Last weekend was odd.
We were in my husband’s hometown to attend a funeral. His aunt, a woman in whose company one could not help but feel loved and important, a woman with a simple and staunch faith and a glint of mischief in her eye, a woman I liked instantly, passed away from a heart attack.
While we were still driving out, his parents were attending her internment in 32-degree heat. His father got dizzy and fell. His sister had experienced dizziness shortly before her heart attack. His other siblings insisted that he go to the emergency room, where he ended up waiting for over 8 hours.
When I married, I got a fairy godmother. My husband’s parents have a successful business, and his mom happens to be one of the most thoughtful and generous people I’ve met. And not just with money – last year she gave a kidney to a stranger. No joke. Anyway, she booked us all in the best place in town for the weekend so we could get some family vacation time since we were all together for the funeral anyway. This is not really relevant to the story except I just wanted to say a girl who grew up eating 99-cent whoppers and day-old prison food could do worse than check into a 5-star resort and be told, “there is a note on your reservation that all charges will be taken care of.”
Once we got settled and said hello to my sister-in-law and her toddler, my husband went to the emergency room to wait with his parents to get the heart x-ray results.
I stayed at the hotel to nurse an astronomical headache, a fit of exhaustion and some truly heinous endometriosis cramps. (I had spent much of the 4 ½ hour drive out there laying as flat as possible with a hoodie over my head to block out the light.)
The sweet girl who brought me room service seemed perplexed that I was sitting alone in my fancy room on a Friday night without the man I checked in with.
She asked how my evening was going.
I said it was about to get better.
She was visibly relieved and said, “Oh good! Are you going out?”
I looked at her dumbly and said, “No, I am going to eat this.”
I saw her face quickly recalibrate as she realized we were dealing with two very different thresholds of “better.” She regrouped and enthusiastically told me that this was practically her favorite thing on the menu. “A” for effort, anyway.
Incidentally, it did make it better.
They didn’t find anything wrong with my father-in-law, although he’s still limping, which has us all a little concerned. The funeral was simple and sweet. And despite the fact that I barely knew this woman, I cried a fair bit. Partly remembering my dad’s funeral. Partly PMS. Partly seeing how much this woman meant to her children and grandchildren. Wondering if I would ever have that chance. Wondering, as more people in our lives become immersed in their own family units, pushing us “extras” to the periphery, if anybody would ever miss us that much. Morbid thoughts, but they’re part of this whole thing, aren’t they?
I felt a little better the next day. We taught my new brother-in-law how to play Rook (a Mennonite must), and we all took our just-turned-2-year-old niece out on a speed boat for the first time. She even got into the inner tube in between mommy and daddy, and despite how carefully my husband was driving, they capsized and briefly went under water. I panicked for a second – she’s been in swimming lessons since birth and they were all wearing life jackets – but it was still a little terrifying. My father-in-law had been adamantly opposed to any of us going out in a boat, citing the many dangers of it over and over. He himself refused to come. I was beginning to wonder if we’d all proved him right. Fortunately, she bounced right back above the water unfazed. We all quickly made a pact to not mention it to grandpa. For her part, my niece covered for us nicely, repeating at various intervals throughout the remainder of the day, “Boat. Nice.” Think we might have a bit of an adrenaline junkie on our hands. Poor grandpa.
We came home to our empty apartment, and my husband mentioned that there was something life-giving about having people around you all the time, and he wished we had more of it. I told him that’s why people have kids. He said, “Oh yeah. We should do that.”