MONDAY, July 19 – The inevitable question, when taking a cab to the airport. ‘Where are you headed?’
‘The States. New York, Washington D.C., and a few other locations.’
‘All on your own?’
‘No. My children are already there. I’ll be seeing them tonight.’
‘In a hotel or a house?’
‘They’re with their grandparents. They were born in the States.’
‘Oh, I see. And where’s their mother?’
‘Their mother,’ I laughed, a bit viciously, but mainly to give myself time to think. ‘Their mother is in your trunk.’ He screwed up his eyes, and for the umpteenth time, I
explained it all. The rest of the ride was blissfully quiet.
13.20 p.m. – Was it because no one noticed the urn when my bag went through X-ray? Was it recognized, but the inspectors didn’t think it was worth opening my bag for and demanding an explanation? Maybe the urn wasn’t important?
In any case, on the passenger bridge leading to the Delta aircraft, I was suddenly overcome by emotion. Memories of all those flights from the States to Holland, and vice-versa. The first time she flew from New York to Brussels, where I was waiting with a red rose in my hand and she gave me three Dutch kisses.
We must have flown across the Atlantic at least twenty times. Just the two of us at first, and later with the children. Last December her absence had been so tangible, when the three of us were able to sit next to each other.
This time it was the awareness of our ultimate finiteness that hit me and I was totally unprepared for it. This is the very last time. Her ashes are going back to America, to be scattered. I had always felt that she was close to me and maybe that was why I occasionally pretended to be unconcerned and even jokey about the two and a half kilos of dusty body remains. But not right now.
I stepped on board without wiping the tears from my cheeks. The steward’s face was permanently fixed in an expression of cheerful hospitality. ‘Welcome, sir. 24G. On the other side of the aisle.
The urn stood at my feet. ‘We’re going home, dear Jenn.’