It was a very long week...we'd received word that Trooper's grandma was very ill and not expected to recover. Calls were made, schedules adjusted, and a call placed to my father for unexpected pet sitting. She passed early in the morning on Friday in blessed ignorance of her condition.
We woke Saturday morning, taking our time and assuming we would leave Sunday for a funeral on Monday. He placed a call from the bed to his mother and received word that no, not Monday - Sunday. Sunday...we were already 4 hours behind.
My irritation ebbed and flowed as everything was readjusted. My sister was an absolute lifesaver, stepping in to fetch my father from 2 hrs away, saving us the loss of another 4 hours. Trooper packed his suit, standing up and taking a moment to realize his loss all over again.
I threw together some items in a cooler, sandwiches and snacks to get us through the drive with as few stops as possible. The dogs were all in a stir, uncertain why there was so much hastening about. The truck was loaded and we were underway, taking the southerly route across the country to those enclosed rolling hills of his home.
I required a coffee stop in Baton Rouge, stepping in to the Starbucks (carrying, yes). I did not know that Trooper was listening to the football game on the radio. Huh...LSU just up the street...game in 4th qtr, just minutes left...I strolled out the door to see him making motions to move it move move it. We were just a few miles down the road and safe when they won that game. It seemed our luck was still good.
We approached the easterly border of Alabama, moving nearer to our goal and had made amazing time...and we had no sooner said as much, perhaps a mile from our exit, when everything came to a halt. A wreck - overturned vehicles, injuries and whatnot. And us - just a dozen feet beyond the last exit to avoid it all. We settled in for the long wait, people watching...
It was then we saw movement to the left - a couple, exiting a car that was in the fast lane. He ran to a truck ahead of us, a small dog in his arms. Conversations took place and the dog was thrust into the cab of the truck. He ran back to the car, shouting to his female companion. "Keep an eye on that truck! They got Baby in there!" Her head swiveled to and fro - "but what about the car?!" "It's DONE. Leave it!" he announced, opening the trunk and grabbing a 12-pack and some other things from it, trailing the debris of a fool behind him. He tossed it into the back of the truck and they both climbed in.
Trooper looked at me and dialed his cell phone. Long story short, the local PD was unable to find the vehicle - yes, abandoned and unmoving in the fast lane of a 1 mile backup parking lot. We shrugged and drove on, Baby, her caretakers and the 12-pack a car ahead of us.
We arrived at our friends' home not long after, getting a reasonable night's sleep and rising in time to have some breakfast at the beloved QT on the way to the church. I dreaded the march up the aisle to the casket. She was not there. Just that rouged husk that somehow once contained her amazing spirit. I performed my duty, the remaining ettiquette arcane and unknown to me. I took a seat in the front of the church, preferring its view of trees to anything behind me. Trooper did his duty, escorting the older women, helping others...
Soon enough it was all said, all done, and we moved on to the cemetery where his final duty to her was performed. It was a gentle matter, that final farewell. Everyone looked to their feet - as much to ensure they were away from fireants as in deference to the grieving. We returned to her home, built by hand ages ago and added on in haphazard fashion so that room connected to room and the warren could be run from one gathered group to another.
Eventually, the food was put away, and the looky lou's were all gone. I watched the sun setting too early in the hilly landscape, and said my own goodbye - farewell to the cedar tree that we trimmed last I was here...farewell to the potted amaryllis, just now showing its lime green shoot...farewell to that hill once all their own and all this valley once theirs...dismantled piece by piece over the years.
We moved on to mundane life, changing into more comfortable attire. Off with the mourning and on with the living...so it has always been. We are none of us so important that the world stops long at our leaving it.
It was the next night, I suppose, that the proper wake was held. A small one, true, but we did what we could. Trooper did even more...seems that the corner was the safest place - back to a wall as well as having something to lean on. His best friend was still able to torment him.
We left a few days later, taking that southerly route again. Louisiana came, and the CD played the Cajun tunes. Good food had, we moved on. But we didn't think about the good time we were making...so good that we hit Houston at 5p. (I did tell him to take the toll road...too far around he said...hmph.)
Home again, finally, the dogs were spinning and leaping with joy. We left the unloading for later, letting them get their fill of us. And us of them, yes.
So much catching up to be done at work...it is almost never worth the leaving but this time...I think this road trip was just what we needed. Thanks, Grandma...we miss you so!