Tears. Dripping, falling, running. Lightish blue, yet also translucently clear. Streaming, soaking, dissolving. All that’s left. Three hours ago. That’s when I got the call. Three hours ago. That’s when I knew nothing could ever be the same. I gave her hand a squeeze, ran my hand over her hair, and pulled her close. There was nothing I could do to make her feel better. So I sat there, and thought about how none of this could truly be real.
The slightly smudged screen on my phone lit up just as I was sitting down to work. New Text Message, it read. Sliding my finger across it and punching in whatever random 4-digit code I was using at the time, I opened her message.
Call grandma., it read. A few more texts were exchanged before I gave a coworker a call and asked her to come sit at the desk for me for ten minutes. Then I went out back, scrolled through my contact list, and clicked call for “Grandma – Florida.” Six rings in, I was about to hang up, when I heard a click. A raspy voice on the other end of the line attempted to clear its throat. Then I heard a distant Hello? coming from what sounded like the opposite end of the room from the receiver.
“Hello? Grandma? Are you there?”
“Hello sweetheart,” she whispered. Her voice wasn’t as strong and filled with life as it typically had been. She usually could tell who I was just from the sound of my voice, but this time I questioned that. We talked for six minutes before I heard someone on her end in the background ask her who was on the phone – to which she responded “your daughter.” My Aunt Bea picked up the phone quite confused, as she had just been on her cell with her actual daughter. We spoke. She handed the phone back to my grandmother and told her who I was. I promised her I’d come visit her soon. And then it was time for her nap. We hung up.
I sent my coworker home and thanked her for her help. I held it together until she left. Translucent drops rolled down my face, magnifying my freckles as they made a run for my chin. I wiped them away, only actually smearing them around my pale skin. She wasn’t herself. She didn’t sound like herself. The woman who had been the embodiment of life my entire existence sounded like she didn’t even know what life was anymore. Tears.
The eggs were runny and the french toast was a solid brick, but I was at a table with four friends who were making me laugh and distracting me enough to get my mind off of everything from the night before. I was going to call her again after breakfast.
I reached into my pocket to check my phone and found three missed calls from my father, two from my brother, and a voicemail. I raised it to my ear and listened to a very hollowed and empty voice tell me to call him back as soon as I could. Instead, I clicked on my brother’s name. He told me she was gone.
I hung up and called my dad back.
“Hi honey. You get my voicemail?” My dad’s voice always sounded harsh – strong, maybe. Compassion wasn’t his best quality, but he definitely tried.
“I spoke to Mike,” the statement barely made it out as a whisper.
“I’m so sorry. I wanted to be the one to tell you.” Silence.
“How is she?”
“Not good. She hasn’t spoken since she found out. She’s pretty numb.”
“I’m coming home.” I put my hand down against the windowsill at the dining hall. I needed something to hold me up. I needed some way to hold everything in and just finish this phone call.
“Don’t. It’s not a good idea. I don’t want you driving and upset. I’ll come pick you up tomorrow if you want, but stay there today, okay?”
“Okay. Give her a hug for me?”
“Okay sweetie. Talk to you later. Love you.”
Tears. Deep breath. More tears.
I took another deep breath and walked back to the table where my friends were. One of them knew about the call from last night. One of them knew how hurt I was. One of them could tell something was wrong. I stayed fairly composed until I saw his face. Until I saw that he cared. And that I could open up – that I could break down in front of him. And so I did.
I took a deep breath. “My grandma died this morning.” I got patted on the back and there were a few loose hands grasping at my arm telling me they were sorry. I’m sorry too, emotionless hand. I’m sorry too.
I got into my car and cried. Tears. Gasping breaths and tears. I drove two hours home, blasting music to try and keep my mind off of it. But then I thought about her smile. And her strong love of perfumes. I remembered her incessant need to tell everyone everything and her love and compassion for family. All friends were family to her. Everyone was family.
I walked in the door and saw my dad in the kitchen.
“I thought…” he started.
“Where is she?” I interrupted.
He pointed behind him towards the living room. I dropped my bags on a chair that was in desperate need of cleaning and rushed into the adjacent room. My mom could barely look up at me. She couldn’t feel anything.
“What are you doing here?” she managed to mumble as I slid in next to her on the couch.
“I’m here for you. Always here for you, mom. I’m so sorry. I’m so so sorry.” I brushed her hair out of her face and held her next to me. We rocked back and forth like that for awhile. I slid a few light jokes her way to make her laugh. But mostly we cried. Tears. Streaming, rushing, running, soaking the clothes we couldn’t bother to change. She was gone. And we were numb.