Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No Other Place I'd Rather Be

Yesterday, I cleverly drove to work from one side of the river to the other. A few hours later, rising flood waters prevented my boss from making an almost identical, embarrassingly brief commute. Three of the five routes across the river closed in rapid succession, and the route to a fourth quickly became impassable. I calculated the best path out of town to Route 1 North and took it. When I arrived home safe and dry half an hour later, it seemed like little short of a miracle. Maybe it was pretty good guess work and extraordinary luck, I can't say; however, I felt strong enough to face the task I've avoided for a week: reading and answering condolence cards.

Siobhan's mother died when Siobhan was 19. I assure you that Siobhan, whose flawless complexion is doubtless the result of keeping a hyperactive portrait artist locked in her attic, hasn't seen the sunny side of 30 in an eye-rolling while.

Tata: We're having a monsoon. I'm going to read condolence cards. I'm going to do it.
Siobhan: I have a drawer full of them.
Tata: You what? I haven't opened mine.
Siobhan: Me neither.
Tata: Okay, just to be clear: you have a drawer full of condolence cards from your mother's death before we met?
Siobhan: Yes. I despair of ever answering them.
Tata: I...think I hear my mother calling me.

Oddly enough, it was Mom, Queen of Procrastination.

Mom: I understand I have new grandkitties and wish to see them.
Tata: Perhaps you'd like to wait until visiting Rancho Rococo no longer requires the assistance of rugged rescue personnel.
Mom: Within the week, then. What are you doing?
Tata: Contemplating answering a pile of condolence cards.
Mom: You should do that. You don't want that hanging over your head.
Tata: Did you just...did you just advise me to do something in a timely manner?
Mom: Could be.
Tata: Impostor! Put my real mother on the phone!

I sliced open the envelopes and read each card. My co-workers in the giant library system sent individual and department cards, where handfuls of thoughtful people signed at improvised angles. A few friends sent cards but most of my local friends had moved couches and stocked my refrigerator and collected my mail, so a card would been a bit much. I owe so many people for helping me concentrate on what I had to do in Virginia, and for kind words, and now, people who barely know me rush up to squeeze me and coo. My impulse is to punch them. Instead, I thank them absently and hide under my desk.

With all my staring into space and complaining, writing responses took all afternoon and some of the evening. Then I wrote condolence cards for four people I knew who'd lost a husband, a child and a father in the last month. I felt as if the fine powder Dad's death ground me to had been tossed into the wind and disappeared. This morning, I put stamps on the envelopes and mailed them.

Somehow this is certain to bring May flowers.


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