It is all over and I am tired. Dead tired – though given the circumstances I feel funny using that word – dead.
The airport limo zips down the NJ Turnpike taking me to my flight – my long trip back home, back to my family, back to myself. The beginning of the end of a very long journey. And I am suddenly so very tired.
I click off my phone and look out the window at the wheat-colored meadowlands, the rusted red and blue containers of the Port of Newark, the dirty gray concrete of this Northern slice of the Garden State I used to call home. My body slides down in the dark leather of this, the back seat of some stranger’s car, my coat rising up around me like a comforting cocoon. I feel as if I could sleep forever.
We have just buried my mother, our mother, us three. Us three who jumped on a fast moving train bound for disaster three years ago, never looking back – though, Hell we would have loved to have looked back. Back at our lives, our loves, the simplicity of it all as we kissed it good-bye.
I suppose that is what adult children do these days when they see their parents careening toward the edge of life as if they were not seventy-five and dying or eighty and arthritic. They step up to the tracks, these grown children, set down the luggage of their own lives and stick their hand out as their parents life-train comes into view. Then they grab it and hold on as the engine whips by yanking them into a new life of emergency phone calls, hospital visits, interminable waits in doctor’s offices, fights about driving and discussions of moving – out of house, then out of apartment, then out of life itself.
And now three years later, after the diagnosis, the debates, the near disasters, the giving-in, the dying and the death we have been spit out on the other side. The train not gone forever - because there is still Dad to care for, worry over - but perhaps slowed down a bit. Perhaps, if we are lucky, on a side track for a bit. You hope.
And you look back and think, “we did this all?!” The intervention. The move. The packing and unpacking. The selection of home, home furnishings, caregivers and doctors. The holding of shriveling hands and aging hearts. The flights back and forth - one, two, eight, ten. The work days, kids’ hockey games, holidays missed. The miles logged – whether across airwaves or up and down highways. The worrying and wondering – when will she die? How can she suffer so? Why? The pronouncements – and retractions: “Hospice thinks she will go soon.” “She isn’t getting up lately.” “She can’t get out.”
And you realize yes you did it. And you are so tired.