Posted by Debra Solomon Baker on March 17, 2013
We’ve got it all figured out. I’ll sport my green sweater dress with my black tights or maybe my grey tights with the little sparkles, the ones that I picked up at Target last month when I was in a little need-some-bling mood, and my high black boots, yes, definitely the high black boots with the zipper. Maybe I should even wear a padded bra for the occasion. Sexy woman.
Sarah is standing here in my bedroom, so happy to have her mom finally home, and she’s decided that I’ll also need my red sunglasses, the giant red sunglasses that I bought off the guy on the 7th Avenue street corner this summer, the guy peddling sunglasses and scarves and some (maybe) stolen watches, the guy who called me Beautiful Angel.
Yeah, Sarah bounces around in my bedroom on this Monday night, imagining me in those sunglasses, announcing, Mom, we’ll also need to get your hair cut. And I picture her hauling my dead ass over to Great Clips, flashing a three-dollars-off coupon that her dad has saved from the back of a Schnuck’s receipt. I pray they don’t forget that special Fructis goop that flattens out my frizz.
We giggle. Like crazy.
And maybe it’s insane to giggle about my own death with my children, to laugh with them about my ultimate demise. Maybe those parenting books that stare at me, glued shut, from that spinning bookshelf in our living room, are sighing and frowning and judging, shrugging their shoulders with their I-tried-to-tell-her-so wisdom. Maybe some giant lightning bolt will come strike me dead next year or next week or even tomorrow, and my children will be forever wounded by this March night when we all danced around picking out my coffin garb.
But I don’t think so.
Just two days ago, I received a “she didn’t make it” text from my friend who gives and gives and gives and who now has lost, first his dad and, on Saturday, his mom, my friend who says “sure, no problem” when everyone else sees problems, from my friend who decided he would tell me first, who maybe expected I’d know what to do, what to say, about his 58-year-old mom, who, poof, is now gone. I feel like sobbing.
But when Max asks me if I’d seen the body of my friend’s mom tonight and I say, yes, yes, I saw her, and in one of his holy-shit middle school moments, he asks if she was, jesus, was she naked, Mom, I push the tears away with giggles because how amazing that he’s made it nearly 13 years thinking that open caskets are like odd, free-of-charge peep shows?
I assure him that she was fully clothed.
And when Sarah asks if she’ll be the one who gets to adorn me in my green dress, my tights, my boots, I tell her, Sweetie, only if you really want to, but it would be okay if it were some strange old guy named Sal, you know, who, like, dresses dead bodies for a living. What? People do that? Um, yeah, Honey. But, Mom, isn’t it weird if a strange old guy sees your…yeah, yup, it sure is…
Naked corpses. Strange men gaping at me in my birthday suit. It all feels strangely hilarious.
* * * *
I want to shush death, to suffocate the bastard under thick afghans, to stuff him behind cinderblock walls. I want to live in my little land where I’m never gonna get a damn headache and then hear some doctor sentence me to a few weeks left (brain cancer), the land where nobody would ever return from walking the dog and find me in an armchair, forever silenced (heart attack).
Five days have now passed since the funeral of my friend’s mom, since the night when my kids and I pieced together my final outfit. And I sit here, tonight, thinking about this mother I didn’t know, this mother in her dress and her glasses, lying in that coffin, this mother who raised two girls, and a kind, gentle boy, a teacher, my friend. And I wonder what she hoped for in her life, I wonder what beauty she held, I wonder if she hugged tightly. Like her son does.
Yes, I sit here listening to the rain, wondering if she had that faith that the preacher at her funeral mentioned, that faith that makes some people so unafraid, even about dying.
And I think, maybe, in a few minutes, I’ll go find Sarah, go interrupt her marathon Harry Potter reading, go tickle her and tell her, “Hey, Sar-ee, I thought of something. I think, you know, when that day comes, I wanna wear my Michigan baseball cap, or maybe you and Max can go buy me a wide-brimmed hat like the ones those fancy ladies wear to the horse races…”
And I hope that she’ll add some crazy details, some this-or-that about red lipstick or hoop earrings or that Gaultier perfume that I love to spray, and that, together, we’ll laugh a big laugh, giggling away the bitter fear.