So I buried my mother yesterday. Much harder than I imagined. Not the graveside service so much, as the burial. My niece and my cousin actually put her in the ground, my cousin’s son Ian officiated, it was a small, caring group and we had a lovely reception up at another cousin’s house overlooking the lake. Then back and we all went to look at my sister’s house, which was bought by a friend and extensively remodeled (it was a rotting hovel when my sister died), then a cookout at my house with a smaller group of cousins (with soaks in the pool in between times). The reception went beautifully. I had ordered everything, bought everything, picked up everything, and then just passed it on to my niece and my cousin’s husband as niece Jenny is an events planner and Michael was a chef so knows about presentation etc.
Everyone left and took things over to cousin Helen’s, and I sat and cried a bit, then went into the pool for a moment, then dressed. In a regular size dress, astonishingly enough.
It was almost 90 and in the sun so we all wore sun hats and it was perfect.
And now they’re all there. Everyone but my niece. Last time, when my sister died, I drove my mother from the graveyard (it’s a very small graveyard by the lake that holds my grandparents and all my aunts and uncles and Richie’s grandparents and all his aunts and uncles) I told her it was just us chickens. Now it’s just me, really.
Cousins Ginny and Michael did a huge amount of work helping us clear out the apartment and move stuff in the storage areas. So we’ll finish cleaning things out this week. I’ll have weeks and months of going through boxes, but I can take my time with that.
So it’s done. We’re driving my niece down to Manchester to the airport, and we’ll stop at Keepsake Quilting on the way and go out for a nice dinner when we get there. And then we’ll head back (it’s a looong way to Manchester) and Richie and I will talk and I’ll listen to audio books and come home and tomorrow will be the New Reality. But it’s okay.
The best title of a book I haven’t read is Necessary Losses. Life is full of necessary losses. My mother went out quickly and peacefully and very very old.
All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.
I’m gonna be scarce around here for the next couple of days. Saturday is the committal service, in which we bury Ma, whose ashes are sitting on my front dresser with the ashes of beloved dog Rags and a small bottle of my sister’s ashes to keep her company (My mother loved dogs). Yeah, I know, I’m weird.
I went to the big city to buy table wear and drinks for the reception, and to order a sandwich platter. (Oh, and first trip to Goodwill).
Today I work in Moo’s apartment (she was Moo, Mummy or Ma) and clear things out till my cousins arrive. I’ve got to figure out who’s going to Montpelier to pick up the Danish flag I’m going to wrap the ashes in. Tonight I do dinner for all of us (god bless Costco roast chickens).
Friday they’ll go through Moo’s apartments to see if there’s anything they might want, we pick up my niece at the airport Friday night, the service is Saturday at 1 pm. Cousins will leave on Sunday (probably taking my niece with them) and then I collapse.
Still have to finish emptying the apartment, but I intend to pack up a lot more today. Most of the furniture is already gone. Busy is good, but I thought I had my life back this week. Wrong!
So I’ll pop in when I can, probably wailing. But hey, this is a place to wail.
One thing interesting — I had a lot more energy in the Big City yesterday. I think working so hard on the play upped my stamina (god knows it was exhausting).
So I’ll get through it. Hey, I’m Wonder Woman. I can do anything.
Except, perhaps, stand in the graveyard surrounded by the stones of all my family as I bury the last of them.
I guess someone has to be the last.
I think maybe pastels aren’t as good for me as they were when I was young.
You know, I was so foggy last Monday that I wrote a post and then never hit “publish”?
Much better now, though some days (like yesterday) feel like a brown funk.
But today is better — it’s gorgeous, and I’ll go food shopping, then work on my mother’s place for a few hours, then float in the pool and listen to audio books. Lovely.
My plan for the week.
Grieve for my mother and the loss of family in a healthy way — don’t stuff it.
Enjoy the hell out of the play!
Don’t sweat the rest of it. It’ll come together.
What’s on your agenda?
There’s a phenomenon called second-night slump. Apparently it’s always the worst night in an entire run. All that excitement and sharpness and adrenaline of the first night falls flat and you stumble over words, miss cues, etc. Well, it wasn’t too bad. Just a little ragged in parts, but I was still fairly pumped and while the Alleluia was a little rough all my other stuff went fairly well.
And now I get two days off. Completely off. Then back to work Tuesday, and performances Wednesday through Sunday.
But oh, I do love it! Exhausting as it is, I adore it.
For two days we’ll try to work on my mother’s apartment. I think it has to be empty by August 11th, which means we have a lot of work.
And of course I realized I’ll simply replace TSOM with the book I’m longing to write and need to write, fast. So things are good.
Oh, shit, I forgot. The burial service on August 4th.
I’m more accepting now. I’m sure it’s going to be a bumpy ride, and it was such a shock, but I’ve made peace with her unexpected nastiness the last few weeks of her life (she knew what was on the horizon, subconsciously, and she was fighting it). Did I tell you that Richie went and picked up the ashes, and they’re now on the front dresser with a bottle of Taffy’s ashes on top of the box and the urn of our Springer, Rags, beside her (she adored all dogs but particularly Springer Spaniels). So she’s okay right now — just gotta figure out what to push her ashes in when we bury her.
I haven’t weighed myself, but I don’t think I’ve done much damage, simply judging by my stomach size. I’ll weigh myself when the show is over and hunker down then (or maybe after the 4th). People have been so generous and sweet in bringing food over, but I gotta admit a lot of it isn’t low calorie. Pasta salads, etc.
Oh, And I need to write thank you notes.
Well, bird by bird. I’ll get it done. I’ll figure it out. But today, I rest.
(BTW, our costumes are cheesy. Here’s me sulking when I first tried one on.)
Thank you for all the kind and thoughtful words yesterday. I’m still kind of in shock. Not sure what I should be feeling. My niece and I went to pick up Moo’s stuff at the Rehab, and Tim came home and promptly fought with Erin. Sigh. I think people are bringing food over. I’m having lots of people for dinner on Sunday night and I’m just hoping someone else will take care of things because that tends to be my job and I can’t do it.
But Hell, it won’t be the last meal they’ll ever eat, so I’m not going to worry about it.
I went back to rehearsals yesterday, to see if I could do it. And it went okay. I may as well finish up the play. When actually I just sort of wish everyone would go away (not my niece). I think people don’t want to leave me alone and I think I sort of need to be left alone.
I remember, with all the other deaths, how each one somehow belonged to someone else. When my father died and it shattered me, I had to look after my mother. When my nephew died I had to look after my sister. When my brother and sister died I had to look after my mother (and in Taffy’s case, her daughter).
This time I don’t have to look after anyone. I just have to look after myself.
So that’s what I’ll try to do. Try not to worry abut stuff that doesn’t better. I was just going to have my cousins over on Sunday, and my BFF, but the BFF said she’d take care of it, and she started inviting all sorts of unexpected people, and now it’s not family mourning on o their own.
Well, it doesn’t matter. We do in to see the funeral director today. Have to choose some clothes for the cremation. Arrange for a headstone. Presumably we’ll just do a graveside service this summer with my cousin’s son (an Episcopal minister) and then do a small memorial service in Princeton this fall. JUst gotta take care of business for a while.
I’ll figure it out. One foot ahead of the other. More loss. The first one in her rightful time.
Just gotta hold on and move through.
My former BIL (who’s still a member of the family) calls this photo “The Three Amigos.” In fact, I didn’t need the cane at the time, but my sister (on the left) needed two so I borrowed one of hers). And that’s Moomaw in the middle.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out she died on Wednesday. I was all set to bring her home on Thursday, and I deliberately didn’t go see her on Tuesday because she’d been so vicious. And I still don’t regret that. In truth, she might not have been able to control how awful she was but she really wouldn’t have wanted to subject me to it. I stopped by on Wednesday to see her on my way to pick up my glasses, only to find that she’d fallen, been diagnosed with pneumonia and been sent to the hospital. I got there and she was in pretty rough shape. When the nurse managed to rouse her and ask if she knew who I was she smiled and said “that’s my darling Krissie.” But she didn’t say much else. I fed her a little orange sherbet and some cranberry juice, but she kept falling asleep, and I asked the doctor, but the doctor said it was the pneumonia and when the antibiotics took effect she’d be doing a lot better. She should be out of there in two to three days and then back to rehab to get stronger before she went home.
So I went to get my glasses. I managed to wake her enough to tell her I was going but coming back, and she asked very clearly “what time are you coming back?” Which was odd, because she didn’t even know where she was. But I said “five” and she repeated it.
I got back at six. She’d coded at about 4:50, just before I was due back.
It was very peaceful and painless, just falling asleep. I keep wishing I hadn’t gone off, because I knew she looked like death, but they told me it was just the pneumonia and she was going to be fine. And I think she wanted to be gone before I got back. Wanting to do something nice for me, I think.
I got there and her door was closed with a sign that said “visitors please check in with the nurse’s station.” Even then I didn’t know.
I can’t figure out why I’m so upset. She could be mean as a snake, she wasn’t cut out to be a mother. It doesn’t matter, she was MY mother, damn it.
So tough times at Hacienda del Ohlroggio.
Both my niece and my son are flying in tonight (I’m writing this on thursday night). And Erin brought Alex by and we played in the pool, so that was helped.
These things have to happen, don’t they? They’re supposed to. She outlived everyone else in my family and it was starting to look like she’d outlive me.
I just wish … Hell, I wish she were back and being a bitch. I don’t want her dead. She looked so sad.
It’s finally decent weather, and I’m sitting on my deck, overlooking the garden and, somewhere beyond the apple trees, the town. I’ll talk about this later, but shit, I gotta talk about my brother when I really wanted to avoid pain.
But it’s his birthday. And his entire, short life he was a darling. He was scary smart — we’re all smart in our family, and my self-proclaimed brilliance is terribly important to me, but Dougal was smarter. He was smart in all ways — science, cars, writing, rock music, computers (he was an Apple tech among other things). He loved computers, and kids, and U2, and Taffy and me.
But he was a drunk. And a druggie. He spent all his life trying to please other people, making promises he couldn’t keep, as he explored one thing after another. Beekeeping (the flowers were never so glorious), tropical fish (where do we put all this salt?), astronomy, computers (where do we put all these parts?), electronics. He was a selectman (one of three who compromise the equivalent of mayor in our tiny town) who got quoted in the NYT saying Chief Justice William Rehnquist was reaping the results of his karma. (Go, Dougal!)
He had about five years of sobriety (the computer tech and the selectman stuff was part of it) but then it caught him again.
There were always great stories about him. Like the time he tried to kill himself with an overdose of pills, my mother called the ambulance and when they pulled up she was raging on the lawn like the virago she is and Dougal said “it’s her” and they tried to haul her off.
He had great friends. For some reason two of his best friends were daughters of writers — the daughter of John MacPhee and the daughter of J.D. Salinger. In fact, he even met Salinger.
Dougal had the bad luck to be born into our family as it was falling apart. Taffy had the longest period of calm before everything collapsed, I had maybe four years, Dougal had none. And he was cursed with being brilliant. To top everything off, he ended up with the bipolar illness that runs in our family, hitting him so hard at age forty that he was dead in a couple of months of alcohol poisoning.
I won’t go into the tragic details. I’m sitting on the deck, looking at the butterflies and thinking of my siblings. I knew Dougal was a butterfly from the beginning — he’d finally been able to shed a life that had dragged him down unmercifully. In fact, he has words from “I shall be released” on his grave. He liked to wear black, so the black butterflies are Dougal.
The yellow ones are Taffy. She was so trapped in the huge body she created that she couldn’t move, and I see her soul dancing among the late season lilacs.
Last week my therapist said she was in awe of me, for being who I am and surviving what I did. I don’t know if I feel survivor’s guilt. And I didn’t just survive, I thrived, while my siblings drowned and I couldn’t save them.
Damn, this is turning into a bummer.
But you know, it’s not. There are butterflies this morning, and my brother and sister are free, and even if I sit here and cry sometimes it’s all good.