My husband and I sat across from each other in Chick Fil A. Not the most clever of places for us to have a date night, but it was last minute, it was raining outside, and we desperately needed to go to the grocery store, which just happened to be across the street, before we picked up the kids. My dad agreed to watch the kids so that we could spend a few hours together, uninterrupted, to try to process the goings on of the past week.
“Aren’t you glad that life changing events don’t happen every day?” I asked, “it’s exhausting.”
He agreed. After much discussion, we sat in silence. I was nursing a milkshake, my drug of choice, while he ate a chicken wrap. He leaned in and talked in a whisper. He told me that the people to my left were the parents of the medic who pronounced my mom deceased on our living room floor over a year ago. Enough time has gone by since my mom’s passing that such alarming coincidences didn’t cause me to erupt into uncontrollable sobs. I’m not sure if I ever really erupted into uncontrollable sobs, at least not in public, and certainly not while the sun was shining. Those moments happened at 3 am when I couldn’t sleep, or when I awoke from a dream where I casually run into her at out favorite junk store, Goodwill, as if she were just out for the day and hadn’t ceased to exist entirely, where she tells me, amongst the forgotten and discarded housewares, that everything is going to be all right.
I briefly imagined myself going up to these strangers in Chick Fil A and introducing myself, but what would I say exactly? Your daughter and I tag teamed CPR on my dying mother. Your daughter was there on the worst night of my life. A total stranger, whom I could not even pick out of a lineup, except my husband says you gave birth to her and raised her. Thank you! Nice to meet you! Enjoy your chicken!
The moment passed. They were leaving.
Earlier that day, my dad told me that his best car buddy was in Hospice. He called him his best friend. His heart was failing, he was extubated from the machines that kept his heart beating and his lungs breathing, and now the wait for the end began. I casually joked that his irritation at my dad taking apart the rear end of his Ford Falcon probably did him in. My dad said, “that wasn’t nice.”
“I’m sorry dad, I was just trying to make you laugh. I was just joking.”
“I know,” my dad said, “I love you.”
“I love you, too, dad, and I am sorry.”
I ended up hurting a hurt man. It weighed on my mind as I obnoxiously slurped the last remnants of my milkshake. There was some magic to be found in that shake and I would be damned if I missed it by leaving any bits behind. I would have licked the insides clean if I were alone, but I wasn’t so far gone that I lost all knowledge of common social graces. I had had enough anyway. Enough of this milkshake. Enough of the drama. Enough of the heartbreak. Enough of the double standards. I had reached the end of the line, it was time for an extubation of sorts from a machine that didn’t sustain me, but drained me.
For the first time in longer than I care to admit, sitting with my husband in Chick Fil A, with a belly full of milkshake, rehashing this crazier than usual week, holding the pain that my father felt for his dying friend, the pain that I felt for not fully grieving my own mother, I actually felt relief. I actually felt peace. I was standing in the space between endings and beginnings, desperation and resolution, fear and tranquility. Birth and death, then death and birth and I was actually good. Really, really good.