I spent ten days in Wales, helping Mom with the task of sorting through Uncle Harold’s house and affairs. My cousin Jeremy had done a tremendous amount by the time we had gotten there, in terms of dealing with the logistics of registering the death and such, so Mom and I wanted to do our part as well. I found the distractions of sorting and tidying and making lists helped me avoid, or really just delay, feeling sad. I will say the effort involved in suppressing one’s sadness, regardless of how manic you become in focusing on sorting each and every drawer you can find, becomes incredibly exhausting. And by the end of the ten days, with the funeral the day before I left, I was extremely empty. I hate funerals, because I hate goodbyes. But I can say with great happiness that Uncle Harold would have been delighted with everyone who showed up to say goodbye. It really was unfair though that such a gathering of friends and loved ones was one he couldn’t attend; I think he would have loved it.
This gathering of friends and loved ones reminded me of my trip home to the states in January. My intentions for the trip home, in addition to the primary purpose of gathering up Clifford and Max from Mom’s, were to see friends, relax and shop.
I arrived first in DC, where I was going to spend two days hanging out with Robin, before I flew on to Ohio. I was so excited to see her! This was the longest we’d ever gone in not seeing each other in almost 20 years, despite emailing and skypeing and such. As soon as I saw her I completely burst into tears, and we stood next to the revolving luggage bins at Dulles, hugging each other and sobbing as if we were twins separated at birth. If I had any sense at all, I probably would have been a bit embarrassed. But I obviously had no sense as well as no idea this was merely the beginning of my sobbing fits.
I managed not to sob in front of Dad and Lori at dinner, but then reenacted my sobbing reunion with Mom at the Dayton airport a few days later. Then sobbed again when I finally saw Max and Clifford (two separate sobbing fits). I think the latter had a lot of guilt attached, as I never intended to leave them with Mom for nine months. I managed to subdue the sobbing for a while, during which I saw friends in Ohio and continued to shop like a lunatic (you’d have thought I was Imelda at a shoe sale). I had been amassing an odd list of desperately-needed items, including vegetarian boullion, mixing bowls, pasta strainer, mascara, etc.
The return plan was to rent a car in Ohio, drive back to Maryland with Clifford and Max, stay two days at Robin’s then head to Dulles and Cairo. Luckily we had left a few days for Maryland as we were hit with a huge snowstorm in Ohio the day we were supposed to leave and had to postpone it one day.
When I was making my plans in January, I had contacted all my girlfriends to see if they could get together for a group dinner. This way I could hopefully see everyone, but wouldn’t have to squeeze in ten lunches. We were able to arrange it at Mary’s house for the night before we flew. All in all there were eleven of us (Mom, Mary, Robin, Linda, Joyce, Kelly, Celia, Betsy, Shari and Valerie), and as soon as I walked in and saw Mary the sobbing ensued. As I greeted everyone the sobbing slowly diminished, but I think I was a bit dehydrated by this point too. The dinner was fantastic and despite the assortment of folks from my various different lives: PETA, the law firm, my attempted career in “security” firms, there was never a lull in the chatter din and we went well into the night finally bidding farewell at 1:30am.
The next day was the flight, and after an unsuccessful attempt to get Clifford to throw up before we got on the plane as he tends to get car-sick (we drove him around the neighborhood, but he refused to comply), Mom and I loaded up the car with all my can’t-live-without purchases and the cats, and I had one final sobbing farewell with Robin.
We got the bags checked (with my subtle attempts to distract the ticket taker while she weighed them), and got through security with the cats in their harnesses and leashes without incident – though I did have one woman ooh and ahh over Max and asked, “What breed is he?” I told her, “D.C. street cat.”
We had some potentially problematic issues in Frankfurt, where we learned that, while Mom and I were booked to fly on to Cairo, Clifford and Max were not. We did some desk hopping, feeling the best way to handle it was ask enough people until we got the answer we needed. We managed to rectify that one, only to discover at the gate that I didn’t have a seat. I was on stand by. They also noted, again, that the cats weren’t booked to fly to Cairo. By this point I was willing to stoop, so I started casually waving about my “Diplomatic” passport hoping someone would think I mattered. They didn’t. But luckily we literally ran out of time and they realized that in order to look into the cat issue, we’d miss our flight, so they found me a seat and we were all finally heading home. Lufthansa is my new favorite airline.
We arrived in Cairo, got our bags, had no trouble bringing in the smuggled mascara and nail polish, nor the 15 pounds of vegetarian “bologna,” and headed to the apartment. Once there, we re-introduced Clifford and Max to Chuckles and Ricky and the new, temporary, kitten, Albert. Albert proceeded to hiss a lot at the new oranges, but Chuckles and Ricky were merely like, “Hey, welcome home.”
I had done a lot of thinking on the flight home. I was still reveling from the amazing dinner the night before. During my time in Cairo I’ve had bouts of feeling homesick or missing people, but not much. I’ve been busy settling in, figuring things out, braving the traffic, and I rely heavily on emails and phone calls. But being in that room with these phenomenal women who I have known for the last five to twenty years, really made me realize how much I desperately miss their companionship. And also made me realize how amazingly thankful I am for their friendships. I truly wouldn’t be who or where I am today without them. Their influence on me and my life is irreplaceable and permanent and I am so grateful for each and every one of them.
I’ve met some really nice people here in Cairo, and some may turn out to be lifelong friends, but these women around that dinner table have listened to my fears and frustrations, held my hand when I thought my heart was forever broken, told me I’m crazy when I’m crazy, encouraged and supported me when I needed it, taught me life, cooking and dating skills, and most importantly stood with me when I found the love of my life. So, learning from Uncle Harold and not wanting to wait, I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you for everything and I love you.