After getting off the phone with my sister Thursday morning, I had to find a way to get to Richmond and then to my family’s home (as I had reported, my car had become undrivable again after my return from Richmond the previous weekend). I immediately thought of my friend Craig, who’d loaned me his Santa Fe for almost two months this summer when he was vacationing in Europe. I had an old home phone number for him on my computer, though, and woke someone up–for which I’m very sorry, and I hope I didn’t panic her with that 5:15 a.m. call. I then called him on his cell phone, which went into voicemail, and while I was looking up his correct home number on my mobile, he called back and told me he would bring the car right over and that he wouldn’t need it before Tuesday. I started throwing clothes into a suitcase, interrupting that just long enough to let Craig in and then drive him back to his home. By 6:00 I was back home to finish packing, put lots of food and water out for Alex, and then drive Jeff home; by 7:00 I was on the road to Richmond, and arrived at the apartment about 8:45, where my mom, sister and I held each other, hugged and cried, talked on the phone with other family, and sat with two of the nurses from the Transplant Center who had become good friends of ours over the past few years, while waiting for my uncle and two cousins to get to Richmond to Covington to drive my mom’s car back (since my sister and I each had our own vehicles to drive) so that she wouldn’t have to try to drive under the circumstances.
We were at my parent’s house before noon, where we spent most of the day just in a state of shock, with a house full of Dad’s sisters and their families, and the beginning tricklings of what would become an almost unceasing flow over the next few days of family and friends, with every new arrival seeming to break Mom’s heart anew; just as she’d begin to calm, someone new would arrive to hug her and her heartrending sobs and protestations would begin anew. I try to understand intellectually the value of the visitation and funereal process in America, but I sometimes fail to grasp it, having just lived through it. It seems as though the family is kept so raw for the days up to and including the funeral; while other people come in, express their grief and leave, we were faced with theirs over and over again almost non-stop for several days, only having time to feel our own during the almost non-existent moments between visits and at night.
Food had started arriving even before we got home Friday morning, especially lots and lots of fried chicken and desserts (beginning with a box of more than 50 pieces of chicken brought by the family’s minister). I discovered that under these strange circumstances I, the thinnest member of my family–who at my own home never eats breakfast, sometimes skips lunch, and often doesn’t eat dinner until late, and have even been known to forget to eat–started eating almost non-stop; while my sister, who is overweight, threw up every time she tried to eat anything; and my mother just wouldn’t eat at all.
My sister slept on the floor of my parents’ room that night. I slept in my parents’ former bedroom in the old part of the house. The word “slept,” though, is not altogether accurate. I was up most of the night with acid reflux, while my sister and mother report that they slept only fitfully as well, and were up and around by 5 a.m. Friday.