mrs. hogan: in memory

Originally published November 28, 2020.

Today was a beautiful day. It was. I'll always remember how cold it was in the shade. How purely hot the sun felt. I was glad, as we made our way from the church to the cemetary that Maggie held my hand.

Mrs. Hogan was laid to rest today. And I didn't think I would miss her. Not keenly. Not acutely. She was, all these years later, not a part of my everyday life. But as the priest droned on, the final blessing, the last rites, in that hot-cold sun...it wasn't me I watched. It was Lynn. A little stooped. Strong--gosh, she's strong. Sad.

This friend I have known since I was six years old. I would tell you how we met, and she would disagree with me. It's a decades old arguement.

"I could agree with you," I tease her "but then we'd both be wrong."

I can still close my eyes and stand in the Hogan's house. Every knickknack. Every drop of tinsel at Christmastime. That old, ugly piece of furniture that held the record player. Was it ever NOT ugly? Surely at some point they purchased it and liked it? Gads! It was awful. And no dancing too close to it, girls. It made the records skip.

Mrs. Hogan was hot and cold--like that sun. Not mercurial, no. She was love, itself--but it was a sharp love. Strong. No nonsense. I wonder if I got that from her a little. Her love transcended the moment you were in and scooted you into the person you had to become. THAT'S how she loved.

"Ramona, you stop all that. Stop all those tears. They're not getting anything done." That was the kind of stuff she said. And I hear it in myself today.

Maggie was hard to get out of bed today. But I got her up anyway.

"I know you don't want to get out of bed," I say as I turn on the light, "but I'm sure Madi doesn't want to say goodbye to her grandma today, either. We all have to have to do things we don't want to do, I guess."

Maggie did nothing to deserve that, but I was tender today. Dislodged. Sad. Maggie gives me the cold shoulder-no less than I deserve. Just like I once did to my own mom. And to Mrs. Hogan--when I dared to be so bold.

I'm cold outside, so Maggie shrugs out of her sweater and puts it on my shoulders. She did the same in church. A bit of unprompted caring, when she slid my purse off my shoulder so she could carry it. I hope I thanked her for that. I don't know if I did.

Outside, I slide my arm through Lynn's at the grave site and hold on to her as if that alone can stop this tide. In my periphery, I see Maggie step beside Madi, and bow her head. Cousins before they were friends, it's a bond never to be broken, and I know she's glad she came. Girls, they hold up this world.

I post tonight and pray between chores and take Maggie to Starbucks and pick up a friend, so she can have a good evening. The show must go on, but it's not as bright. I'm a little like that allergy balloon--caught in the in between.

I was right. It isn't the sudden rip of loss, she'd been ill for a while. It's not the loud wail--but it is the hot tears. The quiet ones. The ones that fall without design or awareness. The all of a sudden, in the middle of nothing, realizing I've been staring at the middle-distance of everything.

I come-to and stir the soup. I come-to and resume folding the laundry.
Put those tears away, Ramona. They're not getting anything done.

But suddenly the world seems flatter. Missing something.

So if you have a little moment, send a prayer to my other family. I have no memories of childhood that don't include them. The ones who raised me every but as much as they raised their own. Mrs. Hogan is in Heaven, of that I am positively sure. But her family is still here, so if you have a prayer for them, I know they'd appreciate it.

Thanks, friends. Good night.

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