We're at the dog park — the park across the street from where my father lived for 35 years. The place has been boarded up and for rent for the past three years since his death, a rezoned property which forced my father to move while in the last stages of cancer. He never made it.
I took the long way up, the path he would have taken, up and down the hill; then up that 4-flight vertical staircase I would climb as fast as I could, late for more Excel data entry all last month. I go up quickly, not stopping. My little dog looks at me askance. San Francisco becomes a moviescape.
Now, part of the park he helped reclaim is devoted to dogs. We sit on the lawn in front of his constant presence. It has been a good day. Not a movie day, but good. The boy, now big as a tall, bulky man, comes later — but arrives, a buttoned short-sleeve shirt over his Jimi Hendrix tee.
I don't remember what it was that made us laugh all day, like in his baby days. He gets my jokes in the way he did then — or allows himself. He grunts lots of appreciative "huh"s and laughs twice.
Yesterday I was crying, the tears, real and persistent, while he sat at the cafe across the street, surfing his laptop and sipping Italian soda. He came home early. I chose to let him see. He didn't believe at first. I'm the Mami-Lion. I don't spend my time in tears.
I forget how empathic he is, how empathetic. He was always soothing others from the time he was a baby, always patting away the tears of other babes, even before he had any words to share or wounds of his own to show.
The boy who mumbled "stupid retard" at me under his breath the day before now comforts me because he can. He comes over to where I have broken some vessel with an old song that pops up first on my iPod shuffle, my friend's favorite nearly thirty years ago, "No woman, no cry" — ruptured some seal I now can't close.
I had been posting info from his daughters, final wishes, last requests ("No black, please. Wear bright colors only.") Posting words I know someone will find, easily and first. Dreaded words.
I listen without counting, recounting as the email bells begin to chime.
I love how he remembers my old friend. "Of course," he says, and wraps his arms around me. "But it's okay. He's in a better place now."
Softly. Surely. Sweetly. "Baby," I say, "don't say that. That's not the thing to say. This is the better place. We want him here, on Earth, with us."
"Yes," he says, and he hugs me closer. "Poor Mami. That sucks."
"That sucks," I say, and cry on his shoulder. My Baby. As he strokes my head like a cat. "Poor Mami. Poor Mami..." into today.