Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The detritus of a life

So here I am three years past Mom's death and just starting to deal with her clothes, paperwork and other detritus of her life.  I find things that make me stop and examine her in new ways.  I consider her curly signature and she comes back to life.  Today it is bank statements.  Like many of her generation she never threw paperwork away.  I tried to get her to shred her bank statements, receipts, CD notices of renewal.

No...there they all are in a grocery bag.  I pull everything out of envelopes.  I unfold everything...lay it flat.  I am preparing to shred all of it.  I have to say, it feels strange, it feels sad, it feels final.  Not the way I am sure she wanted her documents to end.  She probably wanted me to save keep it safe.  To keep it away from prying eyes.  She was always a suspicious not inclined to trust others. In the end, she was forced to trust me because my brother wouldn't help her and my Dad was already gone.

I can remember many trips to the bank to check her balance, to renew her CD' make sure everything was in order.  She calculated and recalculated her statements.  As this became more difficult, she became more frustrated.  One of our last big confrontations was over her checking account balance.  She didn't understand what I was trying to explain to her and I couldn't handle the frustration of trying to get her to understand anymore.  In light of the information that she suffered from dementia all this becomes clearer now.

I see her final bills for the nursing home and I am brought back to that time of thrice weekly visits.  Eating dinner with her every Tuesday and Thursday night.  Breakfast there every Sunday morning.  Always fending off her pleas to come home with me.  My explanations about the house not being set up for someone in a wheelchair.  The bags of double chocolate peanuts to keep her happy.  Trying to get her to be interested in anything.  It turned out she was interested in sitting in the hall by the dining room.  She loved to people watch..had been doing it all of her life.

She was actually surrounded by people.  She was no longer isolated in her apartment looking out the window as people walked on the sidewalk below.

In the end, she was not happy in the nursing home...but then again, who really is happy in a place where you go to die?  She said she would not see 93 in her last fall.  I told her that she was not entirely in charge, but it turned out she was.  She died at 92 on Oct. 3, 2012, one day after my birth 58 years before in 1954.  I think it was her desire to hang on for my birthday.  It may also have been her plan that I would never forget her if she died one day after my birthday.  In the end, she was in charge.  As her daughter, I always saw her as a force of all that was good about her and all that was bad about her.

To your detritus, Genevieve.  I loved you then, I love you now.  I feared you then, but I no longer fear you now.  Rest in peace.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March 1, 2015

Now we have lost both of these souls. Mom would have been 95 today.  One thing that I really loved about her was her love of dogs.  Here is one of my favorite Christmas pictures of her and our dog Milo on Christmas Day 2009.  He really sensed that she would allow him up on the couch and that he would get away with it because Grandma said it was ok!  Now Milo joins Dad and Mom and all our other pets in a place of happiness and joy.  I know their reunion was one full of love. 

Milo passed away last Tuesday morning after suffering from Congestive Heart Failure for several months. He joined our family in September 2001 as a 10 week old puppy who had been returned twice to the Seattle Animal Shelter. He was a little dog with a big personality, endless energy, a voracious appetite for food and fun, and more than a little bit of the rascal in him. He was much loved and will be deeply missed by all who knew him. He is no doubt running and playing with Aggie, Bete, Rue, Linus and Cleo now that they are all together again. He leaves behind his family:  Haven, Pamela, Bonita, Macy and North.  Bless the beasts.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Eve, 2014

It is my custom to decorate Mom, Dad and graves every Christmas.  This year it was especially tough because I have been missing them so much.  This compounded with the fact that I found out Dec. 22 that I am getting laid off January 7 kind of put me over the edge.  This is just the kind of thing I would want to talk over with them.  They were always supportive whenever work issues came up over the years.  What I am trying to do is hear their voices in my ears ....remember the words that they would say to help me deal with such a big and sudden event.  I really wish I could talk to them...even for just an hour.  I guess I will have to wait to see them on the other side when my time comes to join them.

Merry Christmas Mom and Dad.  I love you.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints Day

As has become my custom, I always put pumpkins on Mom and Dad and Grandmother's graves for Halloween.  It lends a bit of the spirit of the season in the cold and wet cemetery.

Today is All Saints Day, a Catholic holy day to honor the dead.  When I moved to France I learned just how important this day was to people all over France.  In Paris, it is the custom to pack a lunch and your grave cleaning supplies and go spend part of the day with your deceased friends and relatives.  Far from being morbid, I found it to be a warm and wonderful custom that involves whole families.

While I didn't do that much at the actual grave, I did bring the pumpkins and talk with Mom and Dad as I do every time I visit them.  It never seems like much, but I am not really sure what else I can do.  What I did for them, I did while they were still alive.  After their deaths, I buried them with the ringing of a Tibetan Bell and words from the Bible and other traditions.

It has been 2 years since Mom's death and 7 years since Dad's death.  Still, many times, I long to speak to them both if only for a few precious minutes.  The other day I was driving my car to work listening to a father talk about his 27 year old daughter's battle with breast cancer.  He is at every appointment and takes care of her as only a parent can take care of a child.  He closed by playing a song called "Daddy's Girl" and suddenly I found myself sobbing at a red light.  Grief sneaks up on me in ways that I can never anticipate. Crying was a good release in that moment...because it reminded me that I am and always have been Daddy's girl.

I miss them both, I love them both.  As All Saint's Day comes to a close I remember them and honor them now and forever.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

7 years

7 years ago today my Dad, Robert T. Corliss died. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him and wish that I could have another chance to talk with him.  Instead, I bought flowers and arranged them at the grave he shares with my Mom....always remembering to leave some flowers at my grandmother Lydia's grave which is right next to Mom and Dad.

Walking the dogs tonight I looked up in the sky and saw a big hole with shafts of sunlight coming through the clouds.  I have always associated this sight as Dad looking down on me.  Whether it is true is of no importance.  It is one more way I remember and honor his presence in my life.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Oh, Dad...

Oh, Dad, you have been on my mind throughout today...the 6th Father's Day without you.  I finally had time tonight to go to the store to get some flowers for the grave...but everything looked a little spent.  I could hear your voice in my ear..."Don't waste money on these old flowers".  So I left and came home to write you this letter.

Thanks for all the times you had my back.
Thanks for all the times you listened and then listened some more.
Thanks for always believing in me and cheering me on.
Thanks for always believing anything I wanted to do could be done.
Thanks for telling me about drinking and giving me that great advice...Moderation in all things.
Thanks for being there when I fell down...for picking me up gently and with love.
Thanks for all you taught me to do...ride a in God...and too many things to list.

Your sister Josephine told me after your death that you adored me.  Well, Dad...the feeling is mutual.
I am still a little lost without you..without your constant loving voice.
I am trying to be the parent to Haven that you were to me.
I guess that is my greatest tribute to you.

I love you, Dad.  Always have, always will.
Happy Father's Day

Monday, January 27, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dad

January 27, 2014 would have been Dad's 94th birthday.  He always hoped to live to be at least 95, but that didn't happen.  Still, Dad had a wonderful attitude at the end of his life.  He was so accepting and funny about his death.  I remember him saying to me "No one has ever come back complaining".  I think that was also the way Dad lived his life...never complaining...just getting on with it as best he could in good times and in bad times.  I miss him every day.