There I was, tucking my pretty pressed shirt into my skirt, sliding into my velvet blazer, layering on my favorite pearl necklaces that felt so cool against my skin. There I was, drink pressed into my left hand, ice cubes jingling, working the human connection with my right. Shaking hands, smiling, throwing down witty banner to the amusement of my companions.
All this bullshit, while my grandmother lay in a hard bed many miles away, moving toward the end of her 97 years. Simplicity at the end, the in and out of breaths that are heavy while she sleeps.
There I was, checking my reflection in the mirror, smoothing a shiny pink gloss onto my skinny little mouth. All while my aunt applied Vaseline to the lips of my grandmother- you see, they are cracked and dry because she hasn't had anything to drink in 4 days.
This week, my life will go on, but hers will not. Today, this day, I can look toward the future. I have the privilege of considering where I will be in 10 years, with my love and my children and my dreams. She does not.
I am not there. I am never there, it seems, because science takes me elsewhere. And sometimes it is too easy for family to equate distance with caring. If I lived down the block, you know, I would love them more. If I saw them every Sunday, if I shared meals and more frequent conversation. If I took an interest in the people who raised me, the people who will always love me the most. Why do I have to be so far? Why am I always somewhere else?
But next week, I'll be there to hold my father's hand. To grieve however it is that I'll need to grieve at the end. To lay my hand on the ground, to give thanks for what was, and for what is. That is what I can do.