It is surreal to write this. In my last post, I so simply wrote of how my dad had just gotten married to his new wife and how I stood up in that beautiful wedding. Who could have possibly known that just three months later I would be standing up at her funeral?
My dad’s wife, Belinda, died on July 11. At nine hours ahead, I received the call on July 12 around 6 or 7am in Prague as I was frantically packing the last of my things to move back to the states.
I’d never heard such panic or grief in my bother’s voice as he shrieked? blurted? explained? “She’s dead, Pep. Gone. Belinda died.”
“What? Who? What?!” I sat down on my bed amidst piles of papers and books and clothes I couldn’t figure out to stuff into my three suitcases. The morning sun was bright. Quiet. It found me through my vaulted windows as it did each summer morning. Nourishing my plants on the wooden windowsill. Nourishing me. The foreign sun poured into my room that morning, making me more and more comfortable with my fairly abrupt decision to leave. Until I’d picked up the phone. “What? What happened?”
At the time, no one knew what happened. We learned later that she had a blood clot in her lung. My dad told me he’d been upstairs waiting for her to come upstairs to bed. She’d been downstairs in her office finishing up a few things, working on her real estate business, in which she was and had been thriving. He told me she came upstairs, ashen, slumped on the bed and said, “Roscoe, I can’t breathe.”
Dad had called the ambulance, they arrived at the hospital, and from there she died shortly thereafter. They just weren’t able to save her. She was 58.
After I got back to Prague from being in the states for their wedding, I had selfishly and excitedly decided to make a change in my life. I was so…”impressed” with the life my dad and Belinda had seemed to create in Maryland. While I was there, their home was filled to the gills with family, friends, children. Warmth. Vibrancy. Laughter. Brownness. A lot of it created by Belinda. It was just a crackle of excitement and love I didn’t realize I was missing in Prague…where I had a full life of producing theater, singing with a Czech group, doing Prague Betties, teaching English, journalism and making occasional travel excursions. Friends had come to visit. I wasn’t alone, by any sense, but there was loneliness. And questioning. What was my purpose there? I was in a seemingly homogeneous society where I would be on the metro and think, “I’m the only black person. Again,” But then, I would look and think, okay…I’m the only black person, but over there is the only Asian person, or the only person with red hair, or the only French person. Or African. There were lots of only’s. I wasn’t so different. So alone. But yet.
Belinda has three adult children of her own in their 30s. One girl and three boys, just like us. Belinda had said she always wanted a big family. At the wedding, I’d called us the Brady Bunch. It truly felt perfect. To me. I was happy to be around those guys. Dad had been wanting me to move back and to be near them. I knew he was so happy with her and wanted to feel complete. I’d get an occasional motherly call from Belinda with her Maryland drawl, “Hey honey, your dad would just love for you all to be near him.”
In my previous post, I mentioned making change. I mentioned a new relationship I was questioning heavily. So here’s the deal: I moved to Prague in May 2014. I hadn’t been home to the states once. So by April 2017, with this opportunity to hit my homeland, I knew I had to make the most of it. I have a mom, a stepmom, brothers, sister-in-law, niece, nephew, friends and none of ’em live near each other! After the wedding in Maryland, I made a US “Tour” as I called it and re-energized myself with visits, hugs and torrential departing tears to friends and family in New York, Kenosha, LA and finally Boston, from where I flew back to Prague.
On my last night in the US, in a swanky hotel bar in Boston, my college roommate and I sipped our red wine while reminiscing about our sentimental days of friendship that began back in 1988.
I looked at the end of the bar and there he was. A guy. Cute. Brown skin. (Bi-racial?) He wore a hoody sweatshirt, which I thought was interesting for such a nice bar. He was drinking a Bud Light, of which I was judgey about. A pack of Marlboro’s rested next to the Bud. Yuck (but familiar as I’d been living in Europe for three years). He was alone. Seemed confident in his greying beard and short cut. And then he smiled. At me.
He had remarkably white teeth. My college roommate is a dentist and I think she may have even commented on the brightness. What happened next is what sealed it for me. He got up and came over to me. I’m usually the one that approaches. Especially at a bar. Especially if I’ve had a few Cabernet’s, as I’d had. I appreciated that. A lot.
I stood as he approached. I was wearing heels. I was a hair taller. I wanted to discount him. You know, the Bud Light. The sweatshirt. The cigarettes. The hair taller. So, I did sorta. But there was one thing keeping me staring into his golden brown eyes with these incredibly long eyelashes.
Just two days before, when I was in LA being fabulous and sparkly with my LA girls and LA Betties, we’d been sitting around the table in my girlfriend’s fab loft sipping more wine and holding onto last moments together as tightly our long-stem goblets. Maxwell spilled from speakers and embraced us in the cavernous space. I pushed my straightened hair behind my ears as I expressed to the girls with despair as serious as a missed call back, “I’m ovulating!” I couldn’t stand it any longer. I’d tried to find guys in Prague. Nothing had panned out, I told them. I told them bizarre stories of my European guy encounters. Between my giggles, they knew I was serious. Ovulation only comes around once a month. If at all when you’re older, like me, as I’d been told at a doctor’s visit six month’s prior. So I was like, “Who can we call?!” With wine as our courage, we started texting and calling our dear guy friends with an SOS for Sperm. “Peppur’s in town. She needs a donor.” Text’s started pouring back, “WTF?!” “I gotta decide now?” “Ok, but, sh*t I’m busy tonight.”
“I should have planned this better,” I told the girls, downing the last of my wine. I really should have.
So, when I was standing in front of my Boston guy, I had nothing to lose but time. I’d said bluntly, “I’m 46. I want a kid. Now.”
“I do, too.”
And that, along with fate, sealed our deal. And he became my Indian Guy (not Bi-racial after all).
As I sat on my bed in Prague with it’s bright green Ikea bed spread littered with stuff, nothing else mattered. I cried tears for Belinda. I cried tears for my poor dad. I cried tears for myself. What was to become of life now?
What you need to know is that after I left Boston, the Indian told me he wanted to see me again. I’d had no money. Who knew when I was getting back to the states. He bought me three tickets (with the help of my college roommate’s air miles) and I made two trips back to the states in May and June. When I was ovulating. July was to be the final trip back.
My Indian wanted me. He wanted a family. All this back and forth was nonsense, he’d say. I needed to get serious and come back to the US and make this a real thing. I was resisting. I wasn’t sure. For one thing, I loved my teaching job at Prague College. It fulfilled me in so many ways. I didn’t want to leave it. In the end, in July, with a one-way ticket looming over my head, I relented. I too, wanted family. I wanted this. I wanted him. Right? I asked for this.
So, he had agreed to leave Boston, as his lease was up and I had suggested we move to Maryland to be near dad and Belinda and all that family goodness. We’d start anew. Being near them would help with my uneasiness. I’d have them in my corner. Family.
After I hung up with my brother, I called my Indian to tell him about Belinda. As I cried more, I stared at all the clothes I’d accumulated that were burdening me with decisions and suddenly I made one. I started throwing all that shit off my bed and onto the floor and then I pushed and bulldozed it into my hallway where it all went into a huge Ikea bag and out the door.
My two trips back to the states to be with my Indian and to babymake had not been all roses and caviar. (More about that later.) I’d had my doubts about all of it. It was abrupt. It was crazy. I kept it secret from most. It was crazy. But change was crucial. Life depended on it. I knew I needed to do something. So I was doing it.
I cannot believe God had me flying back to my dad on the same day his wife died. On a day when he would need me, the oldest, his only daughter, the most. At a time when I had faltered more than once with a scary, blind decision to return.
At her funeral, I leaned into the microphone as I held onto the podium for strength. My legs shook, unstable in the same silver sparkly Betsey Johnson heels I had worn in their wedding. I asked “Why?” like everyone else had. Why then? Why now? I spoke of how I’d come back to these people to be of service because Belinda had inspired me to do so. What they didn’t know, or maybe they did, is that Belinda had inspired me to want to be the type of woman I was not yet. She had given me courage. To try. To be. To be a wife and mother. To live. To laugh. Be open to change. To live.
It’s funny how death teaches us about life.