Summer Solstice Revisited

11/2/17  8:53 am

I’m dreading Saturday night/Sunday morning. That’s the night we turn our clocks back which, in my mind, officially marks the start of my most hated time of the year. Darkness. AKA Winter. I will bide my time through the next six weeks or so until December 21st, the Winter Solstice. I love the Winter Solstice because I know that the worst is over and every single day after December 21st, we’ll get back a few minutes of light. Having it get dark at 4:23 pm instead of 4:21 isn’t much difference, I know, but it’s improvement nonetheless. It’s hope.

As you may remember from my June posting, I’m all about the solstice’s. I love them. This last year, I actually set some goals for myself to accomplish by the winter solstice. Here’s a link to my Summer Solstice Post.  Summer Solstice – The New Year’s Resolution for Commitment-phobes.

I went back and read that post again this morning for the first time since I wrote it. The person who wrote those words is an entirely different person than the person that is writing these words now.  That person didn’t know that her mother would be hospitalized four days later, never to return home. The voice of my writing, the whole tone of the piece, is far different than what I write now.

I find it both scary and exhilarating that life can change in an instant and we never know when it will happen. When I wrote the Summer Solstice piece I knew that my mom had health problems, and I knew that someday she would die, but I had no idea how close at hand that time was.

There have been other times that the life-changing moment has been good. I remember being introduced to Dennis on my first day of work at a new company. I don’t remember meeting a lot of people, I but remember vividly meeting him. It took us years to start dating, but I knew from the start that he was going to be important to my life in some way.

The winter solstice is exactly 7 weeks from today. Back in June, I set three goals for myself to accomplish by December 21st:  1. Write in this blog every day. FAIL 2: Finish the rough draft of a book I’ve been writing for 15+ years. FAIL – ish.  3: Donate a quilt I made to charity. PASS. Twice.

1. Write in this blog every day.  It just didn’t happen. When my mom got sick, I continued to write some, which in fact helped me a lot with the whole ordeal. But not every day. And after she died,  I just couldn’t keep writing about grief.  I honestly didn’t want to and I didn’t think anyone wanted to read it. But I did keep writing here and there and I will continue to try to post more frequently as the grief subsides. That’a my new goal for the winter solstice. There are still good days and bad days and even good weeks and bad weeks so I won’t set an unrealistic expectation to post daily. But I definitely will post more often.

2. Finish the rough draft of the novel I’ve been writing. Even with seven weeks left, I doubt that I will finish it by December 21st. I have been working on it these past few weeks, though. There are many versions, with many different voices that I’ve written and rewritten over the years. My first hurdle is deciding what version — what voice this book will be. I still love the premise and I’m still determined I will finish it.

While I was looking for all the old versions of the book (it’s working title is Killing Time) I found another book that I worked on many lifetimes ago. I started it back in college, on a typewriter. It’s morphed many times since and has been re-typed in many different technology versions throughout the years. Word Perfect on a 5” floppy disk. Microsoft word on a  3 1/2 hard disk. Burned to a rewriteable CD. And finally, copied over from hard drive to hard drive as computers upgraded. Now it’s in the Amazon Cloud drive in both Pages (Apple) and Word (Microsoft format). I read through a bit of it, and like my Summer Solstice post, it’s very different in content and tone from what I write now. it would have to be. The last time I worked on it was probably seventeen years ago or so, and I’ve had a lot of training and done a lot of living between now and then. Reading it is a bit like opening a time capsule and catching a glimpse of what younger me felt and thought. I still like it and I think the story might still have something to say.  This book has a song attached to it. Sometimes when I’m writing a story, a song pops into my head that underscores the theme of the story. I like to play it over and over while I write it. This book’s song is I Came for You by Manfred Mann, so it’s working title is …I Came for You.

Killing Time doesn’t have a song. At least not yet.

So the new goal for the Winter Solstice with regard to writing is to keep plugging away and see how far I get. On one or the other books. Probably Killing Time, but maybe I Came for You if the mood strikes. How’s that for being non-commital?

3. Donate a quilt I made to a worthy cause. I did this one. Twice. When Hurricane Harvey slammed Texas, I donated a lap quilt that I’d finished a month or so earlier to an organization called Quilts of Compassion. Quilts of Compassion go into areas ravaged by natural disasters and they  allow the people to select a handmade quilt to keep and help start their new life. They’re obviously not the first team in after a disaster because a pretty quilt falls way below the needs to sustain life — food, water, shelter. But once the dust settles a bit, they do go in and spread comfort and happiness with their quilts. One of my quilts is part of that effort.

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The second quilt that I donated I made special for the recipient. When my mom was at hospice she was visited twice by a service dog named Gracie. Gracie is an extraordinary dog. She’s well-mannered like all service dogs.  But unlike other service dogs I’ve met who were well-mannered and docile but didn’t show much of their true dog personalities, Gracie exuded joy in the form of tail wags, nuzzles and the occasional lick even though she wasn’t supposed to do that. She also wasn’t supposed to get on the couch in Mom’s room and lay on an extra quilt I kept there, but she did. Every chance she got. And being dog-people ourselves, we didn’t mind at all and we let her.

Gracie is a Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier, and she looks almost exactly like Charlie, my mom’s dog, only larger. This is Gracie. Gracie’s mom insisted on laying a towel over the quilt.

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This is Charlie, my mom’s dog. Notice a resemblance?

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We all loved Gracie. She was the only bit of joy we encountered at the hospice. A month or so ago I made Gracie her very own quilt an sent it to her mom. It’s a simple 9-patch pattern that I did with Scottie Terrier fabric I found. Not exactly the same as a Soft Coated Wheaton Terrier, but close enough. It used super fluffy batting so it should be extra soft and comfortable. I hope Gracie is enjoying it.

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So, seven weeks out from the winter solstice and only one goal completed out of three? Not so good. But better than zero out of three. We’ll see what the next seven weeks bring. No more bad surprises, I hope!

11/2/17 10:05 am (I went a little over because I had to find and upload the pictures.)

Saying Goodbye

Published October 13th, 2017

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Published October 13th, 2017

October 10, 2017  10:44 pm

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged. This is not due to procrastination, lack of ideas or general laziness. It was an intentional choice. Let me explain.

When I write these random musings, it feels more like writing in a diary or a personal journal than it does writing for an audience. There is no filter. It’s easy to forget that other people will read these words once they get released into Internet-land. I think that’s the case with many bloggers, especially those of us that are attempting to capture the day-to-day events in our lives. Especially when those day-to-day events turn out to be life-altering experiences that will forever change the semblance of what defines normal in our lives.

It’s not that I feel that I have over-shared in these blog posts about what I experienced this summer with my mom passing away. I don’t think I have. But I recognize the danger. The temptation even. There’s a freedom in purging one’s self of all the thoughts and feelings that don’t come easily when words are spoken instead of written. So I put myself on a self-imposed moratorium on blog posts this fall.

The reason for my going silent is simple. I did not and do not want to write about selling my mom and dad’s house until the deal is done. And although there are plenty of other things I could have written about, things I’ve done in the past five weeks, tending to and selling that house has always remained foremost in my mind and it felt weird not to write about it in some manner. Call it an abundance of caution or paranoia or maybe even superstition, but I do not want to put anything out there in Internet-land that could jinx the deal. I’m not even sure what I could write that would do that, but the fear is there all the same.

So even though I am writing this Tuesday night, I will most likely not push the “publish” button until Friday afternoon, when the deal is done.

As you may remember, the disposing of my mom’s household items and the sale of her and my dad’s house has been a priority — actually, more of driving need than just a priority, since the end of July. Part of this is because there is a reverse mortgage on the house, and the bank wants their money. I knew if I took several months to list the house, I’d be listing it in October or November and would likely be taking care of it through the winter until it sold come springtime. But more importantly, selling the house is my symbol of moving on past this difficult, shitty summer, past the grief and the shitty memories I’m still trying to stamp out, past this chapter in life that I’ve always dreaded. None of it can be over until the house is gone.

Well, the house will be gone come Friday afternoon. Tomorrow morning (Wednesday morning) I will go to the title company and sign my half of the paperwork as my mother’s official Personal Representative. Friday afternoon the buyers will sign their half of the paperwork and the house will be theirs.

The selling of this house has been extremely stressful for me. For the longest time, I couldn’t figure out why. Obviously, there’s the whole trauma of having my mom die and going through all the household items but it was more than that. I was extremely worried that I would do it wrong. I’d make wrong choices. Which is pretty silly considering I’ve bought and sold four houses and the majority of the times I needed to sell one house in order to close on another. That’s a way more stressful scenario than selling my parents house, which has no financial hold over me at all. The bank would like their money sooner rather than later, but if they don’t get it, they don’t. I’m still not financially responsible for the debt.

So why be so stressed about selling the house? I think I finally figured it out. It’s the last thing I will do for my parents to make them proud. I felt the need to get it right. I admit that this is not a rational thought because I don’t honestly believe that they are looking down from the afterlife judging how I’m handling the sale of their house. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned this summer it’s that emotions are not rational or logical beings. They are there and they must run their course. Whether or not they make sense is immaterial. I’ve found it’s easier to go with whatever I’m feeling at the moment than it is to resist. And I needed, really needed, to make the right choices that would make my parents proud of me when selling their house.

I fully recognize that it’s just a house, a thing, and I don’t put much stock in things. It’s just stuff and I’ve never lost sleep over stuff before. Even when I’ve made bad decisions that cost me money — and I’ve made a few of those along the way, that’s for sure. But in this case, it’s my parents stuff, not mine. It’s the place they built, cared for and lived in for thirty-three years. When we moved in my mom said she was never moving again in her life. They were going to have to carry her out of the house feet first. She got her wish.

The sale of this house has been incredibly, mercifully easy. The buyers saw the pictures of the house on MLS and asked to write an offer before it was even listed. My realtor declined, saying they had to at least walk through it.

The buyers walked through the house at 7:30 am on the first day it was listed. It was earlier than my realtor thought they’d be there, and we didn’t even get a chance to turn on all the lights before they saw it. They wrote an offer that day. Through out the process the buyers have been steadfast that this is the house for them. They could have nit-picked problems found during the home inspection (the house is in very good condition but it is 33 years old) but they did not. They have been the dream buyers and I am so very grateful for them. My gratitude for them goes beyond just getting the house sold. I feel like I’m turning the house over to people who truly want it and will love it, unconditionally, as much as my parents did.

Personally, I had mixed feelings about the house, especially at first. I should clarify that statement. I liked the layout of the new house just fine, and I loved my new bedroom, but I wasn’t an enthusiastic proponent of leaving my old neighborhood. Like most kids, I didn’t want to move.

I graduated high school and we moved into the house a week or two later. And even though it’s only about 25 minutes from where I spent my teenage years, it seemed like a long way away. I was worried I’d lose touch with friends, worried that my new boyfriend of a few weeks wouldn’t want to drive that far to see me. There were new roads to learn, new routes to take me to familiar places I’d never had to navigate to before. And this was well before Google maps or even GPS systems. This was hand-drawn maps by my dad territory.

My parents said that since I was graduating high school that everyone would be going their own way anyway and it wouldn’t matter if I moved or not. For the most part they were right. I made new friends at college and I kept in touch with the old friends, too. My new boyfriend drove to see me for the next 3 1/2 years (until he dumped me one rainy Friday night in November). I was back in the old neighborhood every weekend for several years. But, yet, I wasn’t a part of it anymore either. I was visiting but I didn’t live there like everyone else. I lived in the new house twenty five minutes away.

I only lived in that house for five years. I spent most of my college years in that house when I commuted to UW-Whitewater, with the exception of one semester that I lived in a dorm.  I spent many a night creeping into that house well past bar time after hanging out at Denny’s with girlfriends, only to have the crap scared out of me by my mother snapping on the light in the family room where she was still up, sitting in her chair, waiting for me to get home. To say she was livid about the hours I was keeping is an understatement.

There were plenty of fights in that house between my mother and myself. I lived there as a young adult who had all the answers. At least in my opinion I did. Of course, I did not. But I had some of them, or at least the start of them. I lived there during the years that I struggled to carve out my independence from my mom while my mother struggled just as fiercely to hang on to me and try to mold me into who she wanted me to become. A no-win situation for both of us.

I lived in that house until I left home and got married at age 23. But I didn’t move far. My new husband and I bought a house a few miles away and I visited my parents and the house often. Four houses and a different husband later, I still live just a few miles from the house. However, I’ve never spent another night under that roof after I left.

There were happy times in that house. My son spent a lot of time there with my parents. And when I was overwhelmed with how to take care of a baby, that house and my mother, were my haven and my security. She’d help me. She’d know what to do. She take care of him so my husband and I could go out to dinner by ourselves once a week.

Later, when I started working full-time again when my son was almost 2, that house became his second home. My parents took care of him during the days while I worked. As he grew up he had is own room there. With his own stuff. When his dad and I were divorcing, that house, along with my parents, were an important thing that didn’t change in his life. A safe haven in a world upended. A security.

The past six years since my dad died, and my mom lived there alone with Charlie, that house has held so much sadness. Despondency oozes from the walls, and it’s oppressive. It still feels to me as if the grief seeps from the very pores of the wood beams in the ceiling, settling down like a heavy gray fog over the spot where my mom always sat in her chair. The same chair where she used to wait up for me thirty years earlier.

It’s hard for me to be inside the house now with it empty of all my parents belongings. It’s strange, but I still get the clenched feeling deep in my stomach when I pull into the driveway and for a brief millisecond I forget Mom’s gone. I wonder how she’ll be today. Will today be the day that I have to call an ambulance? Or worse?

We’ve been through quite a journey together, that house and I. It was an important part of my and my son’s security at different points in our lives.  It was my duty to take care of it these past few months and find it new owners to take over its care from my parents.

And now it’s someone else’s house and in my world it will be relegated to someplace my parents owned where I used to live for a few years. I’m okay with that.

I went into the house today for the last time. I picked up the last of the cleaning supplies so the new owners could do their final walk-thru before closing on Friday. I looked at the wall where my parents charted my son’s height one last time. I visited my old bedroom one last time and looked at the walk-in closet which has the last remaining remnant of the nauseating purplish-pink color that 17-year-old me thought would be a fantastic color to paint a bedroom. It wasn’t.

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I looked at the stenciled borders on the walls that my mom did when my son wasn’t even one year old yet, and I looked at the small twig of a tree that my dad planted by the patio where my mom and my son would enjoy its shade when he played in his kiddie pool. It’s well over 30 feet tall now and it’s a living monument to the passage of time. So. Much. Time.

The tree inside the fence is the twig my father planted 25 years ago.

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I thought about taking Charlie with me today, for that last visit. I decided against it. I thought he might be confused or sad to see the house empty with no furniture. He might run to where my mom’s chair used to be and look for her. I don’t think I could have handled that, so he stayed home while I went and said goodbye to the house on my own.

Goodbye’s are hard, but necessary stepping stones to get to what’s next. And heaven knows, I’m ready for what’s next, that next chapter in life, whatever it may be. I think the house is ready for it’s next chapter, too.

October 10, 2017  11:58 pm  (I left myself run a bit long since I was catching up on five week’s worth of thoughts.)

 

 

My Birthday Wish

8/28/17 11:43 pm

Today is my birthday. The first one I’ve had without my mother.  I’ve spent many a birthday apart from my mother. I’m not big on celebrations so we always picked a weekend near the actual day to celebrate. But still. I always at least talked to her on the phone where she’d tell me the story of my birth. It was always the same story every year right down to her voice inflections. I can still hear it.

But not this year.

Dennis and Tony really went out of their way this year to make my birthday a good one. I think they knew it would be a hard one for me.  I appreciate that more than they know.

They both got me beautiful cards that made me cry. But cry a good way, for good reasons. I put them both on the bulliten board of my sewing room where I can read them whenever I want throughout the year.

I got really, really cool gifts, too, this year. Tony got me artist markers called Chameleon Pens that lay down gradations of color. Blue goes from pale, barely-there blue to a vibrant royal blue and every color step in between. Seriously awesome pens.

Dennis got me the Beats headphones that I asked for and a “surprise” present. I’m hard to buy for, but he nailed it this year. He bought me a virtual reality system for my computer. Some women like diamonds, I like toys!

Yeah, okay. I like diamonds, too. But not more than I like toys.

Dennis set up the VR system tonight and we played around a bit with it. It’s amazing. I thought the VR systems that are available for cell phones are pretty cool, but this system puts those to shame.

In one of the opening scenes I was on top of a roof with a small pond behind me. There were fish in the pond. It was night and there were a gazillion stars above. The pond gurgled. The crickets chirped. There were fireflies. I was impressed.

Then we downloaded Google Earth. Truly unbelievable. I visited Rio, a place I’ve always wanted to see. I stood face to face with the Christ the Redemeer statue that overlooks the city. I “flew” over the US, and explored Maine a bit. There are lots of trees in Maine. The Maine view was actual photos of Maine. The Rio visit was a computer generated view that looked very close to photographic quality. Then for the finale’ I entered our address and literally saw our house. Our old car was even out front.

I can’t wait to download a beach program so I can hang out by the ocean in my family room.

In addition to the cool gifts, I also had a birthday cake this year. Dennis even bought me candles (not 51 of them, thankfully!) and made me make a wish and blow them out.

I wished that all the same people and animals that are in my life now will be happy and healthy and still in my life next year.

Well, it’s 12:05. I made it through my first birthday without my mom with the help of the two most important people in my life. I hope next year’s birthday will be easier.

8/29/17 12:06

Kissing Donald Trump

8/23/17 10:53 am

Dreams are funny things. The sub-conscious mind pulls in events and memories of the day and crams them into a convoluted, often nonsensical, mish-mash of images and conversation.

Most often, I believe dreams don’t mean anything. At least I hope the one I had last night didn’t. I dreamed I was in a flooded New Jersey shopping mall with Donald Trump and he tried to kiss me! The prospect of that was horrifying enough that my conscious mind stepped in and said “hell no!” and woke me up. If that’s not a mish-mash of nonsense, I don’t know what is.

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I do believe there are some dreams that help to shed real meaning on our day to day lives.

The night before my father died, I dreamed that he and my mother were going to Florida to stay with my deceased Aunt who is buried there, so she wouldn’t be all alone. I clearly remember a voice in my dream saying, “No, only Dad is going.”  I woke up that morning with a sense of foreboding but I sloughed it off as just being an after-effect of a creepy dream.

At 11:00 am that morning he had a stroke from which he died five days later.

Was the dream prophetic or is it just coincidence? Maybe it was. Maybe not. To believe it was prophetic opens up all kinds of questions as to who or what is giving the prophecy and why. Although, I have had other prophecy-type experiences, but not while asleep. My mother called it “gypsy intuition” since a large part of my family were from Hungry, where many gypsies lived. Prophetic or not, it’s a dream that’s stayed with me for six years, and I expect it’s one I’ll never forget.

Since my mom died, I’ve been dreaming about a lot of dead people. Not just her, which I think is expected, but random people who I’ve know that died. I dreamed of a childhood friend I last saw when I was eleven, who died twenty years ago. His face was blurry throughout the dream. I guess my brain couldn’t figure out what he’d look like as an adult.

I think I’m finally starting to ease out of the dreaming about dead people phase. Which is a good thing, even considering the content of last night’s dream.

Several nights ago, I had another dream that stayed with me. I dreamed I was back at the school where I took graduate classes a few years ago. I had been working toward my Masters Degree in writing when I stopped half-way through for a variety of reasons. Dennis was starting his Masters, and since his degree is much more likely to have a financial ROI than mine, it made sense to channel funds toward his. Also, I was itching to return to work and the prospect of homework after a long work day wasn’t appealing. Even if the homework was writing.

However, in my dream I was so happy to be back, and to get to finish what I started. It was one of those crystal clear dreams that seemed real. And it’s stayed with me for days now.

I think that’s the kind of dream that has some merit. It deserves some consideration.  Is my subconscious trying to tell me something?

There has been some amount of thought and discussion in our house as to what’s next. All my life, staying near my parents has always been one of the considerations in which I made decisions. As an only child, there would be no one else to help them but me when they got old. That part, that’s been with me my whole adult life, is now done.

I am now free to pursue whatever goals I want in life. Dennis’ and my future can be whatever we want it to be and wherever we want it to be. We could move to another state. We could move to another city within Wisconsin. We could build a new house.

They’re all options, but that’s all they are right now. Options. The dream brought forth another option that’s been in the back of my mind all along. Returning to school. Returning to writing. Finishing what I started. Today, I made the decision to reach out and see what it would take to go back. It feels good.

Way better than kissing Donald Trump.

8/23/17 12:00 (went over a bit today)

 

The Behemoth

 

 

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8/17/17 10:58 am

Today I am writing a blog about a table. Not just any table. I’m writing about the ugly, behemoth, bane-of-my-existence table that my parents owned for most of my life and through the end of theirs. They bought it when I was about 5. I know this because I remember going furniture shopping with them when they bought it for the new house they were building. We moved into the house the summer before I started kindergarten, so it that would be the summer of 1971. I turned 5 the end of that August.

1971. Richard Nixon was president. VietNam was in full force. Sonny and Cher were not only still together, they even had their own TV show that I was allowed to watch. That was a long time ago. For me and the table.

The first thing I hated about the table is it’s very dark-colored stain. I remember looking at in the furniture store and almost being afraid of it because it was so big and so dark. It made me feel small and it looked like it should have been in some old, deserted, scary house, not our brand new one we were moving into. My parents didn’t agree and the table came home with us.

The second thing I hated was how heavy the chairs were. As a 5-year-old, I couldn’t lift up and move the chairs, they were so heavy. I’d have to scrunch under and around the table to crawl up into the chair, or someone would have to pull a chair out for me and then maneuver it back in toward the table once I was on it. I’m independent. I always have been. I like to do things myself. So I always opted for the scrunch-in technique whenever I could get away with it.

Eventually, as I grew older and bigger, I could move the chairs on my own but it was never easy. Since my mother always had the damn table and chairs on carpeting, (shag, of course) these chairs with the weight equivalent to a small calf, needed to be lifted to be moved. Sliding was never an option. Even the adults who sat in the chair had to sort of bunny-hop their way back toward the table once the sat in them. Gracefully scooting the chair to or from the table was never an option with this behemoth of a set.

Not only were the chairs heavy beyond belief, they had dark, padded, plastic seats that were supposed to look like leather. However, they never did look like leather. They weren’t soft. They were a hard, unyielding substance that felt more like a cheap diner booth material than a dining room chair material. To make it worse, my mother made me use Pledge Lemon spray wax to shine them up every week when we cleaned.

The addition of the spray wax caused problems of it’s own. Number 1: a slippery seat is harder crawl up on to. Number 2: a slippery seat makes noises when you move. Fart noises. When crawling up onto a chair a fair amount of positioning is needed to situate yourself once you’re up there. This makes the fart noises unavoidable, even during holiday meals with extended family (which is the only time the table was used for the first 13 years of it’s life.)

Occasionally, during dinner an adult would be so foolish as to re-positioned their weight on the chairs, and they, too, were the recipient of the fart-noise. I wonder if we were known for the fart-noise chairs within the extended family. Maybe that’s why we didn’t host very many holiday meals. Maybe my mother made me wax the chair seats for that very reason. She never did care much for entertaining.

I’ll have to give that some thought.

The week after I graduated high school in June of 1984, my parents and I moved into another new house and this is where the bane-of-my-existence came into its own. It was promoted from the once-in-awhile for special occasions dining room table to the everyday kitchen table.

The new house was an open concept house, very popular in the 1980’s, and there was plenty of dining room space to house the behemoth. And since there wasn’t a wall to distinguish the dining room from the family room, the chairs could spread out throughout the house free from the confines of their traditional designated room. Which they did.

Since there were only three of us, we clearly did not need a massive table and chairs that could seat 8. My mom put four chairs around the table and scattered the rest of the stray chairs throughout the house. Just in case someone needed an uncomfortable, squeaky chair to sit in.

Notice the chair to left of the table in this picture. It’s a stray. There’s another stray that you can’t see to the left of the recliner.

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Here’s yet another stray used as a desk chair.

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As you may have noticed in the top picture, eventually my mother gave up on waxing the fake leather. She moved on to attaching seat cushions on top of the fake leather instead. My mom bought the ones with ties that went around the back spokes of the chairs.

The seat cushions looked prettier than the ugly fake leather, however, seat cushions that are put on top of slippery plastic have their own set of problems. Especially seat cushions that are only attached by two ties at the back of the cushion. They will slip and pull every time you sit down. You need to aim squarely in the middle of the cushion or the cushion and a butt cheek will half slide off the chair. No one of my family has ever been what you would call thin, and, frankly, there wasn’t a chair tie to be found that could withstand the pressure of an ample-sized derriere against the sliding cushion on a plastic seat that’s been waxed for 13 years.

My mother diligently tried sewing the seat ties back on for a year or two. But let’s face it. If a factory sewn seat tie couldn’t stand up to Tieffenbach butts, a hand-sewn job by my mother never had a prayer. Eventually she gave up, and the seat ties hung limp and useless on the back of the chairs while the seat cushions sat willy-nilly on the fake leather seat. Major slippage occurred anytime anyone sat down. After while, we gave up and the seat cushions became a decorative accessory that we moved and replaced the before and after each meal. Kind of like having throw pillows on the bed. Pretty, but not useful.

I suggested to my parent’s that they get a new table. With chairs that didn’t require wrenching your back to move.  Not a chance. The set was perfectly fine, they said, even if some of the chairs legs were coming loose and did wobble side to side.  The wobbly chairs got swapped with the prior stray chairs and life continued as before.

Eventually, the seat cushions with the rubbery dots on the bottom that grip the chairs without the need for seat ties were invented. My mom eagerly bought them and they worked much better than the seat tie cushion — as long as you were able to move the massive chair toward the table on thick carpeting while simultaneously holding on to your chair pad so it didn’t fall off the chair before you sat down. If you happened to sit down too far from the table, the pad added a little extra layer of complexity to bunny-hopping the chair to table. As did the now constantly wobbling table chairs.

I had some fun bringing home new boyfriends and watching them try to navigate the chair/rug/chair pad conundrum for the first time. At least the fart-noise problem was eliminated. The chair legs were getting so unreliable by this point, that my mother planned out where to seat the heaviest guest on the sturdiest chair. My father, having glued the legs as much as he could, was relegated to wrapping string around the bottom chair legs for added strength. Red string. On dark, ugly brown chair legs. At least the string matched the chair cushions.

As those of you who read my blog know, my mother passed away unexpectedly last month and my father has been gone for over six years. As an only child, this means the responsibility of disposing of the household goods and the house falls to me.

I’m not a keeper of memorabilia. I never have been. I marvel at those women who have gorgeous scrap books with ticket stubs and receipts from family trips. I’d like to have one of those, but I’m not that person. I hate clutter so I’m constantly cleaning my purse, wallet, and drawers tossing out stuff. Sometimes I toss out stuff I need. Like property tax checks from the bank. But that’s rare. Bottom line is I didn’t anticipate having any problems getting rid of stuff from my parents house.

I took the few items I wanted, like the hand-made wood carvings my dad did, and few cross stitch pieces my mom made. The most important thing I took out that house is sleeping next to my feet right now. I called in an estate sale place and told them to sell everything. Sell the dishes, the bedroom sets, the family room furniture, and for the love of God, get rid of the hideous, behemoth dining room set that I’ve hated for almost 46 years.

The estate sale guy was probably about 70, and he seemed impressed with the table and chairs. He used words like, “workmanship”, “sturdy” and the cliche’ “they don’t make them like this anymore”. Apparently he didn’t see the red string holding his chair together.

He priced the table and chairs at $225.00! I was amazed. Apparently, I don’t know what things are worth, I thought. I didn’t think anyone would take it for free and this guy thinks he can get $225.00 for it.

Day one of the estate sale. The table and chairs do not sell. That’s okay, Estate sale guy says. Day two everything is marked down to half price. Surely the table and chairs will sell for $114.50.

They didn’t.

When I went into the house the weekend after the estate sale was over, the house was mostly empty. Just a few boxes here and there and the massive, ugly, too-dark table and chairs in the exact same spot where it’s been for the past 33 years.

I wasn’t surprised. Not one bit. The damn table is like a cock roach. It will never go away.

“The charity will take it,” Estate sale guy says.

Except the charity isn’t available on the day Estate sale guy promised. And I have showings to prep the house for. The house needs to be emptied. NOW. Everything has to go.

Monday, after many phone calls and a couple of threats, Estate sales guy’s team shows up with a truck and starts loading everything up. I’m assuming they will take the items to the charity instead of the charity picking them up, which is fine. I don’t mind that the table and chairs and the rest of the items didn’t sell, and I’m glad they’re going to some place where they can be of use to another family. I sleep well that night.

It’s Tuesday. The house is finally empty, cleaning can commence for the showings on Wednesday and all is well.

Estate sale guy’s team shows up to take a few last boxes out of the garage Tuesday morning while I’m there. They tell me it’s the last load that they’re taking to the dump. Not a charity as promised. The dump. There’s no reuse or recycling going on here. Everything they pulled out of the house that didn’t sell went to the dump.

Including the ugly, monstrously heavy, too-dark behemoth of a dining table, stray chairs in various stages of disrepair with fake leather seats and red chair pads with bumps on the bottom. At the dump.

The grief didn’t hit me until Wednesday. And I do mean grief. All out crying as if I’d lost a living, breathing soul, not some stupid, ugly table and chairs I’ve never liked. I did hate them, but their fate didn’t deserve to end up in the dump.

Grieving is a nebulous beast. You never really know what will beckon it forth. It can be something obvious, like a picture, or memory that’s triggered. Or it can be something stupid, like an old crappy table and chairs you’ve lived with for 46 years.

I try not to think of the table, discarded like trash. It still upsets me. And it upsets me that I’m upset over an inanimate object. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m not sorry I that I didn’t take the table and chairs for myself even if I am sorry for it’s fate. Nor will I wax poetic about family meals and memories we shared around The Behemoth. Sure they happened, but in the end,  it’s still just a piece of wood. And uncomfortable piece of wood that I never liked. My memories are tied to me, not to it.

I just wish it didn’t have to end up in the dump.

8/17/17 1:55 pm (I had an hour break in there to do a conference call but I still went over in time by close to an hour!)

 

 

 

 

 

Adult Activities

10:37 am 7/28/2017

This morning I was a grown up. Of course, at the age of 50, I’ve been a grown up for quite some time. But this morning I did very grown up things. Adult things. And not in the good “adult” way, either.

I made many phone calls. I called financial institutions. I called a real estate agent. I even called the government’s Social Security office.  It’s now official with all the entities that matter: My mom is dead.

I’ve been putting off doing these calls, and with good reason. There’s just something about saying “My mother passed away” a half a dozen times, to a half a dozen strangers, that really brings it all home. I only cried a little bit on the last one, with the real estate agent. She was too nice. I do better with the impersonal voices.

A few minutes after the calls were done, the funeral director who screwed up my mother’s birthdate in all the obituaries called me. His timing was perfect. I was too bummed out to yell at him. And besides, he’s making it right. New obits will run in the Freeman today and the Journal on Sunday with the correct dates. Grown ups forgive mistakes because they know we all make them.

I once shipped an entire semi trailer of plastic goods to a tiny one-man office in central Pennsylvania, a good 3 hours from the larger location it was supposed to ship to. (There was only one address in my Rolodex. I was new to the job and I didn’t realize there were two locations). I bet the one guy at the office and the truck driver weren’t thrilled with me. I know my boss sure wasn’t. But mistakes happen. We all make them, even when we have the best intentions.

My mom made mistakes in raising me, but I still loved and miss her. I made mistakes as her daughter, too, but I know she loved me. I guess that’s what family is. We make mistakes but still love each other in spite of them.

For the most part, being an adult is better than being a kid. I like being in control of my own life, even if it does come with responsibilities. I’ve never been one to yearn for the carefree days of my childhood. Besides, childhood’s aren’t really carefree when you’re in them. I had worries as a kid, they just weren’t adult worries. They were kid worries. A worry is a worry, though, and they seemed just and important then as the adult ones do now.

Today is one day, though, that I don’t like being an adult. I didn’t like making those calls or saying those words. This afternoon, I have to pick up my mother’s remains and the death certificates from the funeral home. I won’t like that either.

I think tonight calls for some adult beverages. I like those. And then I’ll move forward, into tomorrow, where maybe I’ll like being an adult a little bit better than I did today.

11:08 am 7/18/2017

 

 

 

 

 

Another Journey Home

11:33 am 7/14/17

I love to read. Growing up, my mom instilled a love of books in me that I’ve never lost. She said that whenever you have a good book, you have a friend.  I believe that, and I have characters in books that still feel like friends to me today.

Scarlett O’Hara; Holden Caufield; Hermie from “Summer of ’42” are all adolescent friends. Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Encyclopedia Brown, the Pigman, and, of course, Laura Ingalls Wilder are childhood friends. (I see that I’ve broken the magic rule of “3” in writing with this last list, but I can’t bear to leave any of them out.)

I always have at least two books going. One that I read on my Kindle and one audio book that I listen to while I sew. I prefer to read fast-moving novels with engaging characters in all genres (except maybe science fiction fantasy or pure romance) on my Kindle.

I prefer longer, slower-paced novels for my audio books. There’s just something about being read to, while my hands are engaged, that transports me into the world of the novel completely. It’s so relaxing, it’s almost akin to meditating. I’ve learned the hard way to not attempt to do any type of math while listening to my audio book. My math skills are sketchy at best when I’m paying attention. When I’m not, forget it. I’ve contributed many expensive fabrics to my scrap bin because I did math while my book was on.

If I can’t sleep at night, I often put on head phones and listen to my book. No matter how good the book is, I’ll drop off within minutes. Not so with the reading a book to myself. If I’m into the book, I’ll read until it’s finished. Chapters are like eating Cheetos for me. Just one more and then I’m done. I say this until the book, or bag — sometimes both, simultaneously, is done.

I’ve made it through audio books I never would have stuck with had I read them instead of listened to them. I listened to and enjoyed “Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett which is all about a cathedral builder in 12 Century England. There’s a lot of detail about architecture and the functions of the different parts of the cathedrals. Personally, a bit too much detail for my taste. It felt like Follett did all this research on cathedral building and, by God, he was going to include it in his book. I never would have finished this kind of book if it had not been “read to me.”

I listened to all three “Century Trilogy” books by Ken Follett, too. The books start before WWI and continue through the 1980’s. All three were awesome books, and I made two full quilts while listening to them. One of them was the quilt I gave my mom for Mother’s Day two years ago. The second one is done in the same pattern as the one I gave my mom and it’s sitting on the back of my couch now.

I also listened to all three of Jane Smiley’s “Last Hundred Years Trilogy” books where every year is a chapter in the life of one family. The book follows the lives of one family for one hundred years, one year at a time. They are amazing books. Some characters are in every book and I cried when each met their demise. They felt like family to me. I still think of some of them, and I listened to those books over a year ago.  My mom used the quilt I made while I listened to these books while she was in the hospice.

With audio books, not only do the characters become friends, but the reader of the books, does too. I think that’s why I’m so fond of trilogy’s. The same actor reads all the books in the trilogy. Sometimes the same actor reads all the books by the same author. I love it when that happens. I think I’m seriously in love with Scott Brick who narrates all the Nelson DeMille novels. When I heard him read the DeMille’s “Gold Coast” which is more of a literary novel, and not at all like DeMille’s usual thriller/espionage genre novels, I knew I was hooked on this guy, and I’d have to give the rest of DeMille’s works a try.

I’m in a middle of listening to a Scott Brick/Nelson DeMille novel now. And I’m reading two books on my Kindle. One that I don’t like much, but feel compelled to finish because it’s gotten such good reviews, and another historical fiction piece that I do like.

The problem is, I can’t enjoy any of them. Not right now. This happened to me, too, when my dad died. I simply couldn’t focus enough to get involved in a book. I sit and read and my mind wanders. I can’t see the scene the author is giving me. Even listening to the book doesn’t help.

So what to do?

When my dad died, I had just enrolled in a class to study writing for young adults at Mt. Mary University. I ended up dropping the class that semester but I had already purchased the books. One book, a Young Adult time-travel book, really interested me. (I can’t remember the name right now, but it’s still sitting on my bookshelf in my bedroom. I haven’t been able to part with it.) When I couldn’t read anything else, I picked up that, and it engaged me. For the short time it took me finish it, it took me outside of my world and into it’s world. It was such a relief to escape for awhile. I still think of it as the first book I was able to read when my dad died. My first step to healing and normalcy.

I don’t have a lot of Young Adult books lying around and I’m not in the mood to search for new ones that good.

So what to do? Visit old friends.

I read a short article in the newspaper yesterday evening about Old World Wisconsin having a Laura Ingalls Wilder week later this month to honor her Little House on the Prairie books. I remembered my Little House books and the yellow cover of the paper backs. I liked how they were all the same color and the same style, except for “Farmer Boy”, which looked a bit different and didn’t have the yellow cover. But that was okay because it was about Almanzo’s life and not Laura’s.

I knew what I had to do.

I went to Amazon and purchased “Little House in the Big Woods”, the first book in the Little House series for my Kindle. I’m not sure if I read it to myself the first time around or if my mom read it to me.  But I read it to myself last night. And for the first time since my mom died, I was transported out of my world into Laura’s world within the dense woods of Wisconsin with Ma and Pa, sister Mary and Jack the dog.  The words were familiar, and I knew the characters immediately. It was like going home, back to a place and time that is as remote to me now as envisioning myself at the age of 50 would have been when I was first reading that book. Time travel at it finest.

I’m looking forward to returning Laura’s world today. I may even download the audio version this afternoon. Cherry Jones is the actress that reads it and I love her acting so I know I’ll love her performance on the audio book. Plus, “Little House in the Big Woods” is only one book of nine in the series. Hopefully, I won’t need to get through all nine to get back to my book friends in the here and now. But if I do, that’s okay. I know I’ll be among friends either way.

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12:30 pm 11/14/17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soon Defined

8:32 am 7/11/17

Yesterday I wrote, “…I don’t know when soon is. The nurses have been saying for days that my mom will die soon. But this soon concept seems to be a bit elusive. Is soon days? Is it weeks? It can’t be months, can it?”

This morning “soon” is defined. My mom passed away yesterday, 6 hours after I wrote those sentiments. It was a bit of surprise as I thought we were looking at days, and I feared we were looking at weeks, but it wasn’t meant to be. Soon came at approximately 6:00 pm, while Dennis and I were driving to see her on the same roads I wrote about yesterday, which is the perfect ending to a very long story. As a writer I couldn’t have scripted it better.

Yesterday morning when I went to see Mom, she was adamant that I not return in the evening. She truly wanted me to go about with my day-to-day life and not “run back and forth” to see her as she put it.

I told her I would be back, because I wanted to check in and make sure that she was okay and didn’t need anything. She regained enough consciousness and energy to tell me that I was so stubborn, and I always had been. I never would listen to she her.

I told her not to scold me as I was just trying to look out for her. She said she’d scold me if she wanted because she was still my mother. She even laughed. So did I. For a few moments we felt normal again.

It was a good-natured scolding, but it also had a strong vein of truth running through it. I am stubborn and so was she. We are cut from the same cloth, as the cliche’ says, and ours has been a challenging relationship throughout my life. I didn’t appreciate her trying to control my life from time I was about 16, and she didn’t appreciate me trying control hers after my father died and she needed help. We loved eachother, but we challenged each other, too, in ways no other human being on this earth could do.

I laughed at her comments, and I agreed with her that I was stubborn. I told her that I would still see her again that night.

But I didn’t.

This morning it occurred to me that she found one last way to get her way. The irony of her passing while I was literally driving to see her isn’t lost on me.

If she’s in a place where she’s aware of what is going on down here on earth, I know she’s chuckling at getting her own way one last time.

I am sad at her passing, of course. And it will take me awhile to process this new world without parents that I’m now living in.

Most of all, though, there is an immense sense of relief and of peace. Our final journey, hers and mine, the one that started almost a month ago when she became sick, the most difficult journey, I think, of either of our lives, is over.

Mom is no longer suffering, physically or emotionally. My responsibility and the dread of not knowing if I was doing the right things for her, is done. For the first time since I was 25 and I had my son, I’m not responsible for another human being. That’s going to take some getting used to.

I went out Chinese food for lunch yesterday. This was the fortune that I received in my fortune cookie. I thought it was very appropriate given the past few weeks.

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And so, as my next journey begins in this new phase of life, I think I will start it by doing just that. Taking a good long rest. It’s been a long summer.

9:33 am 7/11/17