“it’s all going in the report”
I've come away from life
with about 3.5 deaths,
one far away,
another too close to home,
and him with another, over 20 years down the line,
so far, non-sentient, but universal,
this god (lower case),
if he be the collective us,
his finite plan,
then I must be damned.
(spiritual perm, CBW)
...oh some sweet day
gonna take away
this hurtin’ inside,
well, I’ll never be blue,
my dreams come true,
on Blue Bayou.
(Blue Bayou, Linda Ronstadt)
I did say I wanted a three-week vacation away from home this summer. True, I wanted it somewhere cold, Antarctica, Alaska, I hear Argentina and Australia are winters this time of year.
Still, Spring Hill, Florida’s as good a place as any to bury my father-in-law’s ashes, try out too much Italian food, soak up as little of the humidifying arid sun while fighting for every last drop of air-conditioning the hotel oasis could provide, and that’s barely.
For the most part, in hindsight and when donning my rose-colored, 20/20, the trip turned out to be a productive, relaxing, revelation-filled success.
I enabled my husband Eddie to find the missing original will of his mother’s—required for a speedier probate—by going psychic and pointing to her health insurance bills behind the right headboard cabinet, hidden under stacks of paper. I pointed out a medical-looking building when Eddie couldn’t find the Health Department with which to file further evidence of both his parents’ death, the final requirement to resting them in peace. I pushed Eddie to stop dicking around with paper after plastic bags after plastic bins after scraps of nothing if he planned to Goodwill and trash a good portion of the contents of his parents’ house before eventually having to return six, nine months down the line to sell it, oh... by the year 2999.
Eddie got to play golf with his cousin’s husband Tim during the last week, over in Barefoot Bay, on the East Coast side, a little cooler but not by much. Still, we’re contemplating a final move, there, in the penis state, despite the constant thunderstorms we weathered and I drove through following Eddie in his dad’s second car (for Tim’s son), fearing for sure I would be flooded out to sea with Noah, thunderstorms which usually last from March through September or so, the heat and humidity that felt like we were breathing in our own exhales (or stuck inside an elephant’s butt) and the ties we’ve made in a community farther west, and much cooler.
Our son James grew by leaps and bounds. He seemed to be the only traveler content to sit and babble happily in his car seat on the plane, during all connecting flights (4), despite frequent diaper leaks and his daddy losing the removable right clip on the car seat somewhere between Atlanta and Seattle (he later lost a replacement clip last week by placing it on top of his car before a trip to the zoo, don’t ask), right after his mommy nearly lost it with a passenger of a jam-packed train who had the audacity to tell me to leave “quickly, quickly,” when he and his fat cohorts were blocking the exit.
He spoke more often, in complete sentences, learning a million new words every day, threatening to curse with a giggled whisper, asking mommy to sing “Tinkle Tar,” singing quietly along. He also figured out how to open hotel doors with locks, run down the hotel lobby and back and mouth off to his parents on a continual basis.
Yet, every time something went wrong, I mentally prepared the dossier and piped up, “it’s all going in the report.” At first, Eddie mistakenly thought I was actually writing a report to the BBB against the Hampton Inn we’d stayed in off 19. I had grounds, believe me. I could’ve also turned in the Spring Hill Family Restaurant for assault to my senses for serving me a sweetened meat loaf shake on pig intestines, instead of spaghetti and meatballs (and Eddie slices of his father’s rotting flesh instead of pork roast).
You’re reading the report, mostly a litany of the wrong that went on while we tried to make it to the Turner Funeral Home on time, visit the cemetery grounds without burning ourselves in the Florida summer heat, and last two weeks without having to sleep overnight at Eddie’s dead parents’ secondhand smoke-stenched, two-bedroom, two-garage with pool and nicotine-stained house (“It’s your dad’s spirit, I’m tellin’ ya!”).
It started when I noticed the wet carpet near the air conditioner in the first of four hotel rooms we’d wind up staying in. At first, Eddie just shrugged it off, saying, “It’s condensation from the air conditioner.”
(Actually, it started the first night, when the smoke alarm kept beeping and Eddie had to just take the battery out, with the manager’s permission. Or maybe going through a security check at Sea-Tac the first day and watching flabbergasted as a family cut in line in front of us, as all I could muster was, “Nice! I haven’t seen cutting like that since I was 12!” Then, the security guards made a two-year-old take off his sneakers.)
The third night, while Eddie was out on a Wal-Mart run (we must’ve gone there every night) across the street, the hotel manager and repairman knocked on our door, asking to check the air conditioner because it was leaking water to the hotel room below on the first floor. The repairman, whom we’d see everyday during our stay, hosed up the excess liquid, apologized and left.
The next morning, before heading to the pool, Eddie told me he’d asked the manager if we should move because of the leak and she said yes, arranging for a room on the first floor. Eddie moved all our stuff while James and I were in the pool, then joined us. When we were done 30 minutes later, we all headed to our air-conditioned room, thinking nothing of the move and me grateful to Eddie for doing the moving (he’d just plopped everything in James’ playpen and pushed that down the elevator).
The second I walked in, I knew we were in trouble again. The smell of secondhand smoke greeted me. I could barely breathe. I tried to ignore it, but it was everywhere, even in the bed cover, which, apparently, the maids never cleaned. I eventually lay on the bed as Eddie rested beside me and searched from that vantage point for the tell-tale signs. It didn’t take me long to find the ashes, between my nightstand and the bed. I wanted to throw up. That, or hunt down every smoker in the world and...
I pestered Eddie a little more aggressively about the smoke I insisted was in here, even though it’s supposed to be a non-smoking room. He got irritated, more because he knew I was right and he could no longer deny the smell any longer, and demanded of the manager to be moved.
We went next door. Smelled fine. Did some chores, Eddie went to Wal-Mart. I gave James a shower-bath, since this hotel room didn’t have a bathtub. I’d just gotten James dried, powdered, diapered and clothed, when I heard dripping in the bathroom. Going to check it out, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the entire ceiling dripping with water, most of it coming from a light fixture. I threw towels in there and tried to figure out if I’d caused the leak from the shower-bath earlier, but it came from above.
Shivering, because I’d gotten wet from the shower-bath and hadn’t had a chance to change yet, I went back and finally had sense enough to put two garbage cans under the two major leaks. At that point, I grabbed James and we headed down to the lobby to let the clerk know, in case there was a safety hazard or something, heck, the ceiling could’ve caved in.
The only thing the clerk could say to me was, “The only available rooms we have are smoking.” I’m thinking, Dude, your hotel room could be flooding out, the people on the second floor could crash into my bathroom, and that’s all you can think about?! Finally, after a bit of this back-and-forth, I told him, “Look, you should know about the flooding in my bathroom, in case it’s unsafe or something. I’ll have to wait for my husband to get back before I can do anything.”
I couldn’t even call Eddie on the cell phone we’d brought on the trip, because for some stupid reason, he had it. I didn’t want to call on the hotel phone, for fear we’d get charged, so I sat there panicking while the bathroom dripped. Finally, Eddie tried to get in, CLANK! (we took to using the top latch, ‘cause James couldn’t open the door completely with that engaged), and I let him in, immediately going on about the freakin’ flood in our bathroom and the futility of having cell phones when I never had it on hand to use.
Eddie went to the clerk and within 15 minutes came back, reporting that the maintenance man would show up to check out the damage, then checked out the damage himself.
By then, the leak stopped. “Doesn’t look like it’s from your shower. Don’t worry.” And he heads off to the clerk at the lobby again, with James trailing him close behind.
When they return, “Good news. The guy’s moving us to a suite on the second floor.” The suite normally costs $200 a night and includes a microwave and fridge—what we needed in the first place with all the leftovers from the Italian dinners out.
“I think the guy got scared,” Eddie explained in a conspiratorial whisper as he unpacked. It was 1 a.m. “I only wanted to talk to the manager to let her know what was going on, but he might’ve thought his job was on the line, him being the only one there. Anyway, turns out, the people staying in the hotel room above us had flooded out their bathroom and the maintenance guy had to hose up 12 gallons of water from the place, so it wasn’t your fault.”
At that moment, James piped up, “Blanket?”
Eddie and I looked at each other with dread, remembering earlier in the day when, at his parents’ house, James had been romping around every room dragging his favorite blanket around, stuffing it in Benny, the terrier’s cage (Eddie’s cousin Bev and husband Tim were with us)...
We had to drive back to the house at 1 a.m., as James kept repeating, “Blanket?” I went directly into the computer room, another psychic predilection, leading me inside the closet, tucked in the farthest corner above the maracas, while Eddie searched high and low in the living room, great room and his dad’s bedroom.
By the time we went to sleep, it was pushing on 2 a.m. The next morning we had to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn for the memorial service.
That’s where we almost ran over a stray dog who crossed the street seconds after Eddie braked. I kept my face in my hands as we waited, imagining the ambulance, the vet, the accusatory, tear-stained little children in the neighborhood. In my peripheral vision to the right, I saw the mutt run away at full gallop, as Eddie breathed a huge sigh of relief, “He’s okay, he must’ve made it directly under the car, away from the tires.”
After the service and the all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet (where James kept yelling, “Uppie!” the entire time, refusing to eat a thing), we – minus Eddie – plopped on the bed back at the hotel suite, our fourth and final room, to nap. In the middle of it, I realized I was sweltering, odd considering the air conditioner—
--stopped working, spewing inside outside heat and humidity. The entire second floor sweltered.
Eddie came back later and rigged it to work, barely, which held us over until we packed up to leave for good, a few days later.
A few days later, I waited for Eddie to return from his appointment with his dad’s AG Edwards finance guy and several trips to Goodwill and the dump, so we could check out by 11 a.m. 11 a.m., he’s still not here. 11:30 a.m., I’m packing up the rest of the clothes, thinking about hospitals and calling his cousin Bev. 11:45 a.m., I’m cursing the fact that once again, I don’t have the cell phone, Eddie has it, and he’s not here yet. I’m about to go down the elevator with James, to the lobby, when the doors open and it’s Eddie, acting like it’s nothing. “You’re late, I thought you were killed in a car accident!” I’m crying, slamming doors.
“Check-out’s at noon,” he replied, looking dazed, confused, and about ready to apologize to me like his life depended on it. It did.
“It’s 11. Right here on the door.” SLAM!
“Even if it’s noon, it’s five till. You would’ve still had to pack if I didn’t do it. I just threw stuff in the suitcases. I am really mad at you right now. Really mad.”
“The appointment took two and a half hours, longer than I thought. Sorry, you’re right.”
“I don’t need this aggravation when I have to drive a car I’ve never driven before in my life across a state I’ve never driven across, with my IBS-D and my lousy driving skills, and God knows it’ll probably thunderstorm again...just because your cousin Tim decided he wanted your parents’ second car after all...”
The entire time there I lost my appetite, forcing myself to eat, because, if I didn’t, my diarrhea and stomach cramps are 10 times worse... certainly not helped by the fact that there is absolutely nothing of aesthetic and sensory value to eat in Spring Hill or Brooksville, save for Luigi’s and an Outback (you’d think old people would eat better than iceberg lettuce and gravy everything). I didn’t get off scott-free, though. The last night, we had a wonderful dinner at Vic’s, more Italian food. Afterwards, as is Bev’s daily ritual, we took a walk at a nearby pier. Halfway there, I took a dump in my shorts. I had to stand at the end of the pier and pretend to appreciate the harbor view and the sunset, when I was really clenching what was left of my sphincter to hold in more of the dump, which came out in what felt like buckets.
By the time we made it back to the restaurant restroom, I could barely get my underwear down without spilling the contents of my Depend adult diaper, or clean myself out quickly, the half-liquid stool seeped into the folds of my vagina and up my crack, too.
On the bus ride from the rental car headquarters to the airport in Orlando, I broke out in a cold sweat, again having to take a dump. This time I was able to hold it in, barely, until I made it to the airport restroom, after quickly flashing my ID to the porter.
I wish that was all, but the piece de resistance happened on the connecting flight in Atlanta. Eddie had informed me quite proudly that this flight wouldn’t require us to change planes and go to different gates, that we could just leave the plane, hang out, go to the restroom, and go back on. Only, right before landing, a stewardess informed us that we’d have to switch planes and head to a gate that would wind up being at the farthest corners of the earth.
Seething, Eddie and I got our things out and walked, walked, walked some more to the tram. It was there that I nearly lost my temper. We’d only had a half hour to switch planes, I’d almost barfed upon landing (which turned out to be a regular occurrence on all the flights), and when the tram arrived, it took forever for the stragglers to wander inside.
Each time a group of people snuck in, the doors automatically flew back open, an automated voice would ask that people stop sneaking in or the tram can’t move, and then more groups would sneak in. This went on for 15 minutes.
I witness a pair of ladies saunter in, hang out, and just as it appeared the tram would leave, after a few more people squeezed in, they sauntered back out again. I wanted to throttle them.
We had to wait as the tram stopped at three points before our final destination. We also had to navigate through all those crammed and jammed people to get out. Eddie managed to after loudly asking, “Excuse me?” over and over. Then me, with my stroller and my kid and my diaper bag and my purse, and the cracks in the floor of the tram and that stupid stroller’s wheels which had to be pushed this way and that before going straight until finally, I heard the dulcet tones of some idiot guy telling me, “quickly, quickly.”
As I pushed myself out, I screamed to him as loud as I could, “SHUT UP!” scaring my husband, a group of Up With People teens in blue t-shirts and myself.
With airport security so tight, I worried, just a bit, that the next group of people to crowd me would be officers waving badges and guns. Naw, just a co-pilot from the first plane, switching over to the second plane, along with us, the same one hassling me for going back inside to grab the stroller, who turned out to be a nice guy after I almost insulted him without meaning to (when I shared an inside joke with Eddie about winning a bet that the rest of this trip would be rife with things going wrong and the co-pilot thought I was talking to him).
Anyway, it’s done, I’m done, and I don’t know why I’m telling you guys all this except
Burying yet another loved one seemed surreal, especially with all the celeb deaths (and celeb-related pregnancies, births) going on, a record year by far. I felt sadder at my father-in-law’s passing, perhaps, as my husband so tactfully put it, out of “guilt” for our past, bitter altercations (the man did call me fat and ugly, threaten to kick my butt), perhaps, because I’d just seen him not almost four months ago, sleep- and weight-deprived but still alive, and perhaps, because I’m almost 40 and isn’t it about time I start feeling the impact by now?
I didn’t with my father, his parents and my maternal grandmother. I didn’t with a high school acquaintance and a former co-worker.
Being so far away from my PC, the handful of friends I keep in touch with and my mother in Hawaii, I felt dead myself, and very much not mourned.
At least this time, I remembered his favorite song, “Blue Bayou,” for the service. At least, that much.
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