“Are you taking suitcases as well?” I emailed the church administrator. “I have a nice one that I do not wish to keep.”
Last week I dropped off your suitcase at a church that was collecting donations. This is the suitcase I searched around for when you first got your “dream gig.” It was the second suitcase I purchased. I purchased another, more expensive one at a luggage store at first and then found this one at TJ Maxx. I can still remember carrying Audrey and lugging the first suitcase back into the store to return it. I then packed up this one with every travel necessity including lots of things you didn’t need and never used- small packages of paper towels, a blow up pillow for the plane, ear plugs, vitamin C cough drops, etc. and placed a photo of Audrey wearing a onesie that said “My Dad Rocks,” on top of it. It was your Father’s Day gift. Your first Father’s Day. You would have just one more just a few weeks before your death. It is the suitcase I saw you packing up the night before you left us for the last time. The very one I saw you place your bathing suit into and thought, “Why are you taking a bathing suit? Are you going on vacation while I’m here alone with a baby?” but then, “No, I won’t say it. He’ll get mad. He’ll throw it out and say, ‘There, happy!'” No, I’m not happy. It’s the same suitcase with the lock that we both said should have the same code simultaneously- our daughter’s birthdate. It’s the same suitcase that was all taped up and addressed to the funeral director when it came back along with your body. But they didn’t pick it up so they had to go back and get it along with your electric cello after you were buried. “I deal with this airline all the time, and now they’re going to charge me more for this? I’m going to have to charge you for another trip,” the funeral director had told me. “Fine. That’s fine.”
I’ve looked at this suitcase for months up in our closet and it made me sick. I’d ripped off all of the tape but it’d left the impression of the words in the glue still stuck on it, “Air Transit” over and over. I’d thought about bringing it to our garbage room and just letting one of the workers take it or throw it out. A friend suggested selling it on Craigs List so I could at least get something for it. “No, I couldn’t deal with showing it to people. I just want to get rid of it.” So when the church where Audrey’s preschool is located sent a flyer about their donation collection, I knew it’d be nice to get rid of the suitcase before her birthday.
I took a photo of it first. Then I wheeled it outside of our apartment, realizing that the last time it had taken this same journey down our hall, you were holding this handle, setting off on your final trip. It’s raining and when we get there, I pull up next to the gym that is already full of donations and wheel in the suitcase after everything else I’ve brought- including a few bags of your clothes. These are mostly dress shirts that have no special memory. And also the black t-shirts I’d bought you for the tour. I get rid of all of these. As I quickly wheel in the suitcase and Audrey waits in the car, a woman walking around busily says, “Oh great, thank you so much.” I ask her where the donations are going, “if you don’t mind my asking,” and she tells me they have contacted social services and the most needy families will get to come through and choose what they need. I am glad I didn’t throw it in the garbage, and glad to get back in the car, and drive away.