with and headed toward me. I stood and hugged each of them. They needed much more consoling than I did it seemed. A few other neighbors who were not as close with our family remained on the sidewalk periphery peering into the backyard. I gave a pathetic half-wave motion of my hand and nodded their general direction; obligatory autopilot manners take over at the strangest times. I would have preferred to have ignored them or been invisible or better yet, not there at all.
The coroner and his assistant had arrived and had gone into the back door with a gurney. A few moments later, they came out with Dave’s body in a white bag. For such a giant of a human being what remained of his physical body seemed so very small. It was odd how something as simple as the clean shade of white somehow felt so much better than the black ‘body’ bag I expected. The gurney was placed inside the low-profile station wagon, and they drove away. My mom, sister, and I stood on the patio and watched them pull away. My mom said, “Bye, Dave.” The electric wrought iron gate closed slowly, surreally making clinking noises as the metal chain was cranked over the drive sprocket.
I fleetingly felt that something may be wrong with me because I was not hysterical. I decided that not being hysterical inadvertently or whatever the opposite of inadvertently is, advertently? I had to look it up, advertently is a thing. Regardless, it was probably for the best, and I tried to stop psychoanalyzing myself. The only fact I could hang my hat on was that Dave was no longer stuck in that shitty body. FACT. I also no longer felt that life-long instinctual worry for him. I also was so relieved for my mom, knowing how long or how much my mom worried for him since forever. I was so young when he was hurt and learned a pattern of worry by watching my parents silently worry about things that people, wait, children, wait, NO ONE should have to worry about way before anyone should have to worry about anything, that I forgot what it felt like to not have it be part of me.
It was unpleasant to have that sort of worry forever in the back of every thought and liberating for it to lift away all at once. My husband and I thought my mom and Dave might live with us at some point in time. We had room for them. My sister Anne and her husband also thought they may care for Dave and were open to whatever was necessary to care for him without a doubt. I never thought that particular worry for him would ever not be a part of my thoughts, which can become a part of your identity and how you filter everything. I never thought about Dave dying before myself, never even considered it. I certainly hadn’t thought about how the only way to not have the worry was to not have him. I just assumed I would worry forever and ever, the end. Well, that was a shitty double-edged sword of traded emotions.
I knew through recent studies that worry can change our actual physical DNA and not for the better. I wondered how my parent’s DNA may have changed from carrying around that crushing worry. Would my dad have lived longer had he not worried so much about everything Dave related all the time? Will my mom live longer now without this dreadful worry? I wondered how my own DNA may have changed throughout my life and how it may now change for the better if that was still possible.
All these weird random thoughts were still rabidly running around my head out of control, biting my brain that morning. The thoughts persisted, and I bounced between them and wondering why we have such strange thoughts, were they wearing a rut in the gray matter of my brain, should I be worried about my gray matter being damaged and when would it all stop? My brain felt like the aftermath of the equivalent of a school of Piranha skeletonizing a cow but applied to the all soft and likely delicious tissue of my brain. Maybe it was my headache, the nausea, or the heat. The air stopped moving. The standing ovation of the leaves at my brother’s life well fucking done had faded as he literally left the building. The same leaves stopped making their magical shushing sounds in my library of thoughts they had moments ago tried to quiet. It was starting to get hot. It was July in Southern California. I decided, Fuck this, I’m going home.
© Mardi Linane Copyright 2019