.. a tad bit more from “Pandemonium”

Yesterday we left off as Shelly was seeing Travis in the casket … let us pick up now —

As I stepped closer and closer I could see Travis’s hands placed carefully on his stomach one hand over the other.

So grey, so lifeless. Travis was indeed dead (or a very well done imitation of Travis being dead).

I felt like letting out a shriek of despair, my baby, my love, my teddy bear, my all, now he lies here cold and frozen in time.

Dead.

Next to his casket stood two solid firemen that were standing guard. Travis was going to have a firemen’s guard, where every two hours they would change guard.  In their hands they held an ax. The American Flag proudly displayed next to his casket, a few feet away stood the bell.

I finally forced myself to make the last couple of steps to his side, and I wanted to collapse, for this is what I had been waiting for the last couple of days, just to see him. I had asked if I could see him at the morgue before but was denied, or perhaps they don’t get that question a lot.

I lifted each of my daughter’s in tears, so they could tell their daddy their last goodbyes.  My oldest waves, tries to give a hug, and cries as she says,

“I wuv you Daddy” Catherine says not quite sure exactly what is happening.

My youngest at the age of two, knows something is wrong, but waves her bye-bye to daddy

“wuv you too daddy” Marissa utters outs.

Here Travis lies, in his black, sleek, crisp firemen’s uniform.  On his left ring finger, his wedding band.  On his right, the platinum band that I had personalized just for him, for his birthday. In the middle of the top of the thick band was the firemen’s emblem. I traced the symbol with my fingers, while the memory of how this ring caused a little controversy came to mind.  I had just given this ring to his birthday last March and on inside the band in old English the words “MY HUSBAND MY HERO” engraved.  I thought he would love it, which he did, he just mentioned that

“It feels weird to wear two rings, and I think I look gay”

“No you don’t look weird, it looks good on you” I had told him.

I couldn’t look at his face yet, I couldn’t, but my eyes traveled up his body, and my eyes eventually landed on his strong, but now lifeless face.  In his black hat  he used to carry the pictures of his girls on the inside top pocket, I knew it was still tucked inside.  They had asked to make sure that the outfit would have a hat of some sorts. They wanted to make sure that gash on his head was not visible to others.

“How did he get a gash on his head?” I questioned when I was told this, well like the director would know that.

His friend Mark had replied,

“Shelly, when his truck flew and hit the tree, the impact caused the gash on his forehead”

That had sucked my heart further.

Now, here he is, I started to hear voice behind me,

“Oh my god,” Suzy, whispered, hand on her mouth, tears whelming up in her eyes.

“MY brother, my brother, Travis, why?”

I couldn’t answer, but soon…soon the building will fill.

I must take my spot now. I assumed, for I saw a uniformed fireman start to walk up to me, hands directing me to my seat, my chair next to Travis’s casket.

This is not happening, I must be in a dream.  I have to be.

I sat down, but tried to keep my chin up.  I started to notice friends, family and his co-workers walk in, some walking directly up in the aisle and  some walking to the side where there was three picture boards set up.  Yesterday afternoon and evening I had spent a few hours trying to create his life in pictures.  How do you do that? Thirty five years in pictures but only on boards, but I did, somehow I had and had brought in little memoirs from each chapter of his life.  Displayed were helmets from road construction crews, the cigars he had bought when the girls were born, his high school diploma, all his certifications he had earned from OSHA to the more recently medical certifications.

As I stood next to him, I wanted to reach out and wake him up, hug him, but I couldn’t and I had done that already, his body was so…so very cold, so frozen.  His heartbeat was not there no more, and I already miss that to no end.

After an hour of listening to some more apologies, shaking hands, wiping away tears, and most not mine, reassuring everyone that the girls were fine, and that I was, well good as I could have been.

I needed a smoke. Lizzy signaled a fireman that I needed a break.  He mentioned that to take the back door for some privacy.

I had to, not only to wipe my tears, but to lessen my anger for what I had just witnessed.

Travis’s family was never close, I mean damn, when we first started to date, one brother would yell crude terms out at me, and it was hard to avoid at times.  My mom and step-dad dad lived right next to Travis’s family for years.  Travis took an interest in me after I meant and reconnected with my mother a year before. Travis had finically supported his brothers and mother for years, and when he eventually moved out four years ago they were furious.  When our courtship first began his mother had accused me of just being with him for his money, I often wondered what money and so did Travis.  Yet, three months after dating we had moved in together and he had to undergo kidney surgery. His mother started to like me, but never talked to me.  His father had divorced and moved out when Travis was eighteen.

And now, his father entered the building, with his booming voice, and his behavior acting like he was the father of the year.  What the hell. Inferiority. Oh, and his brother-in-laws family just coming in and automatically turning their backs on Travis, never looking at the coffin which held the man that worked for hem for years in his youth.  Never, stopping by to even give their condolences to me or Suzy. I couldn’t take it. I had to get some fresh air.

I as I sat down on the cement block, Lizzy sat down next to me,

“How you holding up” as she held me and whispered in my ear.

“I, don’t know Lizzy, it is so hard, I don’t know what to do”

“People have starting to hand me cards, they’re in a pile on a chair, you should read them”

“I will, ..later”

“Okay let’s get back in side”

I opened the door, tried to throw my shoulders back, trying to act strong.

His sister Suzy soon placed a chair next to mine, which in a sense gave me some strength.

I observed his two brothers on the other side of the hall, elbows on their knees, heads in their hands, every now and then glancing up at their baby brother for one, older brother for the next, and I caught them once glancing at me.  I wondered if now, if they were sorry of how they treated all of us, his brother, their nieces, and me.

It was brake time, for two hours then the second wake would start.  I dreaded every minute, for I know that soon it would be time to close the lid on the casket.  I had hoped for an open casket so I could have a few more minutes to see him, before his body was never mine again.

I had to walk out, but requested that I have some time alone with him.  My wish was granted.  I walked down the hall where the rest of the siblings were, the kitchen for lunch.  I was sick; I did not want to eat.  I sat down, and clutched our wedding bands, and my engagement ring that was on a long silver chain that was given to me my Lizzy.  I listened as everyone talked, talked about the news, and swapping some stories about Travis.

“Shelly” Tim said, another fireman that served quite often with Travis, who also had daughter’s that were the same age as Travis and mine.  “You need to eat, have you eaten anything”?

“No” Lizzy said, she hasn’t eaten anything since Wednesday

“Shelly, we cannot have you faint or pass out, please eat something, even if it’s a bite of the cake, just eat, you look so pale.”

“Or” Lizzy who was trying to be funny now “We can hook you up to an IV line”

“Fine” I tried to shovel a couple of bites of cake in, it was decent.

I told Lizzy and the firemen that I need some time to be with Travis.

As I walked I felt like a zombie, felt like I was in a different life, I peeped through the window on the door that led to the rec hall, I saw Mark and his wife sitting next to Travis.

Mark’s head was in his hands, elbows on the knees, I could see his shoulders moving up and down, he was sobbing, his wife’s arm reached out to rub his back, I backed off, and snuck outside to smoke.

I walked outside to have a smoke; there were a few stranglers left over, and some firemen from two other companies mingling about.  I was still in a daze; a few firemen mentioned that it was going to be a okay and how great a guy and fireman Travis was.

I put my cigarette out, thanking them, and that yes he was.

Now it was my time, my time to be alone with my husband, my time to be with the man that I loved and admired and looked up too.  This was the man that I adorned, who taught me so much.  This man that was so strong, and that at first glance nothing could take him down.  Travis was this man, a big burly man, arms so strong that at one time we measured to see if my thigh muscles was larger or smaller than his bicep, of course, his bicep was larger than my thigh.

As I moved towards his casket, so many words, so much to say, so little time.  I placed my chair closer to the casket, but I bent down to hug him, but my tears shoke my whole body,.

“Why Travis, why. We were so good together. You were so strong, so powerful, so invincible. Why. I am so sorry Travis, so very sorry.  What am I going to do without you. Our girls, Travis, what about our girls.  Who is going to help rear them, who will walk them down he aisle. Travis, I am so mad now, you, you Travis, you were supposed to walk them, teach them, be their daddy Travis.”

I sat down, and wiped my face, tried to wipe the tears away that was on his uniform.  I held his hands, and just sat.  I told him, about the updates about our girls, who were with my mom at the house.

“Travis, I will do the best I can.  Those girls will be okay, I promise you, in my best ability to do the best I can.”

I kissed his forehead, hugged him once again, and starting to walk away.   I couldn’t, halfway down the aisle, I stopped, collapsed on the floor, and started to bawl my body just rocking back and forth.  My mind was spinning, my world upside down, by heart shattered, my soul broken.

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