Sunday, July 16, 2006

For services rendered

As if to add insult to injury, today's mail contained bills for the ambulance service and emergency-room treatment. They both have P's name on them, and I can hear him saying, outraged, "What? You didn't even save my sorry ass and now you want me to pay you for it?"

It's been making me feel marginally better to imagine what he would say in any given situation. I'm good at it. Not long before he died, we went through a phase during which I always said exactly what he was going to say just before he said it, and he wondered aloud whether his speech patterns had rubbed off on me or vice versa. I think after knowing him for thirteen years, I'd just learned to read his mind. I certainly hope that's true, since I've been speaking for him nonstop during the last two weeks.

Another thing that has helped is leaving the TV on in the living room after G goes to bed. I very rarely watch TV and never think to turn it on when home alone, but P watched quite a bit (although selectively; he didn't just sit there flipping channels), and the background noise gives me the feeling that he's still here. If nothing else, it made it possible for me to finally sleep most of the night in my own bed on Friday. I wasn't home yesterday because I took G to SeaWorld, so we'll see how it goes tonight.

Ah, yes, SeaWorld. P and I had been planning to take G there when she got out of school, but we had to postpone the trip the first weekend of her vacation, and then, well, things happened. G has had to put up with an awful lot lately -- scary funeral homes, long religious services, strangers hugging and kissing her, being babysat by a different relative every day, her dad not being here -- and she deserved a break. So, I found a hotel room in San Diego and took her. I had been thinking that it might get my mind off things, but I hadn't considered that the last time I went to SeaWorld (for that matter, every time I've ever been to SeaWorld), I was with P. As a result, I thought about him and missed him constantly. I also hadn't realized how much it would bother me to see families together now that we aren't a family anymore, and of course, since we were at an amusement park, there were families everywhere. With all that weighing on me, I don't think I was very good company, but G somehow managed to enjoy herself anyway.

After we left, we went to our skeevy hotel, which featured stuffy hot corridors, noisy guests, and a room that was basically located in the slow lane of I-8. I wasn't expecting that, especially since the hotel was part of a decent chain and had gotten good reviews on, but we were already there, it was clean, and the air conditioning worked, so we stayed. I let G get a movie (Kronk's New Groove) and she finally fell asleep around 11 p.m. At least I think she did. I woke up for a while at 4:30 in the morning and she was awake too, but she can't possibly have stayed up that long, so it must have been a coincidence.

On the way back the next morning, G wanted to visit the ocean, so we stopped off in Carlsbad, but couldn't find anyplace to park along the state beach. We ended up going to another beach much later in the day and closer to home, and she really had a wonderful time splashing around in the waves and picking up shells. The beach was one place we never went with P -- it was too hard for him to walk in the sand -- so I was able to escape the onslaught of memories for a while.

Honestly, the memories are almost the worst part of all this. It's so hard to carry on with life when nearly everyplace you go is someplace you went with the person you've lost. I knew a woman several years ago whose husband was suddenly killed in a car accident, and she and her daughter ended up taking the insurance money and moving out of state to start over completely. At the time I didn't understand why she would do that, but now I do. We can't leave this area, not least because P instructed me long ago to stay near his family if anything ever happened to him, so I hope eventually the memories will become happy instead of gut-wrenching. Until then, if you see someone looking wretched at the grocery store, that will be me.

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