This morning, I will feel compelled to get absolutely everything in order: laundry done, refrigerator neatened, kitchen counters cleared, honey jar wiped of all sticky residue. I’ll show Mate, who has no interest and won’t remember, where the passwords are to all our accounts. I’ll insist he watch me treat Youngest’s nasty case of poison oak. I will also feel compelled to write the last thank-you note left over from Christmas. I probably won’t go that far, but it will cross my mind. This is how crazy I get before I fly somewhere for the weekend and leave my family behind.
I am perfectly aware that it’s just the fear of death at work.
Normally, we hide this fear, like an easter egg, in a large pile of discarded clothes to be picked up off the floor, life lessons to be taught and petty annoyances to be indulged. It gets buried because we can bury it, because it is too hard, on a daily basis, to acknowledge the breathtaking reality that when you say good-bye today it may be the last time you ever see each other. Instead, Mate often leaves before the boys are up and the boys, well, they pile into the car each morning late and careless. Often, we don’t even think to say good-bye, much less to acknowledge how random and brutal fate can be.
Today I will insist that we say good-bye. Without words, we will know that today we share the family "good luck" kiss, which doubles, when we fly, as the "take off" kiss. It goes like this: Stand facing someone. Hold hands. If you go first, you lift each of your entwined hands up and kiss your partner’s hands one after the other. Then he does the same to your hands. Then, still holding hands, you kiss. When we share this kiss at good-bye, we all acknowledge without words the crucial role that luck plays in extending, for one more day, what we know of as life.
After the Northridge earthquake, I remember that all I wanted to do was to literally sit on Mate and my children, like a brooding hen, to keep us all safe.