You may already know this, depending on how much you can see from where you are, but last week the traveling husband and I took Nine, Eleven, and OtisNO* to Palm Springs for a few days.
I figured a change of scenery would be good for me, and it was. But everywhere I looked, I saw you.
How could I not? You and Dad used to go to Palm Springs all the time. Lying on a raft in the pool was your thing. Getting brown and wearing flip-flops was where it was at. Palm Springs was where you got your Hawaii fix, when we couldn’t go to Hawaii. Plus, since your initials were P.S., and Palm Springs is also P.S., you were always kind of synonymous with the place.
And I don’t know if this is just coincidence, or what, but did you know that Frank Sinatra, the man who recorded the theme song for your entire life (“I Did It My Way”) had a house in Palm Springs? Ever since I can remember, that song was all about you. And to prove it, your license plates read “PSMYWAY” for as long as I can remember.
“PSMYWAY” was you, and Palm Springs, and Frank Sinatra.
It was clearly NOT a joke about the fact that you never knew which way to go when you were driving.
Right? Because we were never “lost.” We were “on an adventure.”
Now you’re gone, but you aren’t lost. You’re just on another adventure. And in true form, you left for your adventure your way.
We moved you to hospice on a Thursday. It was a rough transition for you – for all of us – but our plan was to get you comfortable, and get you home.
When I called on Friday, I was told that you were dying. It wouldn’t be long. A couple days, maybe. You don’t expect to hear that news while you’re sitting at the car dealership waiting for your oil change to be done, you know?
But I totally kept it together, Mom. I swallowed repeatedly and blinked tears away, paid my bill (no idea what it cost or what the service manager said to me), and climbed into the car. I do remember being kind of amazed that I could put one foot in front of the other. Then I pulled out of the driveway, drove across the street, stopped in a small parking lot, and promptly lost my shit.
I called the husband hysterical, terrified and rambling:
Well, he may not have been able to get a word in edgewise, but he knew what to do. He booked me on the next flight out to see your pretty face. (You always did like him.)
I came straight to you. I brought a small bag of clothes and a big bag of Excedrin, because the nurse I spoke to said you might not see Monday. (Ouch, right? The blows were coming hard and fast. Hence the Excedrin.)
The weekend flew by.
Then, Monday came and went.
So I went to Target, which I’m sure you know we could see from your hospice window (thank you Jesus/Mom/Karma), and I bought some more comfy clothes to hang out in. I wore the same flannel pajamas every night. I think you would have liked them. I’m wearing them as I type, too. Now I call them My Hospice Pajamas, so they make me sad, but I wear them anyway, because they remind me of you.
Tuesday came and went.
I watched a lot of TV. I held your hand almost nonstop, day and night. I was the only one who could get your wedding ring off. We listened to the Peaceful Christmas compilation on Pandora, because the Country Christmas mix got a little twangy for us. We bought you a thick, soft blanket, which I think you liked the feel of, and we put Christmas lights around the foot of your bed, along with some sparkly garland. And we hung one ornament from it. An owl. I wish I knew when your love for owls started.
Oh, and you probably know this too, but owls are freaking everywhere now. I don’t know if it’s a sign or a trend, but I’m trying very, very hard not to buy everything I see with an owl on it, or soon I will be that crazy old lady with all the owls. No offense.
Wednesday came, and with it came one of my favorite nurses. She walked in and Mom, I shit you not, she said “Well, she’s still here. She’s doing it her way, isn’t she?”
I just stared at her. It was like one of those movie scenes where it’s like twelve minutes until the end of the movie and something finally goes DING in the movie star’s head, and everything pivotal that happened in the previous hour and thirty-three minutes replays itself, and she understands that all those moments were actually missed clues along the way, and then it zooms back to her face, and she realizes her journey is complete.
Except for at that moment, I was the movie star, and my movie took me zooming back to being a kid in the back of the “PSMYWAY” mobile. I saw your tanned, pedicured feet in flip-flops by a pool. I watched you singing along to “I Did It My Way” as you smiled at Dad. And then it zoomed back to my puffy, exhausted, grateful face. And I said with a sad smile, You have no idea.
We had some flip-flops-by-the-pool time last week in Palm Springs. We had some good meals and good times. And I don't know why, but all three nights we spent there I found myself awake at 3:38am. Why I woke up at the same time each morning is anybody's guess, but each time I spent a good hour thinking about you and trying to figure it out.
Then I came home and promptly got the flu. But don’t worry, I’m better now. And I’m out of Frank Sinatra land and back to real life. I have to go to Costco tomorrow because Nine and Eleven lost their goggles, and we are out of paper towels and freezer bags.
I wonder if they have a gigantic pack of owls there. I’ll look.
I miss you, Mom.
P.S. I love you.
*Note to the reader: The 160-pound puppy’s name is Otis. But when we first brought him home, it sounded like his name was OtisNO, because he was constantly either eating something inappropriate or peeing on it (or both). My Mom was in town for a visit and for her, the nickname stuck. So now you know. And in case you were wondering, OtisNO loved Palm Springs. He did not lose his goggles.