“I better get busy, then. Thanks for calling, Bro. Poor Ed: I’ll phone him, and of course, I’ll be there for the funeral. . . . Thanks for the offer, but I’ll get a hotel. You’ll have enough going on. Love to Heather and the kids, the grandkids, and, wow, great-grandkids, too.” Kevin pressed the little red phone symbol, feeling his tie to his brothers, so far away, become even thinner.
I have to go all the way across the country . . . oh, lord. I haven’t traveled in such a long time. Planes, airport lines, public restrooms, dirty handrails. I don’t want that scene.
COVID had validated Kevin’s self-imposed isolation. The strange, pared-down year of the pandemic was easy for people who were inclined and able to be aging hermits. He reduced his few excursions to a minimum, wore a mask, got the shots, and stayed at home, writing, watching TV, and taking a daily walk. He felt guilty to be doing so well while the world suffered around him, but he’d pretty much lived that way ever since Judy died, five years before.
Marty’s call reminded him that his once restless, passionate, so-called Pepsi Generation wouldn’t last much longer. Judy had died, and now Ed’s wife Lizzie was gone. Who’ll be next? I need to see my family. I should make the trip.
That same day he made reservations, decided what to pack, and obsessed about the TSA and his cane. He added a heating pad, wipes, and a second little bottle of hand sanitizer to his bag. He spent the following day worrying how he’d get around in airports with his bad back and trying to decide whether or not he was actually disabled. Everyone has aches and pains.
Early the next day, he started his journey.
When his flight landed in Sacramento Kevin pushed himself up from his cramped seat, his back protesting. Lifting his bag from the overhead was embarrassingly hard. Holding seat backs to get his balance, then leaning on his cane, he walked into the airport, pulling his wheeled bag, masked, nodding his thanks to the attendants along the way.
Overall, the trip had gone smoothly. The planes weren’t too bad and Tylenol and his cane got him through airports, the rental car line, and to the hotel he’d chosen in lieu of sleeping on Marty’s ancient futon. Kevin wished he was home, but he was all right.
The funeral was fine too; not long, not sobby. Lizzie had been a good woman with a happy life and a fine family and Ed seemed tired and sad, but OK. After the guests left, Kevin sat with Marty and Ed on the patio and Heather joined them after a while. They drank wine, talked about memories, and discussed how little they all liked change.
That night, in his eerily impersonal hotel bed, he dreamed about Judy. Stoned, she danced barefoot and beautiful in the rain at Woodstock, long brown hair dripping, her thin dress plastered to her breasts, her hips, her calves, forming a small divot at her navel. She grinned, knotting her muddy hem above her knees. “C’mon an’ dance, Kev. Don’t miss out.”
He woke with the dream trailing in his mind. Was I ever that young? He found his glasses, made some coffee, and dressed. Then went to breakfast, then on to Marty’s house.
Kevin left Sacramento the next day. Saying farewell to his brothers and their families, he agreed with them. “Yes–let’s all four try to get together next year.”
Will there still be four of us next year? Will I still be able to travel then?
This time he felt less anxious at the airport, so he looked around. The bright advertisements looked different than he remembered. Of course they’re different, dummy. This is your first trip in eight years. An image promoting an Alaska cruise caught his eye. A blue-gray bay flawlessly mirrored a white, green, and granite mountain touched golden by the sun; the paired images separated by an opal band of mist and dark evergreens. The caption read, “Resurrection Bay, Seward, Alaska.” That’s just beautiful.
Not long after he was safely home, Kevin surprised himself by deciding to research Alaska tours. I can travel. Maybe I’ll go.