I took her Cadillac the day we spread her ashes.
It was a long drive from San Diego to Bodega Bay, but it gave me time to think, which I did, sometimes reluctantly.
And as freeways gave way to greened two-lane roads, I lulled myself into thinking everything would be OK.
Of course, it never could be, not the way I wanted it. For that, I’d have to take back everything I’d said in anger, how I made her cry, how I scribbled “I hate you!” again and again in my childhood diary.
We gathered on the boat, mostly silent, an occasional joke to sweat the mourning. I’d written a note on paper and attached it to her picture, the one I liked best, with her mouth wide open in laughter, no trace of regret in her eyes. I threw the whole thing in the water, watched the ashes spread in the wind, and joined the others to huddle against the cold.
We all were there that night. We’d been warned about the ending, and so lay on the bedroom floor to absorb the last moments. Dad slept next to her, and we knew it was for the last time.
None of us slept. Her breathing rattled and croaked and stopped and started. To pair that noise with the person you loved couldn’t be done, so we didn’t, and lay without talking.
My dad got up first. Just a drop of morphine to calm the breath that rose fitful and gutterul in her chest. I believe she needed me to be there then. And so I was, I think alone. I told her it would be all right and to go and it would be all right and to go and I soothed her with words and my hands and said to go and it would be all right.
4 in the morning and then that was all. There was no more, I still don’t understand how. Too late, I slipped in next to her and told her I was sorry. I didn’t mean it. Don’t go, don’t go.
The hospice worker arrived and I held her as she cried.