We walked into my parents' house this afternoon. They have been in this house for just over a year. In that time, my mother was in the master bedroom on a hospital bed with a ventilator, various machines, and a home hospice nurse, all the time.
No one was here when we showed up. Dad and my brother Joe had gone to the funeral home to work out some things, and to pick up altered suits. My sisters were out getting haircuts and shopping for clothes for the week.
There was no nurse, of course. No sounds from medical machinery in the master bedroom. No television was on anywhere. It was so quiet, and this house feels positively cavernous even when there are people here.
I went into the bedroom. The empty frame of the hospital bed, the cart of half-used medical supplies were there, are there. I had not really looked around this room in a year; there is a tall metal rack with stacked supplies, like wipes and towels, hospital gowns, unused cans of the food Mom could take through a feeding tube. The room was dark - no light on, as there usually would be, and the television which always had Mom's favorite movies and baseball games playing, was finally off.
Oddly, the thing that made me cry - Mom's golf hat, the one she always wore when out at the ballpark or at outdoor family events. It's a white, wide-brimmed hat with a colorful band. It was on a shelf in the closet, the only piece of clothing that really stood out (her weight changed so much over the last few years, most of her clothes seem foreign, unreal).
The silence kind of got to me, too. This house is never quiet. Dad and Joe got back from their expedition only a few minutes after this - the quiet, thankfully, was shattered. We made a black wreath for the front door and picked out songs for Mom's "montage" DVD and watched baseball and talked logistics, and we had supper and we talked about what Mom would say or do or how she's reacting to all of us now. Laughing, is my bet. We have been laughing and telling jokes that Mom would laugh at, and it has been the kind of day where your emotions just don't stay in one place.
Despite the good, soul-cleansing nature of a regular family row (oh, that's just inevitable) and the settling into our "routine" as if we never spent a day apart, it all comes crashing back down as the wee hours approach. The reality of the next few days, the mechanics of a wake and a funeral and the onslaught of mourners, well-wishers, is overwhelming. What do I need? Everyone asks. To stop being asked, really. To do this our way, as prickly and practical and seemingly crazy as we always are, and to leave it at that.