Archive for February 1st, 2010

Ten Days Post Mortem

Today just sucked.

I can’t pinpoint exactly what sucked so bad. It wasn’t a particular memory, thought or nothing like that. Can’t think of anything other than the Hole in my heart was screaming at me today.

I had this dream last night.

In the dream, I was in high school at Brentwood High School. The guidance counselor/assistant principal type (not one of the ones that was actually real) had called me to his office to discuss why my grades were so bad. (That part WAS real). This guy was older and he was nice.

I can’t remember what the Dream Version of the Guidance Counselor’s name was or what he said but he was very warm and friendly. I made a snarky comment about something and he said “I like your style.” He said he needed to call my parents to discuss my poor academic showing with them and I said “You can’t call my parents cause they’re both dead.”

No clue what that dream meant. Interpreters? Anybody? Bueller?

I did not want to get up this morning. I just didn’t. If I’d have had a vacation or sick day, I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. I really wasn’t in the mood to work but I did.

It hit me, at one point during the day, that even though I didn’t feel like being there, it was important for me to be there. As crappy as it is, the doing the regular-stuff-you-don’t-want-to-do is part of the Healing or rather the “Adjusting To Life Without Them” thing.

Maybe tomorrow will be easier.

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January 31

New Year’s Day, Mom wanted her Black Eyed Peas. Not THE Black Eyed Peas, as in the band. I don’t even think Mom knew who they were anyway. I barely do so I know she didn’t.

Mom wanted her sacred Black Eyed Peas for New Year’s Day, like she did every single New Year’s that I can remember. I neglected to pick some up from the grocery store before New Year’s Day and they were out of them. Luckily, Ben came to my rescue and had a couple cans and since he was sick in the bed, he didn’t do no cooking that day anyway.

I cooked Mom her BEP’s. Did the cabbage, and she also wanted Pork Chops. I threw in some mashed potatoes cause I just like them. She ate and thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it and I was pretty tickled to get to do that for her.

Now, here it is, January 31 and Mom is gone.

I got to thinking today about Mom’s last few months and the way she handled the fact that she was well aware that cancer was in her lymph nodes and spreading but she didn’t choose to take any treatment. I did not blame her then and I do not blame her now.

I couldn’t help but smile and shake my head at how she did this Dying Thing her way. She wanted to be able to enjoy what days she had left. I also know, just knowing her nature, that as a mother, she was thinking of us throughout the whole thing.

Mom took care of two husbands as they withered and died of cancer. Neither situation was pretty. She watched both men go through chemo and radiation and saw how it weakened them. She tried, as much as she could, to spare us some of the ugliness. I can’t help but feel like part of her “denial” was for our benefit. She was a typical mother, “protecting” her cubs, even though the cubs are 43 and 41 (in about a week).

Ben was talking yesterday about his mother’s weight dropped to something like 80 lbs during her final months. Mom was griping in the doctor’s office on January 13 about how she needed to get some of the weight she’d gained while taking steroids off. Photos taken the day after Christmas, she looked like herself, although a more withered version of the lady in the photos we took at Warner Park a little over a year ago. She ate good and kept her weight nicely.

I am reminded that today is the 38th anniversary of my grandmother’s death. Mom’s mother died rather unexpectedly, less than two months after my grandfather died of a heart attack. Maw Maw did not have cancer. I’ve seen her autopsy report (somewhere, I’ve written about the famous conversation of Mom answering the phone telling me she was sitting there reading “Mama’s Autopsy”, like she was telling me that she was sitting there reading a People magazine or something. Heh) Maw Maw had some arteriosclerosis and some other typical conditions a woman in her early 70’s would’ve suffered from. Most in the family believed Maw Maw died of a broken heart. One of the sweetest love stories I know is that of my grandparents.

So, 38 years ago this week, Mom was still coming to terms with losing her beloved father so unexpectedly. They were on the other side of the country, in California and she was in Tennessee. Then, her mother died, going downhill very rapidly. She was there at Christmas and before January was over, she was gone.

How in the world Mom coped with being 2000 miles from her family, with these two little kids, still adjusting to life in Nashville (in 1972, Nashville was not quite as hopping as it is today, folks. She lived in Los Angeles from the time she was a young teenager. BIG adjustment) losing both of her parents so close together….I can’t even wrap my head around that.

I never asked Mom how she did it. She never talked about the effect those losses had on her. She talked a LOT about her parents…”My Mama and Daddy” she called them, with her voice getting a certain reverence and affection that she never used when speaking of any other person or thing. She adored her parents. I wish I would’ve asked her how she did it.

If you have lost parents, you know how it goes-everybody grieves differently. With me, I’m “normal” (shut up, I am too!) the majority of the time, but, I’ve had a couple days where the ache for my Mom is crippling. For me, it comes in almost being sore all over. I’m glad the bad days I’ve had have fallen on the weekend. I work with a bunch of hardened, smart ass construction types. I can’t have those moments around them.

Ben is good at being a smart ass when he wants to be. He was not like that to me yesterday evening when I had a meltdown. He was so warm and wonderful and I’m grateful that he was handy. He understands how I feel. He’s still going through it. I’m glad we have each other. I don’t know that it makes it easier but it’s nice to have somebody around you who knows what it’s like.

It’s Snowing Out There In the Gloaming

 Fri at 4:42pm |Mom loved snow. She especially loved snow when it was falling.

Back in the days we used to get decent snows in Nashville, she would be so excited when there was snow in the forecast. She’d sit up all night and watch it. She was crazy about the snow. Might’ve been all those years living in Southern California…I don’t know but she loved it.

She’d have absolutely loved this snow today. I don’t think she’s “missed” this snow though, no sirreee.
I think she has the best view of all from her vantage point and is enjoying it immensely.

Still doesn’t make me wish I needed to go check on her and get her a can of coffee.

And The Ironies Continue…

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 6:52pm 

I am a twisted person. I know this. You know this. Jesus knows this. Because of that, He will forgive me for giggling at the irony of hearing, from my former mother in law, of the passing of Shirley Collie Nelson today.

I am sad to hear that Shirley has passed away. I always hoped to have the chance to meet her. She was a fantastic singer, too. She was also married to my Dad, pre Barbara. Dad and Shirley’s divorce caused something of a scandal way back when. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Collie

I am not giggling because she has passed on. I have communicated with a niece of hers before. I know that Shirley helped to raise Willie’s oldest three children and that she leaves lots of friends.

How ironic that two of Dad’s wives should die in the same week?

Biff has been reunited with ALL of his wives. Heh.

The Box

Monday, January 25, 2010 at 10:19pm |

So we went to the funeral home today to pick Mom up. How appropriate the funeral home is behind the Krispy Kreme! AND it’s a hop, skip and a jump from the bowling alley Mom used to bowl at on Thursdays. The ironies just never cease. Not really, but I thought it was funny.

It wasn’t weird at all. It wasn’t a thing where I’m consumed with the thought that Mom is in a little box. No, it was more like I had a box with, say, her jewelry or her makeup bag in it. You go in the door and the lady that owns the place, Heide, is very warm and friendly and it’s like she’s welcoming you into her gift shop or something. It’s like you go into places like that on a daily basis to pick up your mother’s earthly remains-not like it was anything out of the ordinary.

Like most people I know who make their living in the funeral business, the Crawfords have a great sense of humor (I guess you have to to be in that business) and we exchanged some funnies about why I was there. The guy asked me if I was going to talk to her. This posed an interesting question.

I’ve said before I don’t feel a really strong connection with graves (other than historical signifigances cause I do love to go to cemeteries and photograph things) where my family is concerned. The Bible tells me that my Mom and Dad are in Heaven enjoying their Rewards. I believe that just as fiercely as Ted Williams’ daughter believes that someday she, her brother and her dad will be unfrozen and be a happy, thawed out family. We’ve already covered that here so I shall not bore you with that tangent again. You get my point.

I’ve never really “talked” to my father. Not a thing wrong with that but it’s not something I’ve ever done. I think about him a lot. Every single day, he is in my thoughts. I didn’t think I would address the Box directly.

Tara and I take the Box and get to the car. The first thought is “front or backseat?” We went with the backseat.

We drive along and we turn a corner and the box slid on the floor. I said something like “Keep still, Mom.” Tara decided to put the Box in her lap after that. I asked her if that was going to freak her out, traumatize her and scar her to the point that she’ll need serious therapy someday. She assured me it wouldn’t.

We went back to Mom’s house. I put the Box in Mom’s chair and put some boxes of Marlboros on top of it. That was her favorite place to smoke. I need to put a can of Folgers next to it. We put a coffee cup on the table next to her chair, with her glasses, her lighter. Sily, maybe but we laughed and we figured somewhere, Mom was laughing at it, too.

We sat there for a good while in Mom’s den. We retold things to each other from the last couple weeks. Seems like every other sentence we’d say how we couldn’t believe that less than two weeks ago, Mom was there and now she’s gone. Seems to be the thing to do.

I’m going to work tomorrow. It will be good to be back in the routine and start the task of living everyday life like before, although life is not exactly like it was before. Even so, life goes on. As it should.

Numb

 Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 4:06am |
Numb pretty much sums it up.

Trevor and I went with Ben and the Girls to the Flea Market. It was the perfect thing to do. It was so great to be moving around and doing something regular-ish.

I’ve heard my mother in law talk about how the weekend after her father died, the family loaded up and went to Greensboro to see the Statler Brothers in concert. The whole family-her brothers, their kids…just seemed to be the thing to do. Her father dropped dead at the kitchen table while eating breakfast one morning when he was in his 50’s.

I find myself thinking how just a little over a week ago, Mom was doing her regular, Mom thing. Yes, she was hurting but in between the pain, she was doing her thing.

She was so bothered by the earthquake in Haiti. She said last Friday she had to turn the tv from it because she couldn’t stand it.

We watched Tabatha’s Salon Takeover a couple weeks ago and this particular episode was at a salon in Covina, CA. She mentioned how she used to get her hair done in Covina.

Last Thursday, she sat at the table and wrote out checks for her bills and handed me to mail them, which I did.

The taco soup she made two weeks ago is still in her refrigerator.

Her house still smells like her. So does her car. Turned the radio on in her car today and it’s on 650 WSM, where it always was. There’s a bottle of water in the car that’s still half full. There’s still a tube of hand lotion in the car.

There’s a spot of hair color on her carpet that a little over a week ago, she said several times how she couldn’t believe that she had spilled it and was so disgusted with herself for doing so.

A little over a week ago, she ate spaghetti I made with Tara and Trevor. She ate a big plate full. Her appetite didn’t go until she couldn’t physically feed herself anymore. Last Friday, when she went into the hospital, she wanted a cookie. She wanted Ben to bring her a cookie. Ben brought her two big things full of cookies.

The more we think about it, we realize she was in pain for quite awhile before she let us know. Her lungs were in worse shape than she let us know, too. I think she probably could’ve used oxygen on a regular basis. I guess she was not going to be seen with a tank and was determined not to.

Some months ago, before she got mugged, I looked at her one day and I can remember thinking how withered she looked and I bet there was more cancer. It was a passing thought but it was the same kind of thought I remember having that day in 1991 when I realized how sick my Dad was.

He showed up to my work one day, out of the blue, to take me to lunch. I don’t know how long it had been since I’d seen him but I saw a remarked difference in his appearance. It shook me so, I had to go into the restroom to collect myself.

She talked to a cousin of hers a couple weeks ago about her Aunt Helen who is the last surviving sibling of her mother. She has dementia and Cousin Rick called Mom to see if it was ok with her that he had Power of Attorney. It was fine with her. She told stories of Aunt Helen and we talked about how she was a modern, independent female who was way ahead of her time-the Black Sheep of her family.

Mom’s health declined over a good period of time, gradually, but then it all went downhill fast, in a matter of days.

I can’t believe my mother is gone.

This Ole House

 Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 8:50am |Warning-this may contain what some consider irreverent humor about mortal remains. If that might offend you, you might oughta just quit reading now.

Irreverent humor about mortal remains is something the Collie’s just do. I guess it’s cause we’re either

a)trying to cope with our grief through laughter

b)because of our strong faith and belief that the Tomb is empty, we don’t associate with This Old House cause like Brother Stuart Hamblen said so eloquently in that classic song he wrote of the same title(Dad LOVED to tell the story behind that song because it does explain death pretty well) “Ain’t gonna need this house no longer ain’t gonna need this house no more, ain’t got time to fix the shingles aint got time to fix the floor, ain’t got time to oil the hinges nor to mend the window panes, ain’t gonna need this house no longer, I’m gettin’ ready to meet the Saints”. The body is just the shell. It’s not the person.

c) we are just plain wrong and twisted

d) all of the above.

I go with D.

So anyway, people are asking about arrangements for Mom. Mom was cremated. We are planning a Memorial Service (tentative date February 13) for her. We are planning a wonderful shindig to honor and remember Mom. She loved a good Celebration of Life service. She loved good music, good stories…this is what we’re planning on for her.

Flowers-Mom did not like us to send her flowers. That’s not saying Mom did not like flowers. She did but she felt that flowers were a waste of money because they are so stinking expensive and are dead within a few days. We are going to do the “In Lieu Of” thing because I know Mom would’ve wanted that.

Memorials can be made to Alive Hospice. These people took care of both of our parents during their illnesses and take care of so many. They don’t just care for the patient but they care for the families. Anybody that’s ever dealt with Hospice knows what I’m talking about. They are simply sent from Heaven. They cared for Mom so beautifully and with such dignity and respect those last few days of her life. https://secure.netsolhost.com/alivehospice.org/donations-give.php

And let me just say right here, while we’re talking about this, if you don’t know what your parents final wishes are, PLEASE find out what they are. If they have not made arrangements, PLEASE do yourself a favor and tell them to make said arrangements NOW so you can carry them out for them when their day comes (and it will come, boys and girls whether you want to think about it or not) so you don’t have to mortgage your home to give your folks a nice burial. It is not pleasant to scramble around when death is impending, trying to figure out what to do. Trust me on this one.

Also, for yourself, make your wishes known. I told Terry the other day, if he wants to be buried and all that, he better start paying on it now so the kids won’t be stuck with it.

If you don’t want to ask them face to face about it, do the Sharon Way and text them or email them. I wish I’d have been more firm about getting Mom to tell what she wanted. Mom did not make her Said Final Arrangements. She talked about being buried in some necklace once. She mentioned being buried at Woodlawn, Williamson a time or two. The day of her surgery last May, she stood in her den and said (she wasn’t even being funny or silly about it) “If something happens to me, just have me cremated.”

Last Friday night, I called Woodlawn. A BASIC funeral, we’re talking generic, Dollar General brand funeral STARTS at 12,000. That doesn’t include the “A La Carte” items you can get. (Yes, that makes me laugh. A La Carte. HAR!) And, the Not-Very-Friendly-Or-Warm-Guy I talked to the phone at midnight added “We don’t do payment plans unless you pre-arrange.” So, this funeral thing is sorta like it’s cheaper to get your tickets ahead of time rather than at the door.

Needless to say, we said “screw the funeral” idea. Mom wouldn’t have wanted us to go into debt over her burial, of all things.

We aren’t sure what we’ll do with the ashes. For the time being, Mom is going to get to come over here to Inglewood and hang out with me. Eventually, we’ll either scatter them or bury them or heck, might just leave her on the entertainment center and put a pack of Marlboros on top of the urn.

I asked Ben what sort of criteria one uses when Urn Shopping. He said “I don’t know but I’ve got a couple of old moonshine jugs.” He is so funny. Mom would’ve loved that.

Those ashes aren’t her anyway. She doesn’t need that old body anymore cause she’s got her a new one.