Less than twenty-four hours ago, I was celebrating my daughter’s birthday with a bunch of girls. We were making necklaces and then going to a French bakery for tea and cake, to complete the festivities. In the middle of this, my cell rang.
“Yes, this is Joyce.”
“My mom is very sick, dying.”
So now, I sit at terminal B20, waiting for my flight to board to Orlando. My destination is not the ‘House of Mouse’, but a hospital in Ocala. I’ll be saying goodbye to a woman I have know since I was 5.
Peg Errico has always had a kind word, and a shoulder, and an ear for me. Childhood was spent with her six children. July fourth parades watched from their big front porch at 52 Ramapo Avenue (by the way, the house is currently for sale). Barbeques in their back yard, and an occasional elusive view of grandma Errico in the little house out back.
As we all grew up, we would visit them at the ponderosa, camp with them in the massive tent, which we could almost fit everyone from both families in.
But what I remember most, sitting in the kitchen with Mrs. Errico and talking about everything, while she cooked dinner for her brood. The years slipped away, and after they moved to upstate New York, we would visit. The old farmhouse they bought was massive, and everyone fit. We would go to the Altamont Fair and run through the cornfields playing hide-n-seek, but it wasn’t the same.
After Frank retired, they moved to Ocala, FL, I saw them rarely for a few years.
A few years later, my parents bought a summer place in Willsboro, NY and Frank and Peg Errico did shortly after. Our families were deeply, lovingly entwined, and this was the natural progression of staying close.
I would see the Erricos during summer visits and always tried to plan to see Frank and Peg. A few years back, I stopped going to the lake house. Mrs. Errico called me just before last Christmas, wanted to let me know she wanted to see me.
“I’ll come to the lake,” I said.
“I don’t think I’ll be there this summer.”
I knew what she meant.
“Call me and I’ll come to Florida.”
And I am. Waiting for the flight to board.
I tucked my children into bed last night after booking a flight, explaining to them why I was going and wishing it were a vacation with them, to swim in the ocean and make memories. My son tells me to tell them [Erricos] he loves them; my daughter in tears, her current struggles with mortality rampant at 10; sad that people die. Sadder still, her memories of the Erricos are fuzzy, and hard to recall.
Instead, I leave them semi-asleep in their beds at 5:30 this morning. Wishing I were home, angry with my nomadic self, at how happy a small part of me is, to be getting on a plane, even for this journey.
This trip signifies so much; with her passing, Peg Errico takes my childhood with her. Causing me, to reflect on things I would rather forget. Choices I’ve made, words I’ve tossed around. Peg always had a smile for me, and loved me unconditionally, my successes meant something to her, and she always let me know how much she appreciate who I was.
I go to say goodbye, with a light heart. To give support her children and to show her I loved her.