I like it dark. I like it really dark when I’m sleeping. The sheet and blanket pulled over my head, the light peeking through the shutters. Ah the last moments of slumber are the best. The ringing is persistent, won’t stop, maddening as I join the world and realize it’s the phone. “Hello, hello,” I stammer sleepily in my gravelly morning voice.
“Hey Pam it’s Melvin the Mailman,” he says in a hesitant tone. I register he’s calling for a reason. Melvin is the very best mail person in the world. I’ve known him for over 20 years. I’ve enjoyed the best of his children and the saddest of his moments and he mine. Two decades is a long time.
“What’s up Melvin?” As I sit up and stare at the sun slipping through the slats in even lines across the floor.
“You have a package that will be delivered today,” he stammers now choking back a sob. “It’s your Mom and it will be delivered sometime this morning. I wanted you to be prepared,” I could hear his breath catch in his throat, “I want you to be okay. Okay, ready.”
I take in a deep breath and let the air slip out like a whisper, “Thanks, yeah thanks for giving me a heads up.”
“Sure,” he says quietly into the phone, “Sure.”
How do you get ready, do you pull out a special outfit? Wash my hair? Makeup? Oh my God is there a YouTube video for how to behave when your Mother’s ashes come in the mail delivery? Certainly YouTube knows everything? What’s the etiquette for such an unbearable moment. Can I Google what’s the history of this happening to someone and what behavior is acceptable? You can ask Google anything, right?
The phone stops my thoughts. I wipe my tears on the sleeve of my pjs and grab my cell phone. Caller ID says it’s the condo receiving department. No, not so soon. It can’t be can it?
“Hello,” as I try to sound normal.
“It’s Miguel, in receiving I have a package for you,” he says in a church voice.
“I’m not ready,” I sob into the phone.
He replies in such a reverent way, “Just call when you are and I’ll come up.”
“Thanks, I’ll call,” as I choke back tears. New rules, we can’t go down to get our packages, they are delivered to you courtesy of the Big Corona.
I head into the kitchen and on automatic pilot I make a cup of coﬀee. I haven’t even thought of the coronavirus daily update. I’m having a pandemic of my own. I glance at the clock on the stove almost ten. I decide to run a brush through my hair and brush my teeth. I grab a bra — a bra crazy why? — A black t-shirt and throw them on. My computer is in place on the table and I sit down in front of it to wait. I tap my Apple watch for deep breathing and slowly follow the pattern exhaling and concentrating on my breath. The text sounds on my phone with the Zoom password.
I type zoomusa.com, password and there she is, Carol, my psychologist. My time. I have my 50 minute hour to suck it up and prepare for my Mom’s delivery. “Hi, my Mom’s in the building,” I blurt out.
“How do you know?” She questions.
“I know,” and share my phone call warnings, “I’m not ready to make it real. This isn’t how I planned it. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I was supposed to be with her, spend time with her, hold her hand, smooth her hair, tell her how much I loved her and how much I would miss her. I was going to touch her face, tell her it was all right to go. My sweet, funny loving Dad was waiting for her. The love of his life, the greatest love of all time had been waiting for her for 17 years. This damn covid 19 had taken away my time with her. Time I can’t get back, no second chance, no do over. No visitors to Miami Jewish Health. No visitors for over a month to the assisted living and no visitors to the Seasons Hospice. I’ve been robbed of my Mother. I’ve been robbed of my closure. I have to live with it and I can’t even take a walk by the ocean, I can only look at it,” tears stream down my cheeks and my glasses are fogged up, “How can I get through this?” I whisper into the computer screen.
Carol nods in my direction, “This isn’t easy. It isn’t easy for anyone at this time,” and she continues to speak in a calm psychologist way and hints at how people have lived through terrible times and they dig down deep for strength and courage. “You are strong and resilient. You have conquered so many things in your life, you will live through this too.”
I glance at the clock and we schedule next week. I sit quietly taking in all that has happened and it’s only 11am. I text my daughter to see if she can talk. She responds that she’s on a work call till 2:30. I text back, ‘no problem.’
I go to the sink and throw water on my face, the cold feels good. I’m an orphan. My Mom was the buﬀer between me and my mortality. Now I’m the matriarch, the next in line to go. “Hey Miguel, I’m ready.” I say into the phone.
“I’m on my way up,” and the line goes silent.
I hear a light knock on the door and he stands so solemnly six feet away, mask on his face, gloves on his hands holding a square box. He hesitates, not knowing whether to put my Mother on the floor as we expect with social distancing. “It’s fine, Miguel. She’ll understand.”
He puts her down on the hall carpeting ever so gently, like a newborn baby. He shows his respect, “I’m so sorry Ms. Pam, so very sorry.” Miguel from receiving and I share a moment.
“Thanks, I know,” I nod in his direction as I pick up my Mom and close the door.
The box is cardboard. The virus can linger on this type of shipping box for 24 hours or more. I’m so OCD and now with good reason. I make a decision this once to throw germophobia to the wind. Lovingly I place it on the floor and grab paper towels and spray them with diluted Clorox water and wipe all the sides. I smile when I realize how everyone knew it was my Mom, no maybe not my Mom, but knew what was inside this delivery. The crematorium had placed stickers on the sides that said ‘CREMATED REMAINS’ in huge capital letters. No secret there, no suspense.
Carol had suggested that I was creative and perhaps I would like to think of a ceremony that I could do. I had printed a picture of her on 8 1/2 x 11” paper and I taped it to the top of the box. She had just had her hair done that day and looked absolutely beautiful on February 20th not so long ago. I hugged the box and just sobbed.
Create, think, do something, write something. That’s what funerals are for: people pitch in, say nice things, comforting stuﬀ. Then it came to me. A song my Dad loved to sing to her and I just started to hum it. ‘I had a dream dear, you had one too. Mine was the best dream because it was of you. Come close to me dear, now is the time. You tell me your dream and I’ll tell you mine.’* Perfect, complete 62 years together on earth and now together for eternity just as it should be. In a world that’s totally out of balance that’s kind of nice.
*I Had A Dream Dear, by The Mills Brothers
Pamela Mayer took her first Miami breath on arrival at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Ms. Mayer’s love for all things creative from theatre to art fuels her passion for writing that has led to her originative storytelling. No one and nothing are safe from her looking at the humorous side of life and taking pen to paper. Recently chosen by New Deal Creative Arts in Hyde Park, NY for their You Tube Showcase. Fantasy Theatre Factory, Dear Dad monologue competition selected for YouTube, Miami, Florida. Between internet dating and facilitating the Women Writers Group of South Beach she gathers plenty of material. Pamela swears she can write about anything and everything except herself.