Monday, January 14, 2008

Home of the world's favorite ketchup

How could I not take a picture of it? Ketchup is like, my favorite food. So imagine the delight when this snappy happy girl got off the plane in Pittsburgh this past weekend to be greeted by a giant bottle of Heinz ketchup. Delish.

I knew that 5 foot bottle of saucy red goodness was a sign of the weekend to come with my long lost Midwestern roommate. The last time I had traveled to Steel City, it had been cold, and the air was heavy with the fresh idea of death. This trip would be different. This trip would be about living.

It's been nine months since the last time Margot didn't wake up. And while life has continued for the Jones, the sensation of loss still lingers in their bodies, like a sickness they will never shake, and occasionally invades their days like a throbbing headache.

Friday night was a filled with good beers at the local haunt and hours of catch up (mmm, ketchup) and laughter. Saturday we wandered the quaint downtown streets, ducking in and out of used book stores, cafes, and bars.

We eventually made our way through the hilly streets to the cemetery where Margot was buried last spring. It was her birthday, and the anniversary of the day they learned the tumors had spread to her brain.

The sky was so fresh and blue it seemed like you could cut your hand just by reaching out to touch it. We walked among the tombstones, some new, some old, looking for the plot that was still relatively new. There was no headstone yet to mark her life, but the grass, struggling to grow over a cold patch of dirt, told us where she lay.

From the hill where she was buried, you could see miles of homes and buildings and people who walk past the cemetery every day. Did they see us standing there, watching them? We talked about religion, mortality, and life on the way back to her house. The reminder of death that grows from the cemetery ground among the thin blades of grass stuck to our sneakers and followed us home.

That night we went to dinner to celebrate Margot's birthday with family and friends. Maybe it was the wine, or maybe it was the sense of peace that is slowly seeping back into their lives, but everyone seemed happy. The love that was taken from them was redistributed among everyone that was left behind. Their affections are heightened. They hug longer, kiss more often, and appreciate fully. Cracks were only exposed occasionally and briefly before being repaired with laughter.

Later that night we celebrated our togetherness on the South Side. My all-day Sunday hangover following our night of binge drinking pretty much laughed in my face and beat the shit out of my body just to prove that in the eight months following college, I have without a doubt lost much of the extreme capabilities we were so noted for pre-graduation. I get hungover just thinking about our two week bender that ended at approximately 6 a.m. the morning of graduation.

While at Moira's, her father showed me a print of his favorite collection of pictures of Margot's face. He held the frame delicately, as if literally cradling her face, healthy, flushed, and smiling, the way he wants to remember her. The grief that he practiced hiding every day tickled the back of his throat, and I concentrated deeply on willing my own voice to remain steady.

There were more pictures everywhere. Covering the refrigerator, plastered on the walls, sitting in frames throughout the house. Her face permeated their house as deeply as her loss penetrates their bodies. But her face is always smiling, and I hope that slowly and delicately, her memory is beginning to make them smile, instead of break their hearts.

Their house is buzzing as often as possible. Family and friends drop by to nonchalantly perform many of the duties a motherless house needs. Margot's sister dropped of new razors she picked up for Moira and Maeve; Margot's girlfriends came over to help put up the Christmas tree; Lance's sister spent the day helping him clean out the basement.

They are taken care of. They are surrounded by love hoping to negate some of the sense of loss. They are flocked to by other mothers lending their motherly instincts to a family that needs it. Carefully tended to and loved. And I am thankful.

Some days are happy, and some are raw, but gradually father and daughters are stabilizing. And happiness is creeping back into their house. The weekend was filled with laughter, and the healing that was taking place was evident.

We got drunk, sang songs, went dancing, and had a great freaking weekend. Being there felt good. And as I sit here with my fat, sleeping dog at my feet who has been moaning all afternoon because he ate three pounds of dog food in between shredding my stockpile of Swiffer refills when I left him alone this morning, I know they'll be OK.

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