A year and a half ago I made the trek back to my home town, to fulfill a promise I made to my baby brother. Shortly before he died, he asked that his ashes be put into our father’s grave.
The cremation itself was quite an accomplishment, as he had never cared for the idea. I found out during that discussion that he was afraid that he could possible be burnt alive, due to someone’s mistake, or incompetence.
Having worked in healthcare for years, most specifically with hospice patients, I was pretty sure that this had never happened ever in the history of all time. ( Please don’t show me any stats and prove me wrong!)
Once I reassured him that he needn’t fear, he was totally on board with cremation so that he could go in with Dad. He liked that idea and I thought it was nice as well, being as our Mom insisted on being scattered here and there and I STILL have a portion of her in a lovely, discreet box in my living room, awaiting the mutual availability of my sons to go do it with me. ( Truthfully, none of us have the heart for it and have every excuse not to.)
While I was back home, the day following my brother’s memorial service, I took my man , my stepdaughter and her boyfriend out to the lake my family had a cabin at for my entire childhood. We spent all our summers there, swimming, boating, playing in the sand, & endless hours at the dinky playground with only three stupid rusted out playground items to play on.
I will be honest. I was pretty tired and hung-over on this day. The memorial had gone well and we had been hosted following the service, in our friends’ beautiful yard – flowers, sunshine, music and plenty of bevvies. Relieved that I had actually made it through my eulogy without a breakdown, I was ready for a drink..or ten.
So, the next day, we are at the lake. We spent some time in the water, we walked the old board walk. I was a regular Anthony Bourdain, telling stories, sharing history of the lake, the cabins, the geography.
Everything was fine until we walked through the shady coolness of the trees and I was at the playground, without knowing it. Someone made a joke about the disrepair of the equipment and how nowadays, helicopter parents would be apt to sue if their precious snowflakes got cut on a jagged edge or rusty handle.
One moment I was laughing; the next I was frozen.
I was back there in the 70’s with them all. With the eyes and ears and heart of the daughter and sister I was. I am neither of those things now..nobody’s daughter, nobody’s sister.
My “new” family had walked on ahead, chatting, laughing, not noticing I was standing still.
That is where I finally broke.
After years of watching my brother dying- of watching him in pain and regret and wasting away.
Seeing that stupid fucking rusted out merry-go-round sitting still in the shade and quiet sent me over the deep end.
For one soul-shattering moment in time, I went back. I could SEE my parents sitting on the porch of the cabin. Enjoying the shade and a cocktail together.
I could HEAR the sounds of the music coming out of the radios of the cars the teenagers cruised around in.
I could SEE my brother’s silky blonde hair wafting in the breeze of the merry-go-round. I could SMELL his wet puppy smell that all young active boys carry with them. I saw his dancing eyes and his whole life in front of him and how it all ended up and it broke my heart absolutely.
I can say honestly that I felt a piece of my very heart tear itself loose and drop there on the ground,dead. Forever to be hidden under the sand and leaves and snow in the winter.
It happened in the time it would take to count to ten and then it was gone.
And all because of a stupid rusted out merry-go-round.