Mom’s memorial is this weekend so tomorrow we leave for Miami: my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, the two cats, and me, packed into two cars for a five or six hour drive across Florida. I’m finally all packed up and am sitting here in the hotel room where I have been staying (with the cats) for the last week and a half, drinking overly sweet hot chocolate and thinking I should really get to bed because t’s an early start tomorrow.
It’s been its own bittersweet respite, this hotel room by a freeway, next to a storage unit space and across from a Best Buy and a Starbucks. I checked in about three hours after I started down grief’s road and spent the whole first day crying on the king-sized bed (for which I was absurdly grateful after two months of sleeping on couches) and coaxing the cats out from behind it. Since then there’s been so much work to do—wrapping things up with hospice, cleaning out the apartment, going to Goodwill, making travel plans, and generally finishing up as much of the business side of death as possible—that I have actively looked forward to the evenings of just sitting here where no one can get me, doing online yoga and watching movies and reading the internet and going to bed early. I have missed privacy, a door I could close and lock.
It’s so hard to concentrate or to remember why I’m here or what I’ve been doing. There is a part of me that thinks it would be all right to just sort of stay here, camping out in this room with my kettle, not having to fold up the bed every morning, running over to my sister’s to do my washing, cooing “Hello good kitties!” when I come back from wherever I’ve been. It’s not so bad. I don’t have to think much.
But it’s almost over now, this pause on the side of the road: we leave tomorrow. We have to, because there is no way we would hold any sort of farewell for my mom anywhere other than the island. I have been telling the cats all day that they are finally going home, that we’re going to find them a new place that they will like much better than this room. I have worried about them these last couple of days as though they were children, fretting about how they will handle the drive—as if I don’t know the answer to that question is ‘by screaming and clawing the entire time–and giving them extra ear scratches and buying them extra treats. In my regular life I have never wanted cats of my own because I know I can’t commit to caring for them, but now I find it impossible to think that tomorrow night we won’t all three go to bed together and that I will have lost yet another connection with her.
Even more impossible is to consider what happens after we get there tomorrow evening. I have never been to a funeral and haven’t the faintest clue of how to behave. A good friend of mine told me the other night on the phone that I just have to remember it’s not for me or about me, which is true enough, but if that’s the case, do I really have to go? Do I really have to be someone who is attending her mother’s memorial? Will I look around for her, wondering why she isn’t there, where she’s gone off to? I didn’t ever really know her in this city–I chose to leave her–so it makes sense that I’m not seeing her around here, but how can I go home to the island and not be with her?
I’m just so tired. Everything is so absurd. It’s time to get into bed—the cats are already there, waiting for me.