"Each of us has his own rhythm of suffering." - Roland Barthes
It’s about 6am on a Sunday morning on the first day of November. My body is weary, but my mind is alert due to the caffeine injection I gave it a little past 4pm the previous day. Two nights ago, I started to hyperventilate and immediately went into crisis mode. Rather than wake my husband from his slumber, I erected the altar with the memories of my deceased loved ones. My first and meager altar was still missing pictures of several people, some traditional decor like tissue paper garland, and sugar skulls; yet, it made a poignant statement. Sitting on top of an IKEA Kallax unit that holds my vinyl collection, I grabbed the most colorful piece of cloth I could find from my craft supplies drawer and began delicately placing objects assuring each person had their spotlight. My paternal grandmother and my father-in-law are the only two I never had the pleasure of meeting; therefore, I go by the stories told through family members.
Conflicting stories about my grandmother make it seem as if she were some type of mythical creature. Some say that she fought in the Mexican Revolution. Her portrait on my makeshift mantel does not seem to lie. With her braids and madras plaid top, her gaze eerily looks like mine when I’m plotting against the universe. According to some, she was a bit of a bad ass, a ‘cabrona’ who went against societal norms by working and frequenting bars. Dressed like a lady, her sonnets were colorful and razor sharp. Ultimately, that was her demise. That tragic event was just the beginning of a life long avalanche of heartache, despair and resentment for her children. Possibly the reason why my father decided to be laid to rest next to his ‘mother’: the aunt who raised him.
I met my father-in-law a few months into my courtship with my now husband. I had never been introduced to anyone at a cemetery before. I did not want to go into a panic attack and did not want to make my husband feel uncomfortable with my tension. I remember him clearing some old flowers before placing the one we had just purchased from a small local vendor up the street. The look in my husband’s eyes was one that I wouldn’t understand until many years later. Unlike my feisty grandmother, I have the magic of VHS and old home movies to paint a clear picture. He didn't like being on camera that’s for sure and with a stern voice always directed whomever was recording to turn it away from him. Both my husband and mother-in-law tell me he had a sweet tooth and by my husband’s account was a bit of what we call a foodie.
Talk of the Town
Round Table Pizza
…and that’s just to name a few.
In some ways he was like my father. Road trips without stopping unless we were getting ready to pee on the backseat of the car, and the disciplinarian of the household, he worked tirelessly to ensure his children had the best. I see traces of Mr. G’s personality in my husband. I think we would have gotten along just fine. Make that a large chocolate cake, por please. The rest is not my story to tell.
Mallie. My sweet, sweet Mallie. As I’m writing this, my eyes are ready to spill emotions all over my keyboard. This one is still raw. I’m sorry. I had to get up and walk around, pretend to search for something on my phone. The night I received the call of his passing, I remember looking at my phone and feeling happy that our mutual friend Nick was calling. While I was excited to hear from him and started to run my mouth like a motorbike, it all came to screeching halt.
It took me about 10 seconds to process that, and I had to ask because just like when I received the phone call that my father had left us, I did not want to believe it. I refused to believe it and again a feeling of guilt was setting in.
I talked to Nick for about 15 minutes trying to keep it together and just get information. After we disconnected, I slowly started to sob. Then, it turned into a screaming fest. I was mad at myself for not calling him and making an effort to see him during my last trip to the Bay Area; even though, it was impossible given the timeframe I was working with I beat myself up mentally for about 3 hours. I waited for days for a phone call that never came. During this time I was exhausted from school work, tying lose ends and getting myself together for a trip to Florida for my friend’s birthday. I felt as if the universe was pouring gasoline into wounds before the platelets got the opportunity to build a wall.
I missed his funeral.
I MISSED HIS FUCKING FUNERAL!
I frantically looked for flights on a Saturday night. Although I had three assignments due Sunday evening, I was more concerned about getting to Oakland. An SF Gate obituary search lit the fire, after seeing the information I should have had days prior. I wasn’t sure if I was mad at Nick, or at anyone really. My mind took me places I never thought I’d ever go. I even had my husband looking in the other room. We were simultaneously trying to figure out a way to get up to NorCal since Mallie’s viewing was set for 2pm. The sense of helplessness started to seep in and as the clock chipped away at time, my anxiety shot up like a bottle rocket and any logical sense was long gone. Finally at 6am on Sunday, I gave up my search and cried uncontrollably on my studio floor.