And as she drove down his driveway, he was the last member of our family to see her alive.
It's been ten years. Ten years ago this evening, Daddy was calling my brother to see what time she'd left, because she wasn't home yet. Ten years ago tomorrow, we learned of her untimely car accident. Ten years ago tomorrow, we started our grieving process. We booked travel to Florida for a body-less funeral. We ate ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever would comfort us while we waited for our flights. We wrapped things up at work, if there was work to wrap up. We cried. A lot.
Over the course of the last ten years, we booked travel to Florida for holidays and birthdays and whatever days. We ate ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever we felt like eating. We worked, if there was work to be done. We attended weddings or we got married. We had babies. We went to more funerals. We cried. A lot. We laughed a lot, too.
Four Years Ago
Stephen learned that his Dad had been stricken with four aggressive cancers. I finished a summer-long Scripty gig, and then it seemed that everything in my industry was done with me. I had unemployment benefits that were less and less each year, and with Stephen's level of job satisfaction also declining, we made a joint decision to move to North Carolina, close to his Dad, so we could nurse the man back to full health, Stephen could learn a new industry (handiwork) from him, and I could see what the film industry looked like in a right-to-work state.
Four years ago tomorrow, Stephen and I left North Hollywood in my Honda Civic, with two kitties on leashes, and everything we owned either packed in a shipping container, making its way across the country on a truck or train, or packed in the Civic with us, or given away to friends or left on the curb of North Hollywood. We were moving "forever". We weren't rushed. We planned to leave four years ago tomorrow rather than four years ago today, because I wasn't going to be driving on the Sadiversary of Mommy's traffic death.
It took us six days to drive across the country with the cats. After one night in a "pet-friendly" hotel that cost us more financially and emotionally and in terms of time (trying to get both cats out of the crawl space UNDER the head of the bed), we opted to leave the furbabies in the car each night, taking turns to visit them in the wee small hours to make sure they were okay. They were more than okay; they were fabulous. They had food & water which they barely consumed; they had a litter box which they barely used; they had the run of the car AT NIGHT when they were wired. Had any stranger tried to fuck with the car, he'da gotten his ass kicked by our little fireballs.
Roughly halfway through the trip, we drove up to the Grand Canyon. No, it wasn't technically "on our way", but when your country has something that spectacular just a touch "out of the way" and you've never seen it (Stephen hadn't), then you stop. I spent some time with the babies while Stephen talked to his Dad on the phone. That was the last time they heard each other's voices.
Four years ago, five days hence, Stephen's Dad lost his battle with chemotherapy. No, the cancer didn't kill him, although #CancerSucks. #ChemoSucks too. It was the chemo that killed him. Four years ago, five days hence, I did all the driving. We arrived at my brother's house that evening. His wife was prepared for our arrival, and for our emotional state, and she had cooked a lovely meal for us. We were both pretty much wiped out that day. So we ate comfort food, and we cried a lot.
Four years ago, six days hence, we arrived at Stephen's stepmom's house. PEOPLE arrived at her house. FAMILY arrived at her house. Her Friends arrived at her house. We ate comfort food. We helped make arrangements. We ate comfort food. We got the keys to our new apartment and settled the furbabies in, without us or any of our stuff (we had all of their toys, of course). We ate comfort food, and we cried a lot. We laughed a little, but mostly, we went numb.
Over the course of the last four years, we booked travel to Florida for holidays and birthdays and whatever days. We ate ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever we felt like eating. We worked, if there was work to be done. We attended weddings or we got married. We had babies. We went to more funerals. We cried. A lot. We laughed a lot, too.
We're back in North Hollywood, California. When we returned from our failed "North Carolina Forever" experiment, I got to work as a Script Supervisor for a phenomenal short film called Fragile Storm. It made its way through the film festival circuit, and it's being released online for all the world to see on November 6th. It is absolutely scary and lovely and heartwrenching, and I'm so #Blessed and #Grateful to have been able to participate in its creation. Whatever it takes for you to see it, please take those steps.
Stephen found employment at a Pet Feed and Supply house with a bit of Hollywood history. During his employment there, he has learned more than you could ever hope to know about dogs, cats, hamsters, and probably birds. He loves sharing that knowledge with his customers, and he's very good at his job. He was even recently promoted, and it would appear that the company is grooming him for a steady climb up that particular "corporate" ladder. So he takes good care of our babies, and everybody else's, too.
My employment has been pretty steady, and my unemployment benefits "bank" is back in a reasonable range as well. My last Scripty gig was another one for the record books, and in just a few days, there will be a Big Announcement regarding that show and plans for the future. I'm pretty happy with all of that.
We have a pretty sweet apartment, and the furbabies seem to like it. They do seem to fight a bit more than they used to, over the catnip toys more often than not, and they've both shown us a concerning (for us) wound here or there. Nothing SuperPetMan Stephen can't resolve.
But also lately, Stephen's Mom has been exhibiting signs of dementia. We can't move across the country again, so he and his brother made arrangements to move her to Idaho, where the brother lives with his wife and sons. Her condition improved in her assisted-living facility so close to her grandbabies. Everything was peaches and cream.
Except that she's gotten worse. She's gotten belligerent with the staff. She's gotten paranoid. She's lonely and afraid, and so she stays in her room all day, not socializing with people who want to be her friend. And she forgets things, and people, and events (like whether or not she has eaten lunch). So she has to be "upgraded" to a memory care facility. We don't know what that really means, in either the short or the long term.
Over the course of the next however-many years, we will book travel to Idaho for holidays or birthdays or whatever days. We'll eat ice cream or mashed potatoes or whatever we feel like eating. We'll work, if there's work to be done. We'll attend weddings. We'll go to more funerals. We'll cry. A lot. But we'll laugh a lot, too.