U-Haul Quote for One-day Rental: $19.95 plus $0.89/mile+various other b.s. charges
It is Spring 2020 on a normal pandemic morning, meaning it is barely morning anymore and I am still in bed, that is until a call wakes me up. Bleary-eyed I look down at my phone, "I'll call her back," I think, noticing it is just my sister. I grumble and throw the covers off, making my way to the bathroom. Just as I am about to open the door and plop my ass down on the toilet, my palm buzzes and looking down at my phone I can see that it is my other sister. I sigh and answer, still groggy, "Hello," a lot of chatter as now both my sisters are in my ear, I am apparently in a group call.
"Are you awake?" my oldest sister Nat asks.
"I don't think she's awake, let's call her back," suggest Crys, my other sister.
Hearing both of them, my gut feels suddenly hollow. There is something hidden in their tone, like before they told me our dog died. They are protecting me again; I guess I will always be the little sister.
"What is it?" I think I say this, although I am now trying to hear myself across a canyon.
"Just wake up and then call us back okay?" This is said so gently that it doesn't even sound like Nat's voice.
"I'm awake. Just tell me."
A deep sigh, "Don't panic but Grandma's in the hospital."
My voice harsher than I want it to be, "Okay. What happened?"
Crys takes this one, "She was eating and choked on some food and now she's gone into cardiac arrest. No one can go into the hospital, so we don't know for sure what's happening."
Time is different now. Time is pacing, waiting, phone calls with no new information, and more pacing. I keep playing in my head the last time I spoke to my grandmother, how she kept saying, "They won't let us go anywhere. It will never end. It will never end," and, as she did often since her stroke, she got stuck in a cycle of repeating, a cycle that, with my inexperience, I struggled to pull her out of. Suddenly I am in another call, this time with my two sisters and my aunt. My sister is explaining the situation to my aunt when she suddenly interrupts herself to tell us that my parents are calling and she will have to put us on hold.
"Well hopefully someone will get to see her soon," I hear my aunt, but I can barely muster a reply, luckily my sister takes hold of the conversation as I float away.
A click, and my sister is back on the line, but she is not saying anything, she is just crying. "G-randma..."
I am suddenly aware of the walls--their glaring whiteness.
"They couldn't...Grandma is dead. Grandma is dead...I can't." The words hit me and I am empty.
My aunt is saying something in the background, but I feel the tide inside of me rushing back out and somehow I am crying. I don't know how I get off the phone, but I do.
My grandma is dead.
I want to throw my mac. How the fuck are they trying to charge me this much for a goddamn U-haul. I look over at my partner who has that look on his face like he's trying to figure out how to help, but is also trying not to put his hand in the tiger's mouth, "Honey," he says tentatively, "What's...what's up?" I throw my hands in exasperation, "These mothertruckers are...like how is it so expensive to rent a goddamn truck? For one day? All I went to go is pick up my grandma's stuff. I mean, I know it's just stuff. I know it's just stuff." I am on the verge of tears, because somehow it's not just stuff. I take a deep breath. Eventually, after much discussion, which is mostly just my partner listening to me vent, a decison is made to not rent an expensive truck and to just put the seats down in the Fit, making two trips if necessary.
And then, the next day, we are driving toward the place I called home off and on for twenty-six years. As we pull up and I see the house, to be honest, I do not feel much. I have been back enough times now that I am starting to get used to the idea that soon someone else will be living there. It helps that my uncle has painted every single room white and scrubbed at least half the antique-quality from the place, making it simpler to imagine that it is not actually my grandma's house at all.
My uncle and my sister meet us at the gate and we go in together. We pack the chairs and the lamps and some dishes into the trunk, amazed at how much we have puzzled into our small car. The rest is going into storage for now, but we can always make more trips there. Then we say goodbye to the house one last time and as we drive away I can see the red brick in the rearview.
And I am fine the whole way home.
It is only when I am dusting the lamps that it hits me. I picture my grandmother, sitting in her spot on her couch in her living room. She has her hands folded neatly, as always, and this time she looks happy. For the past year our last phone call has always come back to haunt me, but right now, as I gently wipe a cloth across the glass lampshade, she is resting calmly and she's not mad at all that I took the lamps and the ugly blue chair. And I am crying, but it is honestly okay this time, because when I turn on the lamps the light still looks like her.