Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tick Tock (Draft 1)

6:45pm, Tuesday, March 13

I'm in the same seat, the same row as before.

This time, I didn't pack kleenex. I don't think I'll cry.

I know the story, I'm immune, and anyway, we found parking so quickly this time, I just feel happy energy all ove the place.

When Barb talked at the Death and Dying class at FSU last November, the class started about two hours earlier, and parking at FSU was much tighter. We ran a bit late, but she was cool. Much cooler than I had been. Especially telling total strangers about such personal stories.

5:00pm, Tuesday, March 13

Zack is standing in the living room, no underwear on, crying because he has cut his knee on a yard ornament.

The doorbell rings. It's Barb.

I hoist the howling three year old under my arm, trying to keep his knee-blood and boy-dirt off my suit.

Barb isn't worried about running late. She floats into my house, a breathe of calm steadiness in a whirlwind of whining. She stands next to him and distracts him with her purring voice and silly teasing.

After his boo-boo is cleaned, she finds a ballpoint pen (a pen! in my house! miracle!) and writes smiley-faces on his band-aids.

He is hopelessly in love.

Things are calm, I can leave. I swoop down to kiss Zoe. She hugs me and murmurs "Bye Miss Barb, I sure miss you."

I pull back. "I'm your MOM not Miss Barb!"

Zoe laughs at her mistake, a little embarassed for being caught starry-eyed, and kisses me on the cheek.

Rewind Again.
Thursday, March 8, afternoon

It's the Thursday of Spring Break, and Barb picked me up to go to lunch. She drives us in the milf-mobile, which feels ridiculously high compared to my Hyundai. I clown around, pretending to be a rock-climber, checking for my safety ropes.

After sushi, we go to Wal-mart. I had just gotten a new pond, I wanted to look at yard decorations. I've never actually had the impulse to even consider yard statuary, so Barb volunteered to chaperone me.

While I was sorting through the statues of bunnies, turtles, and other silly yard-creatures, Barb stood in front of something else.

"We need to get a new one of those for the graves." I stood completely still, head cocked like a friendly dog.
She continued, "Well, things outside wear out."

They do. They do.

I didn't really want to actually buy anything, so we kept meandering.
I think she bought cat food and paper plates.

You know, Wal-Mart stuff.

Fast Forward
7:10pm, Tuesday, March 13

Before we entered the auditorium, we went to the cramped florescent-light bathroom. I'm used to rotten lighting, so I just wash my hands, smile at myself while I gloss up my lips and left the bathroom to make a call.

I waited about five minutes then returned to the bathroom on a search-and-rescue mission. Barb was standing in front of the mirror, pulling her blonde hair back, scowling at herself in the mirror.

She was beating herself up, focusing on perceived flaws.

Maybe she does that when she's scared. I don't blame her one bit.

Barb is sitting up front now, cool and calm.

Looking more gorgeous than she probably should, given the topic and situation.


The professor spent the first 35 minutes of class taking roll and answering questions.

I cannot decide if he is a saint or a fool, but given his line of work -- grief counseling -- I have to lean toward saint.

He introduces Barb in these exact words, which I know for sure, because I am sitting in the back row, writing them down.

"This is Barb C. She is here to talk about her life. It is a sad story, a tough story, a story about resiliency."

He pauses, and I see about sixty heads turn slightly toward Barb, probably nodding, smiling, checking out her gorgeous dress.

And then, before Barb can tell the story herself, he tells the class how and when Barb's children, Ryan and Rachel died.

I understand that he wants to prepare them for her story, but I resent it the tinyest bit.

It's her story.

She's earned the right to tell it.

As she starts to ask the audience questions, warms them up, builds her credibility as a speaker, my mind goes back to the reason she brought me here tonight.

It's my job to figure out what we will have for dinner.

Yes, it'll be a late dinner, since this Death and Dying class doesn't end until almost 9.
I am sure we won't leave the building until almost 10.

By that time, after telling about the accident, answering student questions, and walking a room full of strangers through the darkest days and years of her life, Barb will be elated and exhausted.

And hungry.

When it's all over, and she's through bearing her soul, we will eat.

No, we will not just eat.

We will have a mini-feast, celebrate life, enjoy being happy and healthy today, and -- I am sure -- laugh loudly together.