I am generally not the type to look for validation in the weather, or even for coincidences. But I do have to admit that when the first, heavy, cold, but still infrequent rain drops started to fall as I made my way across the other campus to the shuttle stop it sort of figured. Because this morning it looked like it could go either way and because if there is sun, driving without sunglasses ranks very low on my list of fun things to do, I put on my new oversize sunglasses. But I didn't bring the umbrella for the other eventuality. So I was standing at the shuttle stop, with my sunglasses on and no umbrella when it occurred to me that while last time I was on this campus I caught the shuttle back from this exact spot, the same stop I used to get off the shuttle earlier, this wasn't the endpoint stop on the route, and that, therefore, since the shuttle wasn't sitting at this stop at the time of its designated departure for the campus containing my office, I missed the sucker. As I walked towards the endpoint stop by the library so I could wait out the thirty minute interval in the presumably dry lobby thereof, raindrops falling on the outside of my fancy new oversized sunglasses, crying seemed both redundant and overly dramatic.
This is a good time to mention that missing the shuttle was in no way causing me to consider relative merits of crying anyway vs. toughing it out-- I wasn't running late for anything, so it would've been ok to chill for extra thirty minutes. What was making me teether on the brink was feeling that if I let go I might not stop. And that, that would be embarrassing. On the street in broad daylight and all that. That feeling was in turn brought on by a phone call with an employee of the cemetery we met yesterday when we stopped by the office to inquire about the particulars of the regulations on the grave markers.
The guy, let's call him Mr.Awkward, started by batting 1000 on the open mouth insert foot scale when he answered my question on the permissibility of a free-standing vase above the marker with "I am just letting you know that free standing vases are about a thousand dollars." That led me to immediately inform him that he was being highly inappropriate. He didn't apologize. Whatever. So while he is looking up our information in the computer, I decide to ask, just to make sure, about the proper position of a grave marker. Does it go over the head such that if you are reading it you are looking at the feet? No, the other way.
Cue panic. Because, see, three weeks ago, A's marker was moved. But when I went to the office and the lady came out to look at it with me, she moved it back. After consulting the map of the section in their book, Mr. Awkward says he will go look in the morning, but assures us the marker must be over the correct space, just the wrong part of it. Five minutes later, as we are standing in the section, it sinks in for me that no, it's not over the right space. It's over an empty space. The right space, I become convinced, is next to the new baby, and has been unmarked for nearly fifteen months.
This morning's phone call, the one that had me tethering on the brink, it proved that I was right. Mr. Awkward told me he moved the marker and the flowers we left yesterday, but again he couldn't find the word sorry. He kept saying "ok." I asked him whether that was all he had to say, told him that I was extremely upset, that I do not understand why the call didn't start and end with apologies, that it is unconscionable that people have been walking over my son like there is nothing there for the last nearly fifteen months, and demanded a meeting with the president of the cemetery. Mr.Awkward promised that the president would call me back. By the time he did, near the end of my sojourn in the library lobby that was, as predicted, dry, I was just about ready to loose the whole not crying battle. Mr.President, however, both started and ended with profuse apologies, volunteered that he already told Mr.Awkward that his remark about the cost of the vase was out of line, and otherwise tried to assure me that at least he, and actually the whole entire organization, do not think my son is unimportant.
I insisted on a face to face meeting because I have way more to say. About that lady who just moved the marker back three weeks ago without checking the map before or after she drove out with me, and who never called me back even though she promised. About how the thing so many of the bereaved parents struggle with is how our children don't seem to matter to most anyone, and about this is one place that should never ever reinforce that feeling. Speaking of which, I have things to say about the general state of that section. The lawn is distinctly sad in parts of it, and it is luscious everywhere else in the cemetery. So Thursday, when we see Mr.President, I am going to be reminding him that grieving is for the living, and that dignity is not optional in his line of business. And if I have to, I will mention my willingness to contact both the Jewish and the general circulation publications in the area about the story.
Here's the thing I am still working on in my head, though. Monkey has incredible spacial memory. The second time she was ever at the cemetery, she headed straight for where A's marker was. I will now have to explain to her why it's not where it used to be. I can't see telling her how badly the cemetery people actually screwed up. So I think I will take my sister's advice and tell her that it got moved from his head to his feet. This will be the very first lie I ever told her. Ever. You better believe Mr. President will hear about this as well.
So you think this might be enough for one day? I thought so. Got back to my office, met with a student, picked up my newly arrived new printer, stopped by the boss's office for a few words. And then I missed the shuttle to my car. By a hair. I mean I ran towards it, the driver saw me, and he still pulled away. The next shuttle was in thirty minutes, I was going to miss the school pick up. So I hatched an intricate plan. I took a city bus to where it diverges from the shuttle route, by a mall. I figured there is a supermarket there, so there will be cabs, and I will make it to the garage and my car soonish. Unfortunately, my plan didn't account for finding, upon getting off the bus, a lot of rain and no cabs. I tried to catch one for a while, fought self over the crying thing again, then called JD to call me one (and to call the school to tell them I will be late). They said ten minutes. Twenty minutes later they told him any minute now. Five more minutes later they told me "I won't lie to you. I have no cabs. I have your order, but no cabs." Excuse me? You won't lie to me? So then I did what I should've done in the first place, and would've definitely done if it wasn't for the rain-- I walked. After all, it's less than a mile.
In the middle of the wet and crazy things started to look up when Monkey's classmate's mom called to ask if she should pick Monkey up. I could also hear the kindergarten cheering section's hearty support for this particular idea. When I finally arrived at their house, still pretty wet, there was tea and adult conversation, seeing as Monkey was hiding upstairs to avoid having to leave. The host kid came downstairs to ask if Monkey could spend the night. Instead, eventually, I left with both girls. Some errands later we were all home, them playing, JD and I cooking.
This morning, what seems like eons ago, I freaked him out by sending him an email asking him whether he knew what today was. Not exactly my fault-- I myself only realized what it was after I wrote the date down. Eventually he remembered too-- fifteen years since the morning after the evening he arrived in the US for the first time, when we met, as agreed, by my dorm, three and a half years and an ocean after seeing each other last. The food tonight was really good, and after the girls went to bed there was desert. I even had a few drops of wine. But I still maintain the cab thing was gratuitous.