“No man is rich enough to buy back his past.”

(subject line: Oscar Wilde) After my last post, I put together a rockin’ library list and a solid grocery list and headed out for an afternoon of errands. On the way to my next-to-last stop, my mom called and told me my grandmother had just passed away. Dad had gone up to West Virginia right after Christmas to be with his mom and help take care of her. She had been in a nursing home for the past two years and had come down with some kind of virus she didn’t seem to be recovering from. We all knew it was coming, just not when.

So I hung up the phone and finished the drive to Tidal Creek (one of the health food stores in town), crying the whole way. Right before I pulled into the parking lot, Dad called, which made me cry harder. After I finished talking to him, I sat in my car in the parking lot and tried to calm down. Tidal Creek is a really small store, and I couldn’t go in looking like I looked, all red faced and puffy eyed. There’s really no place to duck out of sight and collect yourself if something about whole grain flour makes you choke up. So I waited. And I read. I had gotten Martin Luther King Jr’s The Trumpet of Conscience at the library, so I started that, and it was strangely calming.

Once I settled down, I went on to finish my errands in a daze, completely forgetting certain key items on my list and not really caring. I went home and cooked, peeling carrots and parsnips and cutting potatoes and popping a London broil in the oven. I ruined a pan of cornbread.

That night, I watched TV and felt numb. The funeral was set for Monday afternoon. I watched the 11:00 news and they were talking about how twenty-some cars were in accidents in the western part of the state because of icy roads. And I remembered my (perfectly reasonable) phobia of driving in wintery conditions. The funeral would be in West Virginia. It’s January. I checked the weather forecast and saw it was supposed to rain on both days we’d be driving. Rain + cold weather in the mountains = icy roads. And neither Jesse nor I have ever driven in winter in any place where winter actually meant anything.

So Saturday was spent trying to figure out whether we’d go to the funeral. I was terrified we’d end up in an accident or end up snowed in or something. I decided we wouldn’t go, and then the rest of the day I felt uneasy with that decision. I went out to get the things on my list I had forgotten the day before, and Dad called again as I was pulling up to Tidal Creek. I told him we weren’t coming, and then I hung up and cried, for the second time in two days, in the Tidal Creek parking lot. That night we went to our friend Sara’s birthday party, and around 8:00 I finally knew we had to go. I felt instantly better.

We packed that evening and made arrangements for Brandon and Kara to pick up the cats Sunday afternoon and take them to the place where we usually board them. (They’re only open from 4-6pm on Sundays.) And the next morning, we were off.

Maybe a couple hours into our drive, I noticed that the left side of my throat was swelling, quite a bit. I wasn’t feeling bad, so, because I was stressed out and still not thinking clearly and because I tend to worry about ridiculous things, my first thought was lymphoma. I couldn’t beleive it–I was finding out that I had lymphoma on my way to my grandmother’s funeral. A little while later I realized it could be mono. Isn’t this what happens when you get mono? It actually took me a while to figure out that I could just be getting sick. (In my defense, my lymph nodes have never swelled that extremely. It was already the size of a large marble–you know, the ones you use to hit the other normal-sized marbles–and it was just getting started.)

We drove straight to the viewing, stopping in Beckley to change into dressier clothes. The viewing was packed with family and friends, many of whom I didn’t recognize. We left the viewing sometime around 8:00 and went to Shoney’s with Natalie and my “Aunt” Brenda and “Uncle” Mike (good friends of my parents). I had a big plate of spaghetti, and nothing about it was actually all that good, but it was absolutely the best thing at that point. I was starving and it was warm and felt good on my throat, which was starting to hurt. A man at the table next to us offered some fudge he had made, and we ate it and talked to him a while. (Only in West Virginia–only in West Virginia could you eat fudge from a stranger in Shoney’s.)

Monday was the funeral, a gray and cold day. My grandmother’s pastor crying during the service, wiping tears off his face as he talked about “Sister Seabolt” and how much she loved her kids, how much she loved God. Walking up the hill at the cemetery, our dressy shoes slipping on the wet grass and mud. My cousins carrying the gray casket to the grave site. The casket set up next to the space where my grandfather’s body has been for nearly eighteen years. My dad and his brothers and sisters sitting in a line of chairs facing the casket. Walking back to the cars and then driving to the Maple Hill Baptist activities building, the same building we use for everything, for reunions, for my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary all those years ago. And we ate food her church had brought and we looked at pictures.

Jesse and I left and headed to Kanawha City to a brand-new urgent care facility so I could get my throat looked at. At this point, it was hurting quite a bit and was so swollen that the left side of my face was starting to swell. I had called my doctor earlier that day to see if they could call in an antibiotic for me. I described my symptoms, but I don’t think the nurse I spoke to (a nurse for another doctor) even heard me. She just said they wouldn’t call anything in and suggested I find someone where I was. So I said, “Thanks anyway,” even though I meant, “Thanks for nothing,” and I spent the evening in the walk-in clinic, where the doctor looked at my throat and promptly prescribed an antibiotic. At the pharmacy, it started to rain ice, like little chunks of salt being pelted at our windshield, and antibiotics in hand we left to drive the hour and a half to my parents’ place. The icy rain stopped and was replaced with the densest fog I’ve ever seen.

We came home yesterday. And last night I cried as I thought of my father, of what it must feel like to lose your parents, what it must be to watch them go. My grandmother’s house, which my grandfather and his brothers built, will be sold, along with the land around it, the hills where my dad played and where my cousins and I played. And I don’t want the property to be sold, but what I really want is for it to be possible to be eight years old again, to be playing with Matthew, Michael, and Katie in the creeks, swinging on the huge vines in the trees. I want to pick raspberries and blackberries and try to catch crawdads. I want to see my grandmother at the top of the stairs to her front door, smiling because we’ve come to visit. I want to play Skip-Bo and rummy with her and my parents, want to come downstairs in the morning and smell her famous biscuits and gravy, want to see my parents and my aunts and uncles sitting on the back porch laughing, all dark haired and unworried. Keeping the house won’t make any of that possible, because no matter what happens to the property, those days are gone and gone forever, and we will never be eight again, before anything bad had happened to any of us.

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