Steel Magnolias

We all have those movies that we go to for background noise, mindless comfort, or general warmth.

Steel Magnolias is off my list.

Which is a bummer because I’d always wanted to age into Ouizer. I fancied myself turning into a grumpy old woman that wore mismatched clothing and fur coats off-season and have a stinging wit.

Now I’m M’Lynn.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved Sally Field, but to me she was the least relatable character in the entire movie.

I get it. I want to hit something.

The Middle Distance

She’s always in my mind, bouncing back and forth, an unregulated tide on my emotion.

At the front of my  mind are the things that need to be accomplished right now – my work, the state of the house, the rooms that need to be cleaned, dog hair on my clothes, am I turning right or left, what am I going to eat, where are my keys.

When I’m immediately occupied, she sits just into the middle distance.  She’s there, the perpetual thought that hums just behind whatever activity I’m engaged in.

It’s been just over three weeks since I last talked to her.  During the in-between times, her voice crashes into the foreground of my occupation and I fall into the emotion delicately perched at the top of my throat. My nose warms.

Sitting on my desk, I have the phone number for my contact in the housing department at Wayne State.  He has made it his personal mission to cut the red tape of dis-enrollment for me.  I have the phone number of Express Scripts.  I need to cancel her prescriptions.  Three sympathy cards that were mailed to work.

They trigger her movement from the middle to the front of my  mind. My nose warms again.

After 7 years, my late husband went solidly into the middle distance.  He’d sway into my brain only most days – and always sweetly.  Something he’d love, listening to my current partner (rock?) talk to his brother on the phone.  His memory came with a comforting glow.

She has brought him back into sharp focus.  Her passing complicated the distance from his. I hold them together in my heart. My nose warms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Edge of Love

In my house I’ve always made it a habit to fill the walls with everything I could make hang from a nail or hook or removable sticky situation.  I like the texture it adds, I like the interest of the things.  My walls are fun to look at.

When I was headed up north for her funeral (Life Celebration?) I took all of the family photos off the walls.  Pictures of her with just her sister, pictures of her by herself taken by her sister.  The entire family.   A Lake Superior photo of just the three of us taken shortly after I buried my husband.  That was a one of my first good days.  They were all fun days.  I especially love the black and white photo strip taken at an old-school photo booth in St. Louis.

After the week was over I brought back a double-walled produce box of all of my photos to go back on the walls.

I can’t put them back – I’m not ready to have the constant reminder.  My baby won’t be part of any more photos.  This is all I have for her whole life.  I won’t have anything else to add.  Her constant childhood looking at me.  She was on the precipitous of adulthood.  I mourn for what she will miss.

I have to put them back. My fractured family needs her here.  She can’t go.  She won’t fade.  She lingers with us.  I have to put them back.

After two and a half weeks, my walls are in the order they were before.

I’ll continue to add new photos as time envelopes our lives.  The photos will always be a little lighter.  I’ll always find a space where she should have been standing.  There will be an edge of light I’ll look for and find, because I need it to be there.

I stand on the precipitous of love.  0 stars.  Would not recommend.

 

Weight

The weight I carried on my left hand when I was married to my late husband gave me a feeling of comfort.  I didn’t need to look at my rings to feel them.  The weight was comfortable.

When I took them off for good after he passed, I mourned the loss of the weight.  My hand felt weird. The balance was off.  I didn’t have rings on any fingers, and the comfortable asymmetry was omitted from my day-to-day life.

When Z passed, I went to the jewelry store and purchased three necklaces.  One for my mom, one for my other (remaining? living? present?) daughter and one for me.  They were all different – shape, engraving, metal.

My necklace is heavy.  It’s a measurable weight on my neck and the silver charm sits on my chest like a ballast to my emotion.  It gives me a sort-of equilibrium.

I don’t shower or sleep in it.  I take it off at night.  I undo the clasp and the emptiness I feel on my throat gives tangible account to the missing in my life.

My neck feels empty – she is missing.

At night, my fingers crawl across my bare neck, my throat, my chest. I search for what’s gone.

 

Transportation / Secrets

Today we went to the east side of the state and got Z’s car.  Then we stopped by the sheriff’s office to collect her mobile phone.

They wouldn’t release any of her clothes or other inconsequential items because they have moved to “evidence”.  Those things will spend the rest of my life in a bag, in a box, on a shelf, in a basement.  They will be forgotten by everyone.  Even me, eventually.  They will collect dust and one day – many years from now – they will be unceremoniously destroyed.  Her case will have been long closed.  Whomever takes them to the incinerator will never know the part of the universe that belonged to her.  And the exquisite pain left in the wake of her death.

I followed her car home.  S.O. and I went together, he drove it home.  It’s parked in our driveway now.

For the past couple of years I loved seeing her car in a driveway.  I knew it meant she was home or I was up visiting her.  I would get a half-hearted hug and a quick hello before she was off to do something more fun than hang out with me.  Teenagers are like that.  No time for mom.  I knew that.  It’s part of growing up.  Eventually you circle back around to your mom starting in your mid-twenties.  I was looking forward to that. I wanted that future.

Now her car is in my driveway.  I’m not coming home to see her.  I’m coming home to the nothing where she should be.

Everyday when I leave for work (and when I get home from work) her car will be in the driveway.   She will not be on the couch.  She will not be making a mess.  She will not leave her dirty dishes all over the side tables and her backpack on the floor with important items spilling out.  She will not whine when I ask her to pick up her mess.

I emptied her belongings from her car into her room.  I went through the things I knew would need to be repatriated to a bathroom.  I gave her cosmetics and lotions to her sister.  I pulled out her colored pencils and coloring books.  I’ve never been one to color but I might give it a try.  I might take them up north… maybe I’ll take them up north. I’ll probably take them up north.

Everyone spreads their wings and keeps their lives in compartments. Each part of your life is set aside for a particular audience.   As you start keeping things from your parents, your parent also has a right to not know things.  A parent looks at their young adult child and knows the benign things they do are fine in life, but doesn’t want to know some of the more racy things.  I don’t want to violate her privacy.

Eventually I will have the wherewithal to go through her items and distribute back into the world.  Her friends will want some of the things they shared.  I’ll give them their part.  Some of the things will be passed to my girlfriend’s children or saved for my nieces or donated.  I’ll put her formal dresses and graduation robe in a bag and tuck them into a closet. Her diploma will go into a box with other mementos and moments and monuments.

For now, her secrets are still tucked safely away in her bedroom.

 

Land Ownership

This weekend we went to the UP.   Home.

It’s not where I was raised, but it’s where I grew up.  It’s where my very (very) close family all lives side-by-side – 5 houses across.

Last weekend, we had a Viking funeral pyre for her there.  I took some of her funeral flowers up north and rearranged them into a spray.  My cousins and brother and S.O. built a log raft, we put it into the lake and set it on fire.  I re-read her eulogy and we watched everything burn.  We also kept a vigil campfire lit for 4 days.

So now I have to put my baby back to the earth.  This place is the place I’ll keep her forever.  It’s also the place I’ll put my late husband.

I was never emotionally ready to bury my husband.  I’ve kept him with me over the past 7 years.  About a year ago, I’d decided I was ready to let him go but I didn’t have a place.  Now,  I’ll put them together.  My husband, her step-father, will be next to her.

Maybe that’s why I kept so hard a hold of my husband, not letting his body go – because the universe knew that I’d need him to be with my daughter?  I don’t know. I do know. I don’t know.

Six of us went to pick a spot on Saturday afternoon.  We ended up purchasing 24 plots.  Room for 96 urns.  My entire family – Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Brothers, Sisters – we all made the decision to stay together.

My baby and my husband will be the first two in what is now the family section of the tiny cemetery in the UP.  But that won’t be until next summer. The 4th of July.   In the UP, that week is called homecoming week.  That will also be the 8th anniversary of my husband’s passing.

So, here I am, the new owner of several plots.  Stupid plots.  Amazing plots on a hill  surrounded by maple trees.  Room for everyone I love.

Picking out a burial site for your child and your husband when you’re 40 years old is a shitty matter.  0 stars.  Would not recommend.

 

 

 

 

Death as business.

Death, obviously, is a literal business.

I remember seeing a billboard in my town a couple of weeks ago advertising cremations for just under $1,000.00.  I remember thinking that was a good deal – having more or less remembered the cost for my late husband’s cremation.

When I went back to the same funeral home to make arrangements for my daughter, their cremation price was still $1,500.00.  I knew that I was over-paying.  Or, rather, my parents were over-paying since they would pay for my daughter’s funeral expenses as they had for my husband (a shitty, amazing, important gift. O stars. Would not recommend).  Also, as a professional purchasing agent, I cringe at not shopping around for best prices.  But in that place, at that time, I had no other options.  I’m not up for shopping around. I don’t have it in me to call multiple funeral homes to look for the best price.  I pay a $500 convenience fee.

Today at lunch I had to call Wayne State to formally disenroll her and try to get her refund on the housing and educational deposits.

The housing form had two generic questions – clearly not aimed at any particurlar situation.  Question #1 – Why do you need to leave student housing?  Question #2 – What has changed?

Everything.

That was my response to the second question.

Everything has changed.

I haven’t gone to her bank yet.  She had a second  bank account attached to mine so that I could easily pass her money for prescriptions and gas and various whatnots.  Two days before she died, I’d put $35 into her account to pay for her synthroid.  I moved that money back to my account.

Also on my list of to-do’s at lunch today was mail the donation checks to the Jack and Jill foundation for late stage cancer.  More business.

This weekend I have the business of thank-you notes for everyone that helped out.

Amazon got more business from me today – I took another shot at a book for parents that have lost a child.  It will arrive next week.

I have the business of returning the items she’d purchased for school.  Textbooks that already arrived. A new mattress pad and kettle that need to be returned.  Towels and laundry baskets and hampers and extra shelves that all need to go back to their place of origin.

This is a stupid business.