For her second Make-A-Wish adventure Ellen requested an RV trip to the beach. We loaded her heavy graying body into the back of the portable apartment and headed down to Leo Carrillo State Park, a short drive. Because what if she died en route? Or there? Best to stay close to home this time.
The Lion was getting louder, and closer. His breath reverberated off the flimsy plastic walls walls of the recreational vehicle.
Since I’m an honest woman, I will tell you this: it was awful. In the photos I look skinnier than usual, which means I was turning to food less—razors more. Her brain had begun to dial the dimmer switch down on those wise hazel eyes.
Where are you, sister?
On the beach one evening I looked up at the sky and realized that parts of her were already there. In the abyss. Like Princess Leia when she starts to fizzle in and out of her hologram. What a blessing it is to grieve like this, I thought. To progressively see less and less of her, a slow ease into the burning grief.
Thanks God. Also, could you take a bathroom break? Maybe a throat lozenge? My eardrums and my heart have had about as much of that roaring as they can take. I get it, you’re here. Reminders of your Goodhardgoodness pop out and surprise me hourly, but I’d like a moment to wallow.
We went back home and she kept dying.
It was important to both Ellen and me that we get to drive just once in my car alone, soon after that trip we got the chance. If you know anything about the serpentine roads of coastal California (and you do because 90% of all car commercials use those gentle curves to awaken your automotive envy), then you know how absolutely necessary it is that the windows stay rolled down.
We hauled her heavier and grayer body inside and I took off to Carl’s Jr. before a meander down Potrero Drive, toward the horses and lavender fields and sea salt.
Looking back I think I should’ve only ordered one large criss-cut fry and maybe half the amount of ranch dressing. But this drive was too big to feel without the help of fast food.
I forgot that she wasn’t really able to sit up by herself anymore. On a straight road that works out well enough. But when gravity and centrifugal force come out to play on the twisty roads with us, well then, that’s a problem. For the first handful of sharp curves I propped her weight up with my right hand.
How will I eat my fries and drive and keep her from falling into the middle console of the car? And the ranch?!
“Sorry Ellen, we can’t go down there today.”
She was too tired and gray to care.
Maybe it was the open windows, or maybe it was the persistent breath of a loud, protective Lion, but the wind sounded a little bit like Grace that day.