|Love. Does. Stuff??? Vat is dat?
I said goodbye.
I don’t even know how it happened. One minute I was holding her hand, weeping into her chest. The next, I was in my cousin’s car, headed to her house so I wouldn’t need to spend the night alone in a hotel room.
I knew yesterday would be tough. I’ve been talking about it to everyone in the last week. I really just didn’t know how tough it would be.
Or how hard the sobs would leave my lungs.
Or how the tears won’t stop pouring, even in the middle of a crowded airport.
I spent most of Tuesday with her, leaving the bedroom when she needed to sleep. The rule is, she gets to talk for 30 minutes before needing to rest her voice. The hospice nurse came in the early afternoon, giving us an update. Her body is slowly going, but her infectious attitude is a gift from God.
She should have remained quiet when the nurse left, but she wanted to call her club – the German club for which she cooked and entertained long before I entered this world – to let them know she wouldn’t be coming to visit anymore. She was just too tired.
Walking in to check on her, I took the handset and placed it on the receiver. I sat by her bed. Okay Tante Lucy, you need to rest a little now.
Oh, my Sunshine, stay vith me little bit. I can rest later. When you go?
Not until this evening. You rest. I’ll come back.
No, no, Andrea. You stay. I rest when you go.
Already speaking 30 minutes past her given allotment, she kept the conversation going another two hours. She told stories of the club, cooking dumplings, making the best gravy the Cleveland Germans had ever eaten, and devouring cheese strudel. I love dat cheese strudel.
She talked about parties, and slot machines, and dancing on tables. Vell, I did not go on table, but I vanted to.
I held her silkened, puckered hand which completely covered mine. She let go only once, to reach for an envelope on her bedside table.
Tante Lucy, no! I don’t need that!
She placed $20 in my palm.
Now, Andrea, dis makes me happy. I vant to give you so much and I cannot do much right now. If you take dis, my heart, my chest will be zo happy. You go and buy yourself some-ting. It can be a snack on the airplane. Or it can be a highball. (Her favorite cocktail) But you take dis. You make me happy.
I put the money in my pocket. She grabbed my hand once more and pulled it close to her heart.
Andrea, Sunshine, you take da bad stuff and you let it go. You can only think of da good stuff. Dat other stuff don’t matter. You think of good, and you think of peace, and you get rid of dat other stuff. You only remember da good.
I will Tante Lucy, I will.
I kept a strong facade. I held a smile on my face. I kissed her cheek a few times. I told her I loved her so very much.
|With the Great-Nieces
I love you too, sveetheart. And you…and you…
She closed her eyes.
You tell dose girls and Edd dat I love dem very, very much.
Tears did not fall from my eyes. They exploded from my chest. I tried so hard to keep calm. I failed.
I buried my head in her gut and wailed out all the pain, all the sadness, all the loneliness, all the anger, all the confusion, all my love.
Now, now, Andrea, you mustn’t be sad. You must be happy. I am happy. Stephen will take care of Uncle Joe. I vill go be vith Oma and Opa. And Earl, from the club, who makes da best highballs, he is now gone. He vill be dere to make me dose highballs. And I vill be dancing on da tables.
Somehow, after many hugs and kisses later, I managed to leave the room.
That was the last time I will see my Tante Lucy.
I promised I would call her and talk to her on the telephone. When she’s not allowed to talk, I will text her daughter-in-law to relay messages and pictures. When she can no longer process messages, I will pray for the Lord to take her peacefully, without pain.
And once she’s gone, I’m betting we will hear strange tapping sounds coming from the sky. Don’t be alarmed. It’ll be Tante Lucy, dancing on the tables.