The road to St. Louis brought discovery, nostalgia, and not a few sad moments.
I did fairly well until the half-mile before the Watch for Fog bridge. The stretch before the expanse over the Missouri river used to hold fields and crops. Since the 1993 flood, the fields have yielded to scrubby undergrowth and untamed trees. I turned the volume down low, slowed my speed, and let my eyes stray over the grim expanse. I wondered about the farmer who had once tilled the land.
An unfortunate mix-up with my room left me standing in the hallway of the hotel, frustrated and tired. My sisters took seats in the lobby, drinking free coffee and assuring me that they were fine. The front desk attendant kept promising that the room would be ready in five minutes, then ten, then fifteen. He wheeled my bag down the hall, only to learn that the housekeeper had broken the bathroom door. With multiple rapid apologies, the man bustled me into a room across the hall where we discovered the housekeeper standing in the corner texting on her iPhone.
I said, This is just unacceptable, and gestured to the old pizza sitting on the television, the crumpled towels on the floor, and the unstocked tray for those little bottles of shampoo and soap. Sorry, sorry, sorry, the man kept muttering.
At the funeral home I stood in front of my cousin Paul’s casket, wishing that the two decades during which I had not seen him enough to know his children’s names had not passed too rapidly to be reclaimed. Then my sister Ann arrived and after she had paid her respects, she told us the story of the telefloral customer service lady’s failure to do as she had been instructed by Ann. I was furious, Ann said, laughing. I was standing at the gate, about to board the plane, and I let her have it. And in my mind, I could hear Bill saying, “And I have eight children and none of them will ever go to this school again!”.
Bill, her husband. And the person with the eight children who would never go to the offending teacher’s school in Bill’s imagination?
Lucille Johanna Lyons Corley, she from whom all Corley women learned how to unleash our wrath.
I got the point of Ann’s story — both points, in fact. Her frustration that the flowers from the Corley children had not arrived, and her acknowledgment that we have become our mother.
I’m fairly sure that my mother did not consider her chastisement of offending customer service reps, teachers, even doctors to be complaining. And yet: and yet — it is. Oh mother. I am your daughter, whether I like it or not. You bore your burdens well, but the stress they caused, the cracks in your armor, let your pain slip out in ways that you could not foresee.
After a lovely dinner with my sister Joyce, I hit Walgreen’s for Extra Strength Tylenol, some Listerine, and a pair of tights. After fifteen minutes in the exercise room, I found the sorrow of the day easing from my shoulders. I gripped the handle-bar of the treadmill and happened to glance down at my wrist, where I again wear the blessings bracelet which my friend Jane Williams gave me. I had put it aside, but somehow, I felt the need of it keenly, to help me make this trip to the Lou, to say goodbye to one of the best of us.