By Louise Ure
I’m almost at the end of the book tour for Liars Anonymous, and so far there have been nothing but high points. Gracious booksellers. Old friends with beaming faces. New friends who read a review and thought they’d like to hear more. It makes me feel like Queen for A Day.
It’s been long driving days and early plane departures. Days when a can of V-8 juice is called a meal and three hours is called a night’s sleep. There’s nothing luxurious about travel anymore.
I’ve loved this trip. A chance to visit towns I used to live in and see high school friends who disappeared from my life forty years ago. At the signing in Seattle, we had the twenty-year reunion of what was then a far-flung branch office of Foote, Cone & Belding Advertising. I was the only one without big hair back then. Not so much today. In Phoenix I connected with the daughter of the family that used to live across the street from us in the 50’s. She’s on Social Security now, of course. I didn’t recognize her.
But it was Tucson that scared me.
My 93-year old mother in Tucson died eight weeks ago. Except for the funeral, this was my first trip back without her there. And the lack of her left a hole in the air.
It was a twitch in my finger as I reached to call and tell her when I was coming in. It was a moment’s hesitation as I packed the concho belt she gave me. It was a shudder as I made a mental note to tell her about the email I got from that lady across the street.
Until just a couple of weeks ago, I’d only had to talk about her in letters, blogs and emails. I still hadn’t said it out loud. One Saturday in April, when a well-meaning friend I hadn’t seen for a couple of months asked how my mom was doing after the fall that broke her hip, I sputtered “She’s dead.” As if that answered the question. I need to learn how to say it out loud, and say it in a way that wouldn’t terrorize the gentle questioner.
What ithe hell would I do when I drove down that street and faced the emptiness of her house for the first time? Would the driveway feel different? Would the light be flat without her? And what about the signing at Clues Unlimited? Would I still imagine a small, shadowed form in that highbacked armchair they set aside for her each year? Would I be able to say anything at all to the assembled friends and family?
Will they even be there without her – the hub that held our wheel together.
In hindsight, now that I’ve been there and come back, I shouldn’t have worried. The worst had already happened — she’s gone. Nothing that happened on this trip would be worse than that.
The crowd at Clues Unlimited was huge, even though the bookstore had relocated only eight days earlier and lots of folks hadn’t gotten the word about the new address. But there were three of us Tucson authors signing — Mike Hayes, Elizabeth Gunn and me — so that swelled the ranks. And because the venue had changed, so had my expectations about remembering mom in that high-backed chair. (It would have helped if my books had arrived before the event, but Chris promised to mail out a signed copy to anyone who purchased that night. I hope that makes it up to the dozens of friends and fans who drove over a hundred miles to get there.)
And yes, the air does feel different without her, but it’s different in a way that still lets you enjoy a deep breath. Taste the warm wind … and exhale.
I told my sister that I would go back out to the cemetery to make sure they hadn’t put the stone marker in place yet. I know that seems strange, but my mom and her 94-year old sister were to be buried together, and the 94-year is still going strong and didn’t want to visit the grave and see her own name already there awaiting a final date.
It was Mother’s Day Weekend, don’t you know, and there were lots of other cemetary visitors stopping at tombstones etched with words like “Loving Daughter of …” and “Beloved Mother of …” The grass was browner than the day we buried her, and there’s a shallow indentation there now to show she’s settling in to her new home. I, too, was hoping there was no marker in place yet. Without a name above that swale, it would have been easier for me.
Alas, Holy Hope cemetery is run by cretins, so the marker is there with both my mother’s name and my aunt’s, lacking only that final date for my aunt to contemplate her demise. A pox on them.
I had wanted to see my mother open the cover of Liars Anonymous and read the first page. That’s all the farther she ever got with the first two books, too, her Alzheimers stopping her after a hundred words or so and resetting the timer. It always made me want to get the openings just right, knowing that she’d read each one a thousand times, and a thousand times lift her head and read it out loud with new found pride and amazement.
There’s a hole in the air now, and I’ll never hear her read, “I got away with murder once but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen again. Damn. This time I didn’t do it. Well, not all of it anyway.”
She’d have liked that opening.
PS: I’m on the road today, but will be checking in from my iPhone. Expect lots of typos in my replies to your comments.