It was probably in the second month when we were in my clunky, blue car. I can’t remember where we were headed, but I was driving. Dylan was in the passenger seat and Mom sat in the back, folding her hunched shoulders over her knees. Her black rain coat covered her shrinking body and each time she sighed, the Gore-Tex material would crinkle along with her.
Waiting at the stop light at the intersection I glanced over my shoulder to look at her.
No tears in this moment, at least not yet.
“Claudia called today,” she mumbled.
“Oh yeah?” I responded, “What did she say?”
“Nothing much. There’s nothing to talk about with people. They keep asking me how it’s going and I just want to scream, ‘life sucks’. Nothing to talk about. Nothing to see.”
Her words were quick and full of bitterness. My muscles clenched.
“I get that,” I murmured.
The light turned green and we kept on going. Driving ourselves further into the muck of grief.
It gets worse before it gets better. And in our case, it got much, much worse.
Another three months later and she had a breakdown. In the king-sized bed with the plaid-checked comforter, where he used to lay next to her on vacation. Her tears would not stop. We brought in aunts and uncles and caring cousins and tried, half-heartedly to create a care plan.
Holistic practitioners scrawled solutions on pads of paper. Remedies of rest, tinctures and hemp oils to soothe a grieving heart. Nothing seemed to be working.
Brought in more medication. The western doctor said it best when he asked, “What helps the most?” and her answer, “red wine” got not a rebuff, but permission.
“Then drink a bit more of it” he said, “Right when you wake up.”
We hired a care-taker and continued to drive her around, always in the back seat, always in the rain coat. We’d stroke her hands and play soothing songs, tensing our aching hearts toward her when the songs prompted more tears, not less.
Sat in the dark. For months.
Watched the tears roll over and over down her cheeks. The drips of emotion puddling in worn jeans and wrinkles on her hands all the way down to her painted toes.
She knew she had to start moving those appendages. They were getting stiff.
Two and a half years passed.
Some involving actual babies – a job at a daycare, a trip to Italy. Lots of therapy with said therapist.
Her black rain coat hangs in the closet now, above his hiking boots. It’s ready for the next storm, but no longer needed as a daily accessory.
She’s cooking again – real meals that taste good. Not just spaghetti with mush of tomatoes or toast with butter. This time there’s lobster tails, and pasta with cream, and crunchy salads full of life.
Last night, we sat on the deck after dinner, and she relaxed back in her chair. Bending her torso back over the supportive seat, she ran her newly graying hair through her hands. She took a deep inhale – this one full of joy.
“Isn’t life grand?” she murmured.
The sauvignon blanc in her glass goblet glittered in the light, matching the twinkle in her eye. The one that returned.
I wasn’t sure she would say such things again.
That life is grand.
Even without you.
That we are making it, and she is smiling, and we are no longer driving her around as she sits, waiting for something or someone, to move her out of the backseat.