My dictionary, when I look up the exact meaning of this word, capitalizes the O for the definition "a Greek epic poem". The small o definition is this: "any long, eventful journey".
The dictionary got it right this time.
The word "odyssey" came to me today, in my parents' backyard (my mother's backyard, I inwardly correct myself). The heat was at its apex, around 2 in the afternoon, cicadas droning, glass of wine in hand, the glass sweating, sitting under an umbrella at the patio table, with a book.
I was staring off into space again, when the word simply came into my head. And really, odyssey is not a word that pops up readily when I drift away.
A long, eventful journey. It describes life to me. It describes grief.
As I've written before, being at my parents house allows me to go down the road, so to speak, where the memories crop up like roadside attractions, randomly placed, in no particular order.
Fast forward to 4pm. My mother and I are at the patio table together, having an early dinner of pasta and fish that we quickly made together as we had been shopping earlier in the day and hadn't stopped to have lunch. We have spent the weekend together.
I arrived, from my office Friday night, with a bag packed, my loft left in shambles, turned upside down by the fumigation that was being carried out on Friday during the day. Thursday night I had bagged clothes, emptied my bedroom closet (no easy task. I've lived here for over four years).
Scrubbed the floors in preparation. Washed down the window sills. Took down pictures off the wall. In essence, topsy turvy. When I fell into bed exhausted, after midnight on Thursday night, my most insistent worry was that in my compromised state, I would not remember where I had re-positioned all the stuff I'd had to shift around. I fell asleep anyway, too tired to keep thinking about it.
Friday was a long, demanding work day, and when it was over, I crawled in traffic to get to my mothers, and we ordered a pizza, both of us happy the week was over, and for me, happy to get away from the chaos of my own home for the evening. TV watching followed, an early bedtime, and then on Saturday, she came back with me to the city to help me put my apartment back together. I hadn't realized the job ahead of me until we unlocked the door and walked in and I felt like dissolving. However, we divided the jobs in half, my mother working on my living room/dining room and office area, while I did the bedroom, kitchen, and the rest of the laundry.
In a few hours we were done, my mom relaxed, and I joined some girlfriends for a summerlicious dinner we had planned; it was a great distraction and as always, when I eat an amazing meal now, I think of my father, and how much he missed food the last year of his life. It always has the power to lift me above the 'ordinary' when I think about things like this. I felt such gratitude for my friends, the meal, and our talking.
Back to my mom's on Sunday, where I am now, in my head. The odyssey.
My mom and I finish dinner, the heat is abating, and there is a beautiful breeze, the leaves in the trees rustling, and despite the gorgeous afternoon, no other noise in the suburban oasis.
The phrase 'lost in thought' comes to me as my mother and I sit, silently, each of us in our own little world. It's then that I realize how different the meals are, how I am sitting where my father normally sat, how our conversations are simple back-and-forth, not around-the-table.
I feel my father at that moment, his spiritual presence, keenly. My mother is looking away from me right now, and I wonder if it is to hide a tear. I have one, waiting to fall, but I hold it back, keep it together in front of her. It's the first weekend since my father's death that I have been with people the whole time. Every other weekend I've managed to carve out solitude, either late on a cloudy evening on my rooftop, with some wine and some kleenex to catch my tears as they fall, or sitting on the couch, going through photos, letters, and cards, tears leaving watermarks.
It's 5pm, I'm packing my car up, my mother is putting dishes away. We hug good-bye on the lawn and agree it was a wonderful weekend.
I back out of the driveway, head down the street, to the highway to get me back to the city.
Only when I am out of sight of the house do the tears really well up, behind my sunglasses, my tanned face, with not a trace of make-up on it. The tears well quickly, fall fast, keep coming.
The high-early summer evening sun does not distract me as I drive west, I do not notice the other cars.
I cry all the way home.
It's a long, eventful journey.