After our meal, mom wanted to go straight to the hospital to see Aunt Kay. As we drove through Sioux City, we stopped at a red light, and what would go rolling by in front of us? A tumbleweed. I was sputtering. “Ma, Mom, am I seeing things or was that a tumbleweed?” And no sooner were the words out of my mouth and three more came, well, tumbling by right through the intersection. Crazy! I went on and on, I’d never seen anything like that. Mom could not control her laughter at my utter shock and bewilderment of seeing tumble weeds in the middle of what one could loosely call an urban area. I said, loosely, to those of you who know Sioux City and are shaking their heads at the term “urban”.
We found Aunt Kay weak and out of it, our “That Girl” was barely recognizable. They’d done an esphogogastroduodenoscopy and hiatal hernia repair three weeks prior, only to find that her esophagus had been punctured in the process. Big mess. HUGE, and she was so very sick. I sat with her on her bed, lotioned her hands, applied lip balm. Mom, a stutterer when nervous, was stuttering away. “Bbonnie…wwwwwhat is is going on?” She touched Aunt Kay’s pale face, kissed her. I shook my head. Aunt Kay looked gravely ill, and we were glad we came.
It was quite late when we finally left, and by then she was more responsive, and resting comfortably. She told us we should go before it got too dark, the road is long when darkness falls between Sioux City and Climbing Hill. We were able to talk a bit and make a plan, she told us my aunt and cousin would be there tomorrow. I wanted to be there when the docs made rounds, so we would arrive early, and plan on spending the day. She smiled weakly when I leaned over to kiss her, and said, “I’m so glad you’re here…”
It is darker than ink, on Old HWY 141, and a long 24 miles back to Grandma’s, though, Grandma had been gone many years. Aunt Kay lived in Grandma’s house, but still to my mind, it was still Grandma’s house. We struggled with the lock in the pitch black back doorway. I stepped in gingerly, knowing a step too far would send me tumbling down the basement stairs, and moving too quickly to my right would have me falling up the stairs to the kitchen. But, in fact, I didn’t get in far at all, and I didn’t worry at all about the stairs or the light switch or even hear my mom reminding me of these things I already knew, but that she thought I’d forgotten.
All I could do was stand there and breathe deeply the smell of my Grandma’s house, and hear her voice, and the swishing sound her baggy ankled nylons made when she walked, and listen for the voices of my cousins and aunts and uncles, and feel the life and love and sit in the soft ruby-red chair and hear the strains of music when As the World Turns came on the television. And get all weirded out when my little 3-year-old cousin ran in from playing to nurse at his mother’s breast. All these visions and voices and sounds and emotions passed through my exhausted mind in a matter of seconds and then the tears came, the ugly red scrunched up crying face tears. The force of emotion in that black landing, in that black night, it was beyond anything I’d ever felt before. Or perhaps let myself feel.
My mom’s concerned voice came from the darkness behind me. “Why the tears, honey?”
I gulped, standing still and breathing and sobbing, and reliving and remembering and hearing as if my little girl self stood there on that dark step. I was crying because I was amongst the spirits of Climbing Hills past and I missed them so much that the loudest sound I heard that night was the dreams and innocence of that time shattering into a million pieces.