The other night, I was talking on the phone with Bob's uncle and I was sitting on the back porch/wheelchair ramp. We were talking about the fiasco that Bob's "Celebration of Life" became after one of Bob's relatives acted out in a completely childish manner. I won't go into details, except to say that there has been a lot of strife in that family for many years and I would have hoped that, on this solemn occasion, certain people would have kept their mouths shut and paid a bit of respect to Bob's memory and the people he loved. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
Anyway, I was talking on the phone with Bob's uncle, when I happened to glance down and notice that the little white bronze heart that contains some of Bob's ashes and that I now wear around my neck was gone! So, I'm freaking out, checking the folds of Bob's t-shirt (which I am wearing) looking for the bronze heart and Chris (who had shown up while I was on the phone and sat down next to me) is looking at me curiously and I hold the empty chain up that is still around my neck and her mouth drops open and she whispers "Check your bra!"
So I'm reaching down to check my bra when I see, out of the corner of my eye, a little whitish thing roll onto the porch deck and plop right through the space between the floor boards and fall under the porch.
But I'm thinking that that's not the little bronze heart because whatever that was, was too small. And, to my relief, I find the little heart nestled inside my bra but to my horror the plug at the hole on the top of heart is missing and the thing is empty.
Now I'm really freaking out because Bob is gone. He fell right out. And the thing I saw roll on the porch deck must've been him, the tiny container that contained his ashes.
So I tell Bob's uncle that I have to run and I dash into the house to find a flashlight, because it's starting to get dark and I have to get under that porch and find Bob!
And I can't find a flashlight, I mean, where the heck did I put them when I unpacked? And I'm flinging open drawers and dashing through the house and I know we have a bunch of flashlights, but where are they? And did I even unpack them yet? There's still a lot of boxes in the back room.
I ask Chris, who has followed me into the house, if she has a flashlight. She says she does but "it's green and it howls." And I'm thinking, huh? Just then, I open a drawer and find a flashlight. But of course, when I turn it on, it doesn't work. So I open it up and the batteries are all corroded. So now I have to find new batteries for it. I'm digging through drawers for batteries and, of course, we've got every kind of battery except the kind this flashlight uses. Then I remember that I have this kind of battery in my camera, so I find my camera and take the batteries out and put them in the flashlight, but the flashlight still doesn't work.
Frantic, I tell Chris to go get her flashlight, and she says, "Are you sure? It's green and it howls." And I'm practically screaming now, because I don't care, I just need a flashlight and I'm not even sure what the heck she's talking about. So she leaves and returns with her flashlight and hands it to me.
I'm looking at this thing and it's a black flashlight with neon green trim, and instead of one button to turn it on, I have my choice of five buttons which are marked: "light", "thunder", "wolf", "scream", and "laugh". I'm thinking, oh for crying out loud, this is a Halloween flashlight, for trick-or-treating. I punch the button that says "light" and, of course, that button doesn't work. So I punch "thunder" and am greeted with the sound of effect of booming thunder accompanied by a flashing eerie green light.
But it's all I got, this flashlight. So I head under the porch.
There I am, crawling on my belly through the dirt, under the porch deck and I can't even raise my head. There I am, punching the buttons because the flashlight won't stay on for more than a couple of seconds, so my quest is accompanied by the sound of thunder, then witchy screams and wolf howls and flashing neon green light and I am worried about snakes and spiders and god-knows-what that might be under there in the dark, and I'm thinking this is ridiculous, I'll never find Bob this way, and I'm not even sure where I am under there in conjunction with where I saw the little white thing disappear through the cracks of the porch floor.
I have to push myself, on my belly, backwards to get out from under the porch.
By now, the sky is pitch black. So I turn the porch lights on. I'm thinking I need some kind of marker to mark the spot where I saw the little white thing disappear, and I find a stick and stick it through the floor boards where I think the thing disappeared and once again, I crawl with the haunted flashlight under the deck to search for Bob.
There I am, crawling on my belly with the flashing neon light and howling screams, and the stick is way under there, about six feet away. The first time, I didn't go under far enough. I'm not so much crawling but squirming through the dirt on my belly like a snake. And I reach the stick and flash the green neon light around and I'm thinking, that container that contains Bob must be plastic and should shine when I hit it with the light, but I am seeing nothing. Absolutely nothing. I'm growing very frustrated in that eerie green flashing light that I have to keep turning on and I'm hitting all the buttons so I'm getting thunder, then screams, then wolves howling, and Chris, above me, yells, "Diane, don't break my damn flashlight!"
I give up. squirm backward out from under the porch. I'm covered in dirt and leaves. And tears are flowing down my dirty cheeks. Chris and I decide that we will get up early in the morning, and run to the store and get a real flashlight. And I will begin my search for Bob again tomorrow.
So I go in the house and take off my dirty clothes, watching the floor carefully in case Bob is caught up in my clothes (but he isn't) and then I shower and I'm thinking, if this wasn't so darn tragic, it would be outright funny. I mean: Widow with Howling Halloween Flashlight Searches for Dead Husband Under The Porch! And I can hear Bob's voice in my head saying "Funny!"
The next day, armed with a brand new high-powered Coleman flashlight, I crawl once again under the porch. I find screws and nails and all sorts of bits of glittery stuff -- but no Bob. After nearly two hours of searching, I give up. I crawl out from under the porch, feeling like a complete failure, tears flowing and I'm bellowing "I'm sorry, Bob!" Then I go inside and clean up.
I call the funeral home. On the phone, I break down, wailing, "I lost my husband under the porch!!!! And I can't find him!!!!!"
And the gal at the funeral home tells me, that, um, he'd be pretty hard to find because his ashes were not in any kind of container. The ashes in the heart are put in there loose....
Boy, do I feel stupid. But later that day, I take Bob's ashes with me and have my little heart "refilled" and the necklace put back together. All the way there and back, I have Bob's ashes sitting in his box in his usual wheelchair spot and I find myself talking to him, as if he's really there, and I hear him answering and at one point I say, "I'm sorry, I forgot your sunglasses." And then I think, I am truly losing my mind...