I always say these letters are short summaries, yet they are never short, nor do they sufficiently summarize.
Still, I shall try again.
Yesterday (Friday the 28th) was a full day. Carol deposited me at Patrick’s apartment just as the clock rolled over to this milestone on the calendar, but I didn’t get to sleep until after 3 AM. Some delays were routine – dig through my bags for the morning clothes, shower to scrub off the travel grime, answer text and e-mail messages, decide where to sleep – but other delays were less expected.
The remains of Patrick’s last meal were on the table, a fine fur of mold coating the chicken and a swirl of rainbow mold atop the bowl of pureed potatoes, so washing the dishes made sense. I then realized the dishwasher had not been run so its contents needed attention as well. I succumbed to the need to wander this tiny apartment and soak in the reality.
Some have asked if I could feel my dad’s spirit when I arrived.
It would be classically romantic to say I could hear him chuckle in the subtle breeze outside the still-open window, or feel a caress on the cheek when I finally set my head to pillow, but that would be false and folly besides. It would be poetic to think he’d left me a message saying “Sorry, son, but it was time to go. Thanks for cleaning up my little mess. Take care of your sisters and tell everyone again I loved them, and never meant to hurt anyone,” but no such whisper or scrap of paper welcomed me.
No, after entering the apartment and saying good night to Carol, I did not sense his presence at all; instead, I profoundly sensed his absence.
A used band-aid lay on the floor. The banana in the fruit bowl had gone completely black. Ivonne’s sleep shirt hid beneath her pillow. Medicines rested in their place, awaiting their next dose. The pill box was ready to go, with Thursday’s pocket empty. His change purse, with his father’s glass lens tucked in next to six euro in coins, rested on the bedside table next to his glasses, phone charger and box tissues.
So…. This is how Friday began, in an empty apartment.
A few hours later my alarm chimed to prepare me for the day’s full attack. Suzy came over and shared coffee with me, then she shuttled me around for several hours. Her help at the courthouse and funeral home was invaluable.
At the courthouse we explained that Patrick was not depressed, but was in agony from the non-stop pain. I signed documents saying I had no reason to suspect foul play. I received a copy of the police report and the necessary forms to take to the funeral home.
At the funeral home we hit a few bumps, but Suzy was quietly insistent.
First we were told we’d arrived too late and the viewing and cremation would not happen until Saturday. She managed to get that fixed, then we were told that the cremation was at 6:30, not the viewing. Again Suzy politely insisted that it must be 6:30 for the viewing, which was the time announced to everyone, and so the woman on the other side of the table made calls and got confirmation that our schedule remained valid.
There were so many questions: flowers, religious icons, clothing, did I wish to watch the closed coffin enter the furnace, would there be a service at the viewing.
Next came the task of choosing a coffin (which would exist only a few hours) and an urn (which would exist “forever” if ceramic.) I chose the basic coffin, without a cross, and a ceramic urn. It looked purple in the photo, which I knew one sister would appreciate, but was corrected by the lady: it’s blue. (I saw a sample later, and it’s a deep blue and almost purple so I think my sisters and ma will approve.)
Somehow I remained dispassionate through most of the process, exercising some kind of strength that Patrick knew I had in me. He told me that my calm under duress was one of the reasons he’d chosen me to handle his affairs. Yes, I replied, I am the responsible one, but he must allow me to break down in emotion when the crises have passed.
This process took a while such that Suzy had to get going in order to pick up her grandson Robert so she dropped me off near the apartment so that Ivonne and I could meet for lunch at a kebab place we’d visited a month earlier. It was chilly so I wore Patrick’s leather jacket. When she saw me she cried, and laughed, and hugged, and complimented the look of his coat on my stockier frame.
I’m glad I was able to be with Ivonne so soon into my visit. She loved Patrick deeply, dearly, and has had a difficult time with the loss. I hope that she will find comfort in my visit and peace in her heart. I know that she is beginning to “calm” and accept her loss while appreciating the joy she shared with him.
After lunch I decided to find a guest book for the viewing, but it took several stops until we found a reasonable approximation. Jet lag began to kick in, but fortunately I was close to the apartment so Ivonne dropped me off and I was able to nap for half an hour.
All too soon the bleating of my alarm dragged me out of my slumbers and into the shower, which rejuvenated me a little. Carol arrived early because of traffic worries, and we “made our minute” at the crematorium. There I paid for all the services rendered, including the autopsy (haven’t seen the results yet – must go back to the courthouse), and we awaiting the friends of Patrick to arrive.
Attending the viewing were Jeff, Ivonne, Adriana, Cecily, Carol, Isabel, Louie, Arturo, Suzy, Robert (grandson), Mattias, Neil and me. Carol brought yellow roses from her garden. Ivonne picked up a lovely purple orchid on behalf of a sister with a card that read “To poppy, with love from your delicate flower,” a reference to both her name for him and his term of endearment for her.
The viewing took place in a second room adjacent to the first. I stayed in the first room, but at one point I was sitting with Adriana near the door and caught an unintended glimpse of his face in the other room. I turned quickly away and will continue to remember him in life, not in a coffin under glass.
Around 8:00 PM or later four of us adults (plus Robert) went into the city for a glass of wine. Suzy’s daughter picked up Robert about a half hour later, then Suzy and Jeff went back to Soller and Ivonne and I sought out dinner, eventually settling on an Italian place after the tapas bar was too full and noisy.
It was close to midnight when I was deposited at my doorstep. After entering the apartment I decided it was time to get rid of all Patrick’s medicines, a task that took quite a while, but I felt like it was progress after the challenges of the day.
Now it is after midnight on Saturday (wee hours of Sunday, really), with another full day complete, pretty worn down, but will try to write about it now.
Carol and I went to the crematorium to pick up Patrick’s urn, then we joined Ivonne at one of Patrick’s favorite restaurants, Portixol, requesting a “table for four.” The server was gracious and set the table for four and delivered everything we enjoyed to the urn beside me, as well. It was very, very sweet.
After lunch we walked near the beach for a while, then spent the rest of the day and well into the night packing up stuff to give to family and friends. Very late, long after Carol had left, Ivonne and I went into the old town for dinner, accidentally discovering a place that Patrick and I had visited in 2011 call El Gallego. Finally now I am back in the apartment, eager to shower and sleep.
Tomorrow I MUST focus on my students in California, though we’ll likely do more packing at some point. There is some confusion as to whether I can stay here for the duration or if I have to be gone by Monday. The uncertainty provides an extra stresser I don’t need, but I’ll get through this too.
Good night, everyone, and thank you all for your kind thoughts, prayers, and well wishes.
P.S. Pictures: Table for four. Patrick’s urn beside the ocean. Juzgado (court house). Purple orchids at the crematorium. JP sits in front of “Patrick’s Ladies.” Patrick’s last meal, six days later.
I’m the son of Patrick of Meadows.