Less than two weeks after getting back from Alaska I learned that my Aunt Bea has an advanced, inoperable cancer. I’d planned to go to New Jersey to see my dad in the middle of September. After thinking this over for a few hours, I decided to move up the trip by a month.
The day after tomorrow I’ll be on a plane to Philadelphia. About an hour from there is my home town, Fairton, known mostly for truck farming but more recently for prisons — two have been built there since I left. I’ll visit with Bea and also with her sister, my Aunt Dot, whose deathbed I raced to in early April. Well, Dot made liars out of the doctors yet again.
Sure, I could wait until next month. But I’d rather go for a visit than a funeral, so I have been making arrangements:
- Looking for a last-minute ticket that wasn’t too gouge-y, with help from Hotwire through Mr. Rebates (I will get 3% back)
- Finding a house-sitter and, until I nailed one down late Saturday, figuring out how I’d manage if the place were going to be empty (USPS holds mail for only 30 days and I’ll be gone slightly longer than that)
- Researching and writing my Living With Less column for MSN Money, due the morning I leave (still interviewing as of this morning)
- Renewing prescriptions because I don’t have enough for a month; I’ll hop on the bus tomorrow to pick them up
- Trying on hot-weather clothes to see if they still fit (I put on weight in Anchorage due to ice cream and inactivity). They do. Kind of.
- Pulling together other odds and ends that I’ll need: checkbook and tax paperwork (quarterly payment due Sept. 15), info on how to pay the bimonthly electric bill (it’ll arrive mid-month), contacts for three side trips I hope to make (two business-related, one not), cell-phone headset (I’ll be doing interviews for the next two columns from my dad’s house), asthma inhaler, pre-addressed envelope to mail my October rent
- Creating my airline survival kit: earplugs, reading material ( Surface of Earth by Reynolds Price), snacks, free-after-rebate Advil PM so I can sleep
- Making my one and only batch of jam for 2010 with the berries I’d picked on Thursday and Friday (five jars, so pretty on the countertop)
- Dithering when I couldn’t focus: What’s the best way to get to D.C. for one meeting and then to Charleston, S.C. to see my friend? How clean does the apartment have to be before I expect someone else to stay in it for a month? Can I use the last of this milk before I leave? Do I have a frequent-flier account with Continental? What about food on the plane, since I’ll be traveling for 15 hours door to door?
I am going for a visit, but I am packing for a funeral. Bea is on a feeding tube, nothing by mouth. Dot is 87 and so frail and ill that I can’t believe she’s still with us.
These two women are the last Burgess siblings. They’re my last strong tie to my mother, who died seven years ago this month. It’s going to be hard for me to let them go. That’s why it’s important for me to drop everything and head back east.
I hate saying goodbye. But I’m thankful for the opportunity to do so.