Ob-La-Di, Ob-la-da

Joel and I had a great time Christmas shopping this evening. I have only one more trip to make and I’ll be finished. Tomorrow afternoon I’m taking the kids out to get gifts for their mom and I’m mailing the presents Joel and I got for Micah. (Did you read that Micah? They may be a little late, but they’ll be on their way tomorrow.)

After shopping we went to Carl’s Junior, where we ate burgers and talked about Mom’s death. That may sound negative, but it was really very positive. It felt good to talk about her with some who, like myself, has known her as long as they’ve been alive. When we got home Nettl, the kids, and I settled in our room to watch A Christmas Story, one of our favorite holiday movies. Life is getting back to normal however much I’m still trying to adjust within myself. Mom’s stocking is still hanging on our fireplace mantle; I can’t bring myself to take it down. Not yet.

I wrapped more presents and put them under the tree after everyone went to bed, and here I am waiting for the snow we’ve been promised. There’s a howling wind outside and the decorations in the yard across the street have blown over. Wish my cheap-ass digital camera hadn’t died on me a few months ago.

I want to personally thank everyone who has emailed me with condolences, or who has offered their generous help when things got so scary. That’s more than my damned family has done. All I have left is an aunt, uncle and three cousins in Florida, and an older brother who hasn’t bothered to contact us since Mom moved here in 2000. The former hasn’t even sent a card and the latter doesn’t know if his mother is dead or alive. Nor does he care. I’m not surprised though. Good riddance.

Anyway, thank you so much. Your love and compassion have moved me deeply and I’m at a loss to express my appreciation for your friendship.

And to the person (who shall remain nameless because) who left their cruel and insensitive comment which I deleted: Blow me.


Just a Normal Day, Considering

What a blessed thing it is to have a simple, normal day at last. No business to take care of, no meetings to attend, no huge decisions to make, no crises to resolve. Just a day. When I awoke I poured my coffee, opened my newspaper and turned on West Wing. Then I wrapped a couple of gifts, emptied the trash, and sat down at my computer. I have not made the bed. I have not showered. I have not even dressed. The wind outside is slowly blowing in a storm that may deliver us 1 to 3 inches of snow by tomorrow morning. I finally have the luxury of exhaling.

The mess at the bank was the bank’s fault. Yesterday, Nettl went in, raised holy hell, and they lifted the freeze on our account, repaying us the $945 they took from us with no warning or notice of any kind. Don’t you think that would be bad enough to happen to a family? But to do this two days after a mother’s death, and at Christmastime is reprehensible. The woman responsible made a unilateral decision about whether the Social Security check that was deposited the day before my mother died was for November or December, and was incorrect. It was for November. Nettl told her that that decision was the government’s to make, not hers. After all this has blown over and we’re not so worn out with grief and worry we’re changing banks. This is not the first time, but the third, that they’ve screwed us over.

So we all went out for Chinese last night.

I don’t remember the last time I felt so small. I feel like a shadow that’s about to disappear. It will pass, however, and I have so many good things to look forward to in the coming year.

I think my mother came to me in a dream last night. She was well, looked good, and was trying to convince me she wasn’t dead at all—which I believe because of my spiritual convictions. I slept well for the first time in two weeks and awoke without the cloud over my head that has enshrouded me every morning as soon as waking consciousness enters my brain. I’m still sad, of course. That will take a little while.

Right now, the best Christmas present in the world would be to be sent to a quiet place like Colorado for a week, no people, no telly, no demands, no input, and no need to “keep a happy face” so as to not bother other people with my grief. Just silently falling snow, wind in the treetops, and lots of writing supplies.

Why is it that the grieving person must always console those who voice their condolences to them? Why must we say, “I’m alright. It’s hard right now, but it’ll get better soon” when we want to say, “It’s not alright. I’m falling apart at the seams and don’t have the time or solitude it takes to put myself back together.” I feel orphaned by my parents, abandoned by what remaining family I have, and I’m pissed as hell that after I gave up my career in my prime and spent the past 13 years taking care of my aging, ill, and dying parents, neither of them left me with so much as simple, cheap, burial insurance. I feel betrayed and used.

Ah well, who wants to hear all this, especially now that the holidays are upon us? At least the roller coaster ride is over and my household can now move into Christmas without the financial worry that flattened our spirits last week. I still have a bit of shopping to do (I prefer to wait until the last minute, although I make my list out rather early), and if we get snow, that’ll really put me in the holiday spirit. All I really have to do is put on Paul McCartney’s Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime. That always does it.



My mother died two weeks ago,
She had no time to let us know;
She left while watching Lawrence Welk,
I wonder how the hell that felt.
Dishwasher broke, Christmas lights went out,
Bath tub spewed the room about;
Cable failed and flusher broke,
Must now drink Sam’s, cannot buy Coke...


Don't Even Know What to Name This

I’ve dealt with a lot of death in my adult life. I lost a couple of friends in Vietnam during the late Sixties, I was widowed at the age of 18 when my son, Joel, was only two weeks old. I lost a friend in a car accident when we were only 20 and I lost another friend who died of cancer at the age of 23 when her baby was only months old. Grandparents, of course, died at different times and a dear friend in England died in the late Eighties of chronic asthma. I took care of my father the last year of his life, and was there with him when he died in 1993. I lost my musical mentor — a death I’ve still not fully accepted — in 2000. A very close friend died of AIDS in 2001, followed not long after by his partner. Another friend died a few months later. An online friend died this year in a riding accident, and though we were never friends, the deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison affected me very strongly. Now that the worst shock of my mother’s death on Saturday night has given way to a kind of vulnerable numbness, I find that I’m very philosophical about death. Actually, I don’t believe in death. Energy has been, is, and will always be. It cannot be destroyed, but merely transmutes into some other form. When our bodies die, the energy that I believe is our essence, or soul, continues, but no longer in its previous form. Science has proven that energy cannot be unmade.

I felt my mother’s presence all Saturday night. Odd things happened with our lights and cable, but only in certain areas of the house. The cable went out in her room, but nowhere else and the Christmas lights went out for no apparent reason. Everything’s working now.

Today (Sunday) has been a day of phone calls to, and from, my mother’s friends across the country, a meeting at the funeral home, and grappling with the new reality that has been thrust upon us. Our good friend, Allen Scott, came by this afternoon with freshly baked focaccia and a bottle of an excellent pinot noir. We sat and talked together for about an hour, and he left. It was wonderful because he’s a professor of music history at OSU and I was able to get my mind off of things for a while and onto local faculty gossip.

I took a nap and was sleeping really soundly until the phone rang about an hour or so ago. It was a call I wouldn’t have missed for the world: it was my youngest son. We haven’t spoken in a long time; it simply made my heart soar.

There are a million things going on in my head, and a million details that have to be attended to. We have guests coming throughout the month (a godsend, really), and a friend is staying with us until he can find an apartment. Then there’s Christmas expenses and funeral and burial expenses — my mother had no insurance of any kind, and no money except her Social Security, which she donated toward the rent. Fortunately, December’s rent has been paid, but I’m stressing out over January. We are a family of six and there’s far too much to attend to right now. Too, there is the strain of keeping life in our home as calm as possible for the kids’ sake.

But most importantly, I’m dealing with the death of my mother, a woman with whom I sometimes shared a troubled but deeply connected relationship. We had some great times when we were younger, traveling together across the country to visit various family friends. Despite some of the trouble we experienced in the past, I came to love her and understand her in a very special way while taking care of her, especially since the illness that nearly killed her a couple of years ago. I was finally able to see that her physical abuse and emotional neglect of me during my childhood was due to her own painful upbringing. It must have been horribly traumatic for her at the age of 14 to have witnessed her own mother’s suicide by ingesting strychnine. And then to overhear her adult siblings argue about who was going to take her in because none of them, and not even her own father, wanted her. Add to that the sexual abuse she endured when her grandfather agreed to take her, and I began to understand why she had such a difficult time being a mother herself. When her older sister committed suicide in the early Fifties it was almost more than my mother could bear. I forgave her long ago and we had learned to enjoy one another’s company over coffee every morning. Sure, a semi-invalid elderly parent living in the home is difficult, but we always worked through those things, and caring for her lovingly and tenderly became the norm for both Lynette and I. My mother loved the kids and the youth and vibrancy they’ve brought into our home. I’m so happy now that the last year of her life was filled with the sound of laughter and an atmosphere of love.

I’m confident in my beliefs about death and I take comfort in believing my mother is enjoying her reunion with my dad, her mother, and her friends that have passed over in the last few years. It’s just all the business and arrangements that are daunting.


My Mummy's Dead

At around 10:00 pm last night my mother died, a completely unexpected thing. As some of you know, she came to live with us after a stroke in 2000 and I’ve been a stay-at-home caretaker. This is such a shock. Turns out she had a coronary blockage that just finally caused a massive heart attack -- and only eight hours ago. Just Thursday morning we were having coffee together in the living room and talking about what she wanted to get the kids for Christmas. I’m in shock right now and probably won’t write for a few days.