I actually thought about it, for about five seconds, the time it took for her to take another series of breaths... by now automatic, a machine, driven by instinct, driven away by man-made addiction.
The digital camera lay hot in my purse, moments after a pose with breathing, living family members lying in wait for the inevitable, which came, like a 9/11 trajectory in a 02/03/04 consecutive punch in room 123.
My mother’s voice: “You steal a person’s soul when you do that.”
My husband’s: “Don’t do that.”
My own: “James, please stay inside this room for just a little longer.”
The picture of Jean Audrey Weber clicked resoundingly in my mind, where an assortment of memories, 39 years worth, hid tucked away for midnight mass. Bobby playing basketball, passing me softened glances. Belinda cracking a smile during third-grade recess. A choir of beauty, commitment, earnest tokens in their talk of God, assembly, voices in unison and harmony. My son running with Benny, cousin Bev and Tim’s new five-month-old pet terrier, laughing hysterically.
Stuff, y’know? As my tradewind friend, Robb, is fond of repeating when there is no weather to belabor.
I went away with them during February Sweeps, in the middle of just getting back into some reality-TV, approaching GH’s “Towering Inferno” Cataclysmic Event, recovering from my mother Connie’s two-week visit, back to church, choir practice, out with the sun, Noggin’ with the rain. Y’know, stuff.
Two primary worries washed away with the very sight of her in a fetal position, and that mouth, made bare through years of disinterest, lackluster, sitting drinking coffee reading aimlessly of disaster areas yet to come late into the morning on her fifth cup and the chainsmoking which left her there, mouth gaping like a fish ashore, head splayed back until her jaw and neck clicked unnaturally into place, maybe a baby bird stuck begging for a worm from its mother, more likely. The fluttering, Eddie told me, after the fact, “just her heart, not a breath, the breath came several beats later, every other,” y’know...
They say he never cried, until stepping inside the 123 room ‘round 10 p.m., official approximate time of death, an hour earlier, while we went for Mama’s slices before never having made it to Wal-Mart’s incredibly vast SuperCenter. (I’d buy a Simply Red Best Of CD days later, in commemoration of OLTL’s special guest stars, including a bloated off-key Mick Hucknall.)
George Kurt Weber, however, sobbed and blubbered like a baby, reminding me of those caustic notes from GH posters post-Nikolas sobbing and blubbering, snot, tears in an ever-increasing rope from his nose to his knees, finally a moment of pity from a man not given to acts of kindness, understanding or any attempt at revival without his two cents worth.
I kept my mouth shut.
He later complained about the final bill of $6,000 for cremating and burying her, and him in a few months, two for one, “Crooks, but I guess it’s done.” A lousy $6,000, and Bev thought he was faking, so the survivors, there for her, would save him from the work of having to bury his dead.
I know sooner the death will repeat itself, inching closer to my door, to my own mother, to myself. That thought pushes me to notice abstracts in the architecture, the drooping moss, the Florida humidity, the pebbly roads leaning against black woods leading out to a strip of country kitchens and Hardees Atkins-friendly respite. I threw away half of my take-out, and promptly shit black liquid.
The stores and restaurants she must have noticed in her passenger seat on the way to the hospice, of her own volition, after doctors informed her, “There’s nothing left,” and her last words to Eddie, her firstborn and only son (because he would not have another mouth to feed), “I’ll talk to you later,” after asking again when he’d come.
He, and we, did come, in the middle of the early break of dawn. Two days of staring. Around the Carlie mess.
We wrapped ourselves with the natural meaningless chatter from meaningful loved ones, an uncle who fretted too much and too long about stepping on his free glasses (until Eddie fixed them with a pliers), who made me bark out loud in stunned pleasure when he nearly upended a standing floral gift from cousin Kenny and Margaret beside her photo in memorial and who meant well no matter what Bev said about him being the same as the other George, a next-door neighbor who didn’t have to but made an extended home for us and provided the kind of assistance she not he deserved, Jon and Nancy and their friend-deprived children who cried when James had to head back to the one last night of “house” and “sound,” and I had to sing “Circles” to hold him close from the spirit of her sure to come.
“before Graham Kerr”
“It’s called ALL My Children, and it is”
"About a Forward"
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