Precious Things

(Whoops, and then I got mixed up on what day of the week is what. Here’s Tuesday’s post… on Wednesday, because I can’t keep track! Thursday’s post should come on time tomorrow, for real though! -ctan)

When we were maybe ten miles from the hospital, I could feel my anxiety winding tighter as the questions hit me like key changes: what if she died while you were out? what if she was angry about it? what if, what if, what if?

And I realized, hey, you know what? Me worrying about it isn’t going to change anything. If her moment came while I was in Memphis, then that’s sad, but it’s not like worrying about it now actually helped anyone. Least of all me, but it didn’t help anyone else, either.

We made it to the hospital without me having an accident or hyperventilating or anything like that. In fact, the closer we got, the calmer I got. Whatever had happened, had happened, and it wasn’t like I could do anything about it.

There would be plenty of time to beat myself up about things later, if warranted. Right now, I had no use for negative or self-destructive feelings. I parked the car as close to the entrance as possible and in we went. Ziggy said nothing, but I had the feeling he was watching me closely.

We reached the ward and a nurse flagged us down but steered us toward Claire’s usual room. Remo and Courtney were in there, but the bed was empty.

“She’s in surgery,” Court said. Her eyes looked bruised. “Right now we’re assuming she’s going to make it through, but.” But she shrugged to indicate her pessimism about survival after that.

I hugged her, because it felt like the right thing to do, and she burst into tears on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here,” I said.

“You being here wouldn’t have changed anything,” she said between sniffles.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here for you to cry on earlier, then,” I said, and she laughed wetly. “It really felt like Claire timed it just to spite me.”

She chuckled and wiped her eyes on the collar of my shirt. “Oh, what a terrible thing to say. But true. So true. I was thinking it, too.”

When we finally broke apart, Ziggy and Remo had left the room. “I was gone for not even an hour,” Court said. “I went over to the residence to see about clearing her things out of there.”

“She didn’t have a lot.”

“So I saw. I was looking for a photo of her.” She moved to the shelf by the window where she had spread out a bunch of papers and things. “The church is going to want it to print in the program for her funeral.”

That was a detail I hadn’t even considered. But I supposed it made sense. Even a funeral needs to be stage-managed. “Did you find one?”

“She used to have these portrait photos from her wedding day. Her wedding to Dad, I mean. Do you remember the ones I mean?”

I saw she had various clippings, the Playbills I’d seen before, Claire’s head shot from when she was a teenager. “Did they used to be in frames on top of the TV?”

“Yeah, I think so. It was a three-part frame, with the two of them in the middle and the individual ones of him and her on the sides.” She broke off and went into the little bathroom to blow her nose. When she came back out her eyes were red, but relatively dry. “I thought that one of her would be perfect, but I didn’t find it.”

“Maybe she burned anything associated with Digger.” I meant it as a joke, but knowing Claire, she might have done it.

“Or maybe it ended up at Lilibeth’s or something.” Court sighed.

“I think you should use this one.” I picked up the talent agency headshot. “I think she’s eighteen here?”

“Just barely,” Court said, examining the writing on the back. “This reminds me. What do you know about her changing her name legally?”

“Not a thing. All I know is she’s been insisting everyone call her Claire Silver.”

Court sighed again. “Well, here’s hoping she gets through this so we can ask her. It’s kind of difficult if she wants that on a tombstone but the death certificate says something else, I think.” She waved her hand in the direction of the door. “Remo’s dealing with it mostly, but it’s been on my mind.”

“Does she even want a tombstone? I thought she said she wanted to be cremated.”

“She does, but the church isn’t too keen on us just having the ashes lying around at home. You know, so on Judgment Day all the dead can rise again and all that.”

“Wait, seriously?”

Court sat down, her smile wan but there. “The Catholic Church these days is fine with cremation because they’ve decided God could ressurrect you from any state if necessary, but they’re still against potentially impious treatment of remains. And no spreading the ashes in the ocean or anything like that, not if you want a Catholic funeral.”

“Which she does.”

“Which she does.” Court looked at me. “We might have to promise to build a little shrine for the urn at home. Something like that.”

“Oh, jeez.”

“It could be in the back yard, maybe. We never go out there, anyway.”

“Or we could put a Lawn Mary out front and put the urn in the pedestal,” I said, as sarcastically as I could manage, lest she think I was serious.

“Yeah, and decorate it at Christmastime with lights and reindeer ahd shit,” she agreed. “Mm hm, and on Halloween, too, we could have a fake hand reaching out…”

That was it. I lost it. The image was so profane and so hilarious at the same time, I couldn’t help but laugh, and that made her laugh, and our laughter was contagious to each other.

When Ziggy came back in, Court and I were both crying, but we were hiccupping with hilarity at the same time. Court hugged me around my middle, since she was sitting down and I wasn’t. “I love you,” she said.

“I love you, too.” I kissed her on the hair and then reached for Ziggy. “You, too,” I added, in case he felt left out.

Besides, if he did, he probably felt a lot better about himself after we gave him the guided tour of Claire’s aborted Broadway career.

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