I said I wanted to go. Even though I didn't really want to go. But I felt like I was supposed to want to go. Or something.
So we went. I drove my mom back to the cemetary, back past the funeral staging area where we waited in our cars for what felt like forever, in the cold and the rain. Where I had stared out the window and told Jason I wanted to be cremated, then stared at my feet and silently regretted my choice of footwear.
The weather was beautiful this year, so we parked farther away, where the car wouldn't possibly get in the way of any other funeral. We started walking down the grassy aisles and I silently regretted my choice of stroller. I should have brought the sturdier one, not the cheap car seat stroller frame that got stuck on every lump and divot in the ground. The ground that was full of bodies.
My mom got turned around and confused about the rows. The rows and rows of identical markers, so we marched up one and then had to turn around and the stroller got caught on a bit of raised earth around the corner of a headstone -- a dead stranger's headstone, oh my God, I'm sorry, I'm sorry -- and I felt small, quiet waves of panic and nausea deep within my chest as I pushed my baby back down another narrow row, back over the ground that was full of bodies.
My mom has visited every week -- she says it helps, to see a physical reminder of his life, to feel a connection to his spirit. But today she can't find "him" because we took a different path in, because of the stroller. The flowers she had delivered on Sunday are already gone, so there's nothing to do but check the numbers on the back of the markers and keep counting down the rows. Until we find him. Him.
My mom kisses the headstone and talks to him. She tells him I am there, and Baby Ike is there, and I am fully plunged into a silent internal freak-out because no. No. He is not here. He is not here at all. I am not introducing my baby to a patch of ground and a stone; I am not contemplating what lies beneath us; what lies all around us. Loss, death, decay.
My mom asks if I want to take a picture. I have no idea what I want anymore, or what I'm supposed to want to do. But I take a picture anyway. Then another. Then my phone freezes up and won't take any more pictures. I get annoyed with it on principle, for some reason.
"I'm not good with cemetaries," I say very quietly, as if this was a Thing, a Quirk, some established known fact about me. Here Lies Amy Corbett Storch: She didn't like the phone, volcanoes, raw onions and cemetaries.
I'd never set actually foot in a cemetary before. His funeral didn't even count; it was way over there, in a gazebo, away from this field and this ground, this ground full of bodies and everywhere I step I'm doing spatial math about the length of the average casket and whether I'm walking directly above a body. On a body? A body who was someone's loved one and here I am pushing a stroller frame on top of them? I should have used the Ergo, I should have stayed on the pavement until I knew where we were going, I should...
I should not have come here.
This is awful. I feel awful. And not just about the headstones and the ground full of bodies. As I stare at his name etched in marble, he has never felt more...gone. It has never felt so final and complete than it does in this moment.
"I'm not good with cemetaries" I whisper again. My chest is tight and my breathing is shallow. I want to leave. I want to leave and I don't want to come back.
My mom understands. She understands completely. She says we can go, so we do.
We stop for breakfast on the way back. Ike eats a plate of scrambled eggs and a bowl of strawberries and bananas. The mess is terrific, but the waitresses don't seem to mind because he's smiling at them in between double-fisted mouthfuls. An old friend calls because she wants to meet the baby; my mother-in-law offers to take him later so my mom and I can go out for dinner together. After that, I set up the Roku I bought her for Christmas and we watch Downton Abbey.
I spend the rest of the day above the ground, where it's easier to breathe. And before I know it, I wake up. And it was Thursday.