We arrived here after nearly ten hours of driving yesterday. Sweet Baboo is so funny; I'd downloaded and burned a 12-CD audio book, a mystery/thriller from Audible.com to give him/us something to listen to during the fifteen hours of driving, but he also downed something like six energy drinks to stay awake (I-40 between Albuquerque and Arkansas is ANYTHING but stimulating). Then he was buzzing around our hotel room until after midnight saying, with wonder, "I'm just so wide awake!"
A quick phone call to my sister, to let her know that I was okay and more than halfway to Alabama. During the phone call she asked me, haltingly, if I would help her. Clean up. The scene. Haltingly, because part of the legacy of our father is our paralyzing inability to ask for help.
She's asked me yesterday morning, "Who takes care of things after they take the body away?"
"What do you mean," I said, puzzled.
"Who cleans up afterward?"
Ah, I see. My sister, nine years older than I, doesn't read mystery or true crime, and doesn't watch CSI.
"The survivors. Us. Or we hire someone."
She sighed, weary. "I haven't been back in that room."
She's been busy with all the arrangements, signing forms and papers, waiting for me to arrive because my signature is required for final arrangements. I remind her that she has power of attorney, and she asks, "does that matter?" I think so, I told her. I don't know Alabama law but I think it simplifies things a little. Once again I'm angry at my Dad for burdening her with all this.
I volunteered for clean up duty because don't get queasy at stuff like that. I shut the emotion and the associaton with someone's life off and get busy. When our mother was dying eight years ago, I slept on the floor next to her bed. My Dad slept on the other side, because as her heart was failing my mother, confused, would try to get up in the middle of the night to wonder, and her heart was so weak that if she stood up, the blood would drain from her head too fast and she would pass out. We didn't have the heart to put restraints on her, so as gently as we could, we'd put our arms around her to keep her from from standing. I slept on the floor so that if she tried to get out of bed, her feet would land on my back and I'd know that she was up.
So, I would sit on the floor next to her bed, alternatively sleeping and tapping away on a laptop, sending sending assignments back home to my professors at night through a 14.4 baud modem, dealing with three kids ages 7, 10, and 12; working alongside my father, who was nearly incapacitated with grief, and daily visits from the hospice volunteer. At the end of the week, she died, and I helped with final arrangements. The grief was overwhelming. It was like doing 20 mile long runs every single day for a week. I was exhausted and headachey. I didn't have an outlet then, but I do now. I also didn't have Sweet Baboo then, either, but I do now.
I told BariLynn that I would take care of cleaning up "the scene." I won't be revisited by having seen my father's body in it, like she would. I can shut off the emotional junk temporarily to get the job done, but I pay a price. Headaches, loss of appetite, and sudden, unexplained muscle spasms.
While I was in college, I had battery of psychological tests, mainly because they were free and I wanted to understand myself better. I was told at that time, that if I don't find an outlet for my stress I'll tend to 'somatosize,' meaning that the emotion will express itself through physical symptoms. This is good information for anyone to have.
In the past I would have picked up some pre-mixed margaritas to deal with all this, but I know that's not healthy. I've also had visitors for the holidays, so I haven't gotten any of the emotional junk out yet since Bari called me Saturday morning. I haven't run yet, either. Now all that emotion is locked up inside me. It's like I'm emotionally constipated.
The muscle spasm in my back started Monday evening. Later this morning I'll go for a run. I'll do some strides and get some of this emotional junk out.
Sweet Baboo wants to do a quick ride. He is doing his first brevet on Sunday in Dallas. He asked the hotel clerk if there were good places to ride, and the clerk warned him, sweetly. "Are you from Arkansas?"
"No," he replied.
"Arkansas drivers are really bad. Be careful"
We've never been warned overtly like that, by a stranger. Does 'bad' mean overtly aggressive, or just careless? He will be careful, He's worked out a riding route for Ft. Smith.
I'll just run for about a half hour then turn around. I'll have to guess about a half hour, (since I left my watch at home) and hum to myself along the way (since I left my player at home). I'll change my plans to running after sunrise.
Then we'll shower, hit the road, and head for Birmingham, where I'll run some more. I've never been so ready for a run in my life.
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