Friday, March 09, 2007

My Fear Around Me Like A Blanket

Atticus is the new cat in the house. He stays mostly in Dad's office when he is not eating or wandering around outside. Earlier today, Atticus decided the power cord on my laptop looked especially delicious and I realized suddenly: the people of the four resident cats are busy with the drama of life and death; these cats are bored, lonely and confused by the presence of an allergic family. Even people who sneeze can twirl string, and if the cats are happier, Darla will be happier, and if Darla is happier, Dad will be happier. So we're going to play with these cats if it costs us a whole county's ration of Zyrtec.

I bet you're wondering how I came to be here.

On Monday, I got home from work and spent an hour arguing with a trucking company about the sofa I ordered. The trucking company said it was good news/bad news regarding my sofa. The good news was my couch was coming on Wednesday. Believe it or not, the bad news was they'd bring the sofa to the foyer of my building but not the additional 25 feet to my living room. I told them they should be ashamed of themselves. There were many phone calls back and forth and someplace, during a moment I wasn't cursing someone's ancestors, Daria called and told me Dad had been sent home from the hospital to die and we were going to Virginia, all of us. I burst into tears and told her I should go with someone who'd gone before, since I didn't know my way around Staunton and Swoope, Virginia. After a flurry of phone calls, it was decided I'd leave Monday night with Auntie InExcelsisDeo and my cousin Sandy. We'd drive down to Sandy's sister Monday's house and leave the next morning for the Shenandoah Valley. Once that was decided, there were a lot more calls to make. My dentist and orthodontist would notice my absence, for instance. The family store would look a little empty without me. And my job. I think they'd notice if I didn't turn up Tuesday morning to do my daily half hour of scathing pre-coffee stand up comedy. What about the damn couch?

Siobhan promised to take care of the whole sofa delivery thing for me. Monday afternoon, she sat on my filthy living room couch and issued directives while I walked around in circles, sobbing and bumping into things. This is called "packing".

Siobhan: You're laying out your clothes, right?
Tata: Waaaaaaaaaaah!
Siobhan: Bras. Take some bras.
Tata: Waaaaaaaaaah! Check!
Siobhan: Socks?
Tata: Waaaaaaaaaaaaah! Yup.
Siobhan: Sweaters? Sweat shirts? T-shirts?
Tata: Sniff! Sniff! Got 'em.
Siobhan: Pants to sleep in. Pants to look like a normal person in. Pants for the feed store.
Tata: Waaaaaaaaaaaah! If you say so.
Siobhan: Products? Because even though they have drug stores out there, you like to smell like you.
Tata: It reassures me. I don't have to keep checking my underwear labels to see who I am.
Siobhan: That may prove important. Especially since I know you didn't pack any.

Siobhan drove me down to Auntie's house, where Sandy poured me three fingers of gin because my job in the car was to sit in the back seat and NOT throw up. We drove like Jehu to Monday's house in Somewherethehell, Maryland. Sandy poured me some more gin because my job was to go to sleep, in which effort I was briefly successful. When I woke up at 3:30, I was freezing in a strange bedroom filled with wedding pictures. It gave me the heebie jeebies. We set out for the valley by 9:30: four of us in a Honda hybrid with indefinite travel plans and wide-eyes terror. The night before, a block away from Monday's house, Sandy saw an upended vehicle next to the car and said, "Mom, is that real?" Auntie said, "That's real. Those people are going to help them and we are leaving." Tuesday morning, as we drove to Virginia, I was so frightened I could barely speak in between episodes where I couldn't shut up. But reality is seldom what I think it is, and when we arrived at Dad's and Darla's house, we found Dad looking and sounding - and we were deeply shocked - like Dad: witty, charming, abrasive, foul-mouthed. How could he be so sick that all bets were off? A few hours later, Daria and Tyler arrived, then Miss and Mr. Sasha. We each spent a little time alone with him until he was tired and needed sleep. My sister Dara is fifteen, and kind of numb. Her mother took Dara out of school temporarily, but it's hard to know how to help Dara. I'm not sure I know how to help myself.

Wednesday, Siobhan told me my brother-in-law Dan was sitting in my apartment, with his two small children, waiting for that sofa. It was snowing in New Jersey. By that time, I couldn't have cared less if Dan had given that sofa a Raritan River Viking funeral. Thursday, Sharkey, Dom and Siobhan dragged the old sofa to the dumpster. The new sofa, described by Dan as "bordello red" and by Sharkey and Dom as "fire, walk with me red" waits for me in my empty apartment. I don't know when I'll see it, but I'm grateful it's there.

My brother will arrive here at Dad's and Darla's soon. We've taken to buying huge bottles of wine and leaving them outside in the shade because otherwise there'd be no room in the fridge for more than a few eggs. The other night, we made a toast, all of us, including Dad: to us, to life, to love!


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