Saturday Night Cry-By
I spent my Saturday night doing a cry-by. You know what a cry-by is, right? It’s when you drive by the site of some emotional trauma, such as that soda fountain where the love of your life dumped you (if you’re a teen in the 50s) or the hospital where your dad died while you watched (if you’re me), and you see what it stirs up in you, which is, most likely, crying. A cry-by! A very definite, not-invented-by-me “thing.”
I had to go to a 24 hour emergency vet to pick up antibiotics for my dog, who’d somehow developed a UTI. I put the poor guy in the car with me since he loves rides and I figured that when your urethra is on fire, it’s the simple pleasures in life. I had a sense of the general direction of the town I was headed to, and only when I needed to get more specific did I refer to the GPS. The route it was taking me was familiar- it was the same way I went to the acute rehabilitation center housed in a hospital that my dad stayed in for the last month or so of his life after bouncing between various other hospitals and rehabs where he was alternately, and often simultaneously, either too well for one or too sick for the other.
As I followed the directions I realized the first turn was the same that I used to take to see my dad, then the second, and then when the turn came that took me off that particular course I decided that after running into the vet, I wanted to swing by the hospital. I was feeling a little heavy and emotional, maybe from watching my dog pee what seemed like very red blood into the snow. I felt like I was going to cry and I wanted to lean into it, the way people sometimes watch sad movies to bring on a cathartic cry. It was a full moon, they say that’s a time for release, right? Maybe this is a fortuitous, spur-of-the-moment full moon ritual, I thought. A release of grief that will always be there and will always need periodic maintenance and cleansing, a pressure valve that needs to be turned every so often to prevent an explosion. In my mood, I was curious to go to the source and see how I would feel. I was hitting ‘Play’ on A Walk to Remember.
It’s funny how quickly you can romanticize an idea and then how swiftly reality can bring you back down to earth. After I came out of the vet’s office, expensive pee pills in hand, I didn’t think there was any need to turn on the GPS. I knew the way over there. I made the trip to this area dozens of times, I thought wistfully. And, old girl…let’s do it one last time. God, I had been brave. And right now, introspective.
And…lost. I got lost as shit. Some of the wind was sucked from my smugly-sad sails when I realized that I didn’t know where the hell I was going since I had diverted from my usual path and that what I thought was a straight shot wasn’t, so I turned on my GPS. 22 minutes! I had thought it would be more like 10 from where the vet was. Was this worth it? What did I think was going to happen there? And was it weird that I was putting a value judgement on the amount of time it would take to get there? Honestly, it was starting to be such a convoluted excursion that I could feel myself forming it into a weird anecdote in the future…that time I went to get UTI meds for the dog and thought I’d have a melancholy glance at the last place I saw my dad alive, only to scrap it because it was too inconvenient and go home to eat chili-lime rice chips. But something still tugged me to go to the hospital, so I did.
Once I got there, I didn’t feel much. I pulled over, looked up at it and probed around the edges of my emotions and tear ducts. I didn’t know what I was looking for- a feeling in myself, some sort of whisp of my dad. Man, this emotional pilgrimage felt like a bust. But then I decided to just sit for a sec before I left. To stop poking, wondering, being so hyper self-conscious of my feelings and motivations and bla bla bla, and just sit there. I picked up the prayer card from my dad’s funeral that I keep in the car. And I fucking lost it.
Face-contorting sobs came across me and I just let them. I thought about other times months ago that I had sat pulled over on this curb, losing it crying and texting my friend about how my dad was talking out loud to his nurse and on the phone to my mom but then only mouthing all of his words soundlessly to me, in a bizarre bout of delirium that I didn’t know how to handle. Times that I wailed in my parked car before I drove home, needing to let it out before I got on the road. Times I was just tired. Times I felt guilty that I didn’t want to go inside because I was afraid of what I would see and how it would make me feel. I pictured my mom, my brother and I walking out of the hospital for the last time and mechanically making plans for going to the funeral home the next morning, in more shock than I think we even realized. I sat there and cried, and I talked out loud and told my dad that I missed him SO much, and I imagined what his response would be, and I felt bad for potentially making him feel bad. I wondered if you can feel bad in heaven. I cried and cried.
And then- I started to come out of it. There was a whining dog with a UTI in the backseat who was becoming increasingly restless, probably from a combination of boredom and feeling like he had to pee. I felt thankful that I had brought him with me, a reminder of current life that I could turn around and kiss. I wiped my face, blew my nose and noticed I felt a little lighter, less bursting and busy. I turned on the car and had a second where I thought I didn’t have to turn on the GPS because of course this time I really DID know where to go, the trip directly home from the hospital was one that I’d made a bunch of times- but I thought better of it. I wasn’t sure I knew the way in the dark after all this time, and that was okay. I’d still get there.