I had spend *all* weekend cramming for a Cal III test that was scheduled for bright and early Tuesday morning. (The day of the week, not the store.) Laura usually wakes me up with a call each morning. If she doesn't, I call her - as we have comparable schedules, whoever wakes up first calls the other one up as we are both hellbeasts in the early mornign light. Laura called, and I drug myself out of bed for a quick glance at the morning news and a 30 minute recap of what I needed to know for the exam.
At 7:25, right as I was pulling on my shirt to leave for my exam, I got another phone call. Laura had said she'd probably call again at 7:30, just in case I accidentally fell asleep again. I had told her that it would be unneccesary, but since I did kinda stay up late the night before studying, she felt she had to do it anyway. The phone rang, and I was smiling. I felt confident about the upcoming test - something that I had not felt about Calculus in some time. Also, I had the most beautiful girl in the whole world giving me another call, because she cared about me. As the phone rang, all I could think about was how she was so sweet to be looking after me like this. I was expecting kisses and words of encouragement.
However, when I answered the phone, it was the other Laura in my family....my mother. I was kinda stunned, because she never calls at this hour. It's usually kinda hard to get a hold of her on the phone, and when I do, it's almost always in the evenings, after supper but before bedtime. It took me half of a second to recognise that it was her, because I was already so certain that it would have been my Laura on the line. Her voice already sounded a bit strange at first because of that expectation. I was wondering why she called me...maybe she was going to wish me luck on my killer exam as well? No, that can't be it, because I doubt that she knows it is today, much less 30 minutes away from right now.
Another half a second later, I realized that there was something different in her voice. She has some kinda nasty medical problems of her own right now...I was worried that she was about to get operated on or that another one of the cysts had ruptured or something. No, can't be that either. She sounds upset, but not scared. More like she's depressed. Oh God, someone's dead. Who could it be? Probably Uncle Pat. He's getting very old, and already has to go to the hoispital once a week because his breathing is getting so bad. I knew that would make me sad, but he's into his seventies. He's lived his full life, and at least now he won't be in all the physical pain his various ailments has kept him in as of late.
Then Mom broke the news to me..."Timmie's dead". I did a double take. "What did you say?" The reply, "Timmie died at 11:30 last night". I heard her that second time, but did not understand. I replayed those last few words in my head several times. No, it couldn't have been Timmie. Timmie's only in his mid-thirties. He's too young to die - he collects comics and goes barhopping with us on Trivia night and can still play a mean game of Foosball. We had plans to hang out over MArdi Gras in a few weeks. We were all going to the KISS/Aerosmith concert when they swung by the Gulf Coast. He demanded a rematch at Trivial Pursuit, because our last match ended up in a tie (ironically because I couldn't think of the full name of a country music album). I knew for a fact that Mom said "Jimmy" or something else, anything else but "Timmie". I strained my brain to think of who the hell she could have been talking about, because I don't know of anyone named "Jimmy".
She continuesd, telling me that she had been spending the night at Pam's place. Holy shit, Timmie's dead. OUR Timmie. I'm related to lots of people, but Timmie was family. As close of family as you can get outside of my brother and my parents, and now, my fiancee. Pam and Timmie are so close to us, my brother claims that they are his real parents, and that Mom and Dad had adopted him from those two. Timmie's not just someone I was kinda related to. He was *family*, and losing a member of your family hurts. It hurts to lose anyone, but a young man dying unexpectedly in the middle of the night was too much for me to bear.
I held the tears back long enough to call RJ. He had borrowed my cell phone for the day, so I called my own line. He answered, although he was more than a little surprised to have a call so early in the morning. I tried to tell him as best I could...I didn't even know what had happened yet, and I kinda rushed through the bad news as fast as I could because it tore my heart into bite-sized shreds just to be forced to say those words. Words I should not have had to say for another thirty years, at the very least.
I do not have a long distance calling plan; the campus lines are wired such that you need a special access code to call long-distance. Therefore, I was forced to ask RJ to call Laura on my cell phone. Memo three for her room, memo four for her cell. If no answer on either of those, memo five is her parent's line. He reluctantly agreed, and we formed a bucket brigade of death, sorrow, and misery. I can't say how my Laura originally reacted, but she called me moments later. It sounded like she was still in shock and disbelief. Unfortunately, I couldn't talk to her...I still had an important test in 25 minutes. Luckily, my Dad called her up soon afterward to tell her the news. She already knew that it happened, but not when, how, or why. Dad told her what he knew, and she passed that info along to me, which I passed back to RJ once I saw him again.
Still no answer on the prof's office phone. I did not want to take the test. I was already in tears, and did not feel that I had enough strength left in my body to walk across campus. I somehow managed to stumble over to Gordon Palmer. Once Prof Davis arrived, I told him what happened. He said that it was okay, and that he'd just count it as if I didn't take it. Now that my head has cleared up a little, I'm not sure what he meant. He said at the time that it would be okay. I don't remember exactly what the second sentance said, and it did not make sense to me at the time either. He's probably going to count it as a 0/0 instead of 0/100...still kinda sucks, because I could really have used a good score on the "easy" test to give me more breathing room later on in the semester. At the time though, all I was concerned about was getting back into the cold February morning before the entire class saw me lose it.
Surprisingly I did not cry on the way back. I was miserable, depressed, but I did not cry. I guess I was still trying to be tough, as I had been in front of the entire classroom of people. I was still in disbelief; it hadn't quite fully sunk in yet. That's the biggest problem with living a dual life, trying to be a resident of both Mobile and Tuscaloosa all at once. It almost feels as if they are two different lives, and that the other one is on "pause" while you're taking care of the first one. While I was in T-town, Timmie's death didn't seem real to me. However, I knew once I set foor on the soil of Mobile County, it was going to hit me like a freight train hauling a load of bricks.
Despite the distance factor, I was still pretty miserable. I did not feel like anyhting, just blank, empty. I wanted to crawl into a corner and just not be here. Vanish into thin air without a trace. The closest thing I could do would be to turn out the lights and crawl into bed to be alone. Next class wasn't until 11:00 or so, so I had plenty of time. It was still 8:15, after all.
I just lied there in bed, misreable, for the longest time. My Laura (lavender_moon) called twice. The first time, she called to let me know how Timmie died, what happened, when it happened, and so on. Basically passing the info from Dad to me. She hang up moments later, so that my family could call. I don't think the campus phones have Call Waiting, so Laura hopped off the phone immediately in case Dad tried to call me up after he gotten a hold of my bride to be. I really wanted to talk to them, but without my cell phone, I couldn't call off campus. Guess they were busy anyway, making final arrangements. For an elderly man, all that would have to be done would be to call the funeral home and schedule a time. Since Timme was in good health and such, I doubt they already picked out tombstones and other necessities.
Laura called again after a while, simply to check up on me. She certainly is, without a doubt, the single greatest thing to ever happen in my life. I don't know what I'd do without her. We talked for a while. She originally called to check on me and try to comfort me, but as usual I was more concerned about her than myself, and she was crying into the phone while I tried to calm her down. It helped both of us just to be there for one another, but looking at the clock my second class started five minutes ago. Oh well, hopefully it wasn't anything important. At least it wasn't another test or anything. That's the only other class I had that day, so I stayed in my dark room until my brother came back from his classes, at which point I told him all of the details that I knew. Up until this point, he only knew that a perfectly healthy young man died in the middle of the night without warning. I'm sure that he had several questions on his mind, ones that must have been eating away at him all day long.
Anyway, I emailed all my professors, telling them of the death in the family and that I would likely not be there for the rest of the week, as I assumed the funeral would be Thursday and Friday. Specifically, I asked the ones that were to be giving tests to reply and let me know their policy for making up things due to emergency circumstances, such as losing a family member. Not a one of them replied, despite being specifically asked to. However, my CS 491 professor emailed me. Twice. Once to tell me that he felt bad for me and offered his condolences, and secondly to tell me that he'd schedule special office hours for me to get me caught back up on whatever I missed. Very cool guy. I will certainly remember that one...
I didn't eat breakfast or lunch, but by suppertime I had to have something, so I ordered a pizza. More for comfort food than for an actual meal. Besides, me and RJ will have to have supper tonight and breakfast in the morning, and I doubt either of us would feel like cooking or anything. We discussed our plans, and decided to both ride in Randall's car the next morning. As the services were to be Wednesday and Thursday, we were going to try to be back on Friday unless things were so bad that our help was needed. To be honest, I was expecting to stay down there until Sunday evening pretending to be "Mr. Mom" while the real mother was tending to her cousin and best friend.
The ride down was uneventful. Luckily, Jason (E) had lent me a book over the Christmas break, one I had not yet started. It ended up being *extremely* good, and was pretty much the only thing that kept my mind off of my grief during the five hours down. Had I been driving, I would be too busy dodging cars and outrunning cops to be sad; my mind would be elsewhere. As a passenger though, I did not know what I'd do. Luckily I was a slacker and still had Jason's book. And thankfully Jason had great taste (unlike when he suggested "Gorgon Child" to my brother). The book was wel written and really drew me into it's pages. Anything less would have just seemed to have been a waste of time, and I'd have to sit there, virtually alone, for nearly five hours. That would have been enough to make me scream.
Once I did get to Mobile, the realness of the situation did hit me jsut as I knew it would. Stepping out of the car, The familiarity of the scene made it all sink in. My garage. My house. My home. My neighborhood. Somehow, Mobile things seem more real in Mobile, while in Tuscaloosa they seem to be a lifetime away. Laura was already there, beating us to the house by half an hour or so.
Already stressed, I had but an hour to shower, shave, dress, and make it to the funeral parlor. The only "good" news, if anything at this point could possibly have been good, was that the funeral would be at the new Valhalla parlor, which was at most five minutes away from my home. A trip to Radney's would have been much further. The old suit I've had since 97 didn't really fit right. I had trouble tying my tie. Most importantly, my neck and back were in EXTREME pain due to the long trip home, and my heart was hurtning nearly as much thinking about Timmie. I was kinda snappy to RJ and Laura both (sorry again guys) and this continued up until about ten minutes after we arrived at Valhalla. By that point, I had said hey to everyone who was there at that point, and since the mandantory "meet and greet" period was overwith, I could then actually be sad for the loss of not only a family member but a dear friend.
Having to talk to all these people when I just wanted to be alone was pretty rough. I spent the first bit trying to comfort Pam and both Lauras, letting each cry on my shoulder in turn. After that, I just wanted to be alone. It was not until the visitation was nearly over that I actually got into a real conversation, something more than "hey, hows life, mine's great too, see you again next time someone dies". The hardest thing was seeing Timmie there in the coffin. He looked like Timmie, but I still couldn't believe it was really him. He had this devious smirk on his face. The first thing I thought of was that this was all some kind of a trick, and he was just waiting to jump up and scare the shit outta me. I wouldn't have put it past Timmie - he's crazy like that. That's why we all loved him. I just new that it was going to happen, but he never budged. This is really real. I saw it, but still could not believe it. Timmie couldn't die. He was too cool to die.
The funeral the next day was a little easier. I spent the majority of the time worried so much about the ladies that I cared about that it didn't matter that I was dying inside, too. My marial arts instincs kicked in, and I was scanning all the women that I was close to just like I previously would have scanned a battlefield for potential foes, keeping track of their emotional states the same way I'd have kept track of how injured each foe would have ben. My eyes quickly darted to the two Lauras, whom I were sitting beside and could easily hold hands with, to Pam and Joyce sitting across the aisle. Dad and Randall were immediately behind them. At the gravesite, I stood as close as I could to Pam and Joyce so that they would know that I was right there for them, but not so close that they would be forced to have to deal with me as they were all the other relations. People would constantly come up to her, ask her if she was doing okay, tell them that they'd do anything to help knowing full well they were going to drive back to Timbuktoo the following morning. I didn't want to be a part of the crowd that Pam had to talk to, give mandantory hugs to, and the like, but I tried to stay as close to the mob surrounding her as I dared, as to give her emotional support without getting in the way. After everyone else had left, I'd of course go and hug her, but only when the crowd had dissapated.
Afterwards, we were all at her house for the mandantory food afterwards. I still think that this is the stupidest tradition known to man. A wife just had to bury her husband. In this case, just days before Valentine's Day and their anniversary. But instead of being along to grieve, she now had to be a hostess, inviting dozens of people into her house and serve them food. When I die, that's not going to happen. The funeral and the burial will likely be the same, but I want everyone to go to the bar and have a good time afterwards, not force either Laura, my parents, or my kids (whoever my next of kin is at the time) to play hostess.
Anyway, by this point my back was hurting again, so I kinda stayed on the couch, talking to people who were nearby. Mom really shined here - she is the single greatest hostess known to man. She kept people's tea glasses refilled without looking like a waitress. She talked to everyone enough such that she was polite and friendly, but kept individual conversations short enough to get a chance to say hi to everyone. More importantly, she did all that she could such that Pam wouldn't have to do nearly as much as otherwise. The most amazing thing? She still has three cysts growing inside of her. She has been in immense pain for the past few weeks and miserably sick since before Thanksgiving. However, she looked completely healthy and as happy and cheerful as could be during the whole funeral.
No one else would have suspected that she was hurting so badly physically as well as emotionally like everyone else. I know though, and am completely amazed. Between her being like that, and Dad working 16 hour shifts at work and then doing chores around the house during his "off" time because he doesn't have the time to sleep, there's no wonder why I'm such a hardheaded brat that thinks he's bulletproof most of the time. I'll admit I was hurting too during much of the funeral, and that I also was trying to take care of others so much that I did not have time to deal with my own pain till hours later when I was alone, but I am just an ameteur. Mom made it into an art form this week.
Anyway, we left the "party" to come home. Instead of leaving right away, Laura and I cleaned the house as best we could, so that when Mom did come back from spending most of the week on Pam's couch, she could come home to a clean house and not one that's been falling apart for the past seven days. Laura did most of it, and it was her idea, so she deserves all the praise for this one. Didn't I mention that she was the absolute sweetest, most perfect human being alive? ::smiles::
The drive back was good, despite running a stop sign, making a wrong turn, not being bale to see the road for a while, and eventually getting lost for ten minutes (eventually getting back on the road to Mobile of all things...heh). Got here around ten or so, which left me very little time to study. No worries though, because I am pretty sure that I did well on the test the following morning.
I guess that's more than enough for now. I'm pushing myself to the verge of tears just remembering all of this and writing it down. Besides, my back is acting up again and I'm going to have to lie down on the couch for a while before it gets completely stove up.
That's enough of my week so far. I'll post the weekend's events (which were considerably more pleasant) between my 8:00 and 10:00 classes, or perhaps right before my eagerly anticipated afternoon nap. Besides, if you want to know more - which I sincerely doubt, considering how I ramble - you can always read my brother thespacecow's post on the same subject if you just caint wait. His is much less verbose, which I'm sure you are all very glad to hear. >_