And now I don’t

Feel much better, that is.

We spent the long weekend up in the Keweenaw with Bud and it was an odd combination of happy and sad, funny and not so much. There were lots of friends who came to call and odd, mostly older relatives who telephoned. These calls were marked, first by great aunt so and so weeping, "Oh, Buddy, oh, Buddy" and then moving on to a cheerful and newsy litany of who else had passed on, gotten divorced, had cancer, heart disease or gout or the worst plague known to mankind: a worthless grown child. These were all over the speaker phone because of Bud’s hearing so sometimes we would be in the background doing a Chevy Chase/ Gilda Radnor face-making routine. I got pissed off that it seemed as though sometimes it’s left to the grieving to comfort others- which, of course, Bud does gently and kindly.

We sniffed quite a few strange casseroles and debated whether to eat those or ring baloney on crackers. Laurel and I cooked enough scalloped potatoes and ham for an army. At one point I insisted I had to have an authentic one pound pasty complete with rutabaga and lard crust and then I had an hour of violent GI rebellion in the wee hours. The composting toilet at 3 AM can be a fearsome thing; fantasies of a possum leaping out of the bowels of the thing and biting you on the proverbial ass don’t seem so far fetched.

We helped Bud think about his finances, made a trip to the cataract doctor, the credit union, sorted papers, made lists. We played poker and there was a big empty space at the table. So we drank more beer and at one point Rich knocked over part of a bottle and as we jumped for paper towel, Bud said, "Oh, hell, don’t worry about the table, it’s Chinese." Laurel grabbed a new thing of those pop-up Wet Ones and got her finger stuck going the wrong way up the hole. For some reason it took the four of us pulling and pushing the plastic lid and her finger with Laurel squealing and then Bud appeared with a giant pair of kitchen shears. We were laughing so hard (Laurel was laughing AND crying) I had to race to the bathroom and finally we got her poor puffy finger free from those plastic teeth. To say that was the high point of the weekend says something about our mood and also, that you really had to be there to understand the laughter, I guess.

We watched March of the Penguins and Bud slept through it- again. He did say that he liked it the first time he and mama watched it, more so after he figured out (half way through)  that the DVD was set to Spanish and once he fixed that Morgan Freeman did a better job of narrating. For the rest, we watched basketball. No CNN. There was ice built up on part of the roof to a depth of 2 feet. Rich tried to attack it with an ax and Laurel told stories about people being killed up there by falling ice and Bud said leave it alone because it was less damaging to melt off plus it waters the roses in May as it melts.

It was spectacularly beautiful up in the Keweenaw. Snow is hard packed at between four and six feet, covering the windows in places, and the sky was as blue as blue can be and the sun brilliant and blinding off the lake. Both bald eagles were up in the tree; the male is the biggest eagle I’ve ever seen. They clearly have begun the annual routine of starting a family. Coming down the mountain and seeing the snow covered Gratiot Lake, a swatch of forest and then the deep blue of an endless Lake Superior was nothing short of breathtaking.

Thursday evening, while we were all watching TV, knitting, reading and pretending to ignore him, Bud started going through my mother’s purse which had been untouched since returning from the hospital. He spent over two hours fingering her Cross pen, her keychain with a photo of my nephew attached, her old driver’s license. He talked quietly to himself about every check she had written since 2004: all for gifts for family ordered out of catalogs, plants for the garden ordered by catalog or charities that benefit the environment. He  spent a long time handling her rings that the hospital had somehow vacuum sealed into a plastic bag and marked with her name and room number. He went through her makeup kit and examined her lipstick, her eye shadow, her fancy French pressed powder compact. At that point I asked as casually as I could, "How you doing over there, Bud?" He said, "I remember this mirror. It was exactly the right size for checking the wiring on the shit switch on the (composting) toilet." We all laughed and exclaimed, "Bud!" and he said, "It’s okay. I never told your mother I borrowed it."

Saturday there were many more sympathy cards in the mail. About halfway through he muttered to himself, "Janet, why did you have to die and leave me with this kind of mail?"

BudLeaving Bud on Sunday was one of the hardest things I’ve done. Laurie’s husband and son arrived to take her home after a long two weeks and Rich and I had a plane to catch so we all left at once. We left him to spend the first night in 40 years without my mother and we left him with no distraction from his sorrow and we left him alone.

At the small Houghton/Hancock airport, while we waited to board the plane, Rich got into a conversation with another businessman who was traveling to D.C. He said he had just bought a ranch in Kalispel, Montana and Rich asked what kept him in the Keweenaw, commuting for business to D.C. and with such a beautiful place in Montana. Three people chimed in at once to say, oh, there’s no place more beautiful than the Keweenaw and they would never leave. I said my parents always felt that way even though we had been wanting them to move closer for health reasons. The businessman asked where they lived and I said it was just my dad now and down on Gratiot Lake. He said, "Heaven, there. What’s the name?" and I told him and he said, "I don’t know them personally but I know that Janet and Bud have done more to preserve the beauty of this place than any two people ever and we all owe them a huge debt of gratitude."

So, sometimes I feel better and sometimes worse. I think it’s going to go this way for a while and I’d rather not write an ongoing journal of my grief for this weblog. I’m going to take some space to sort through feelings and take care of life’s details. I have to make another trip to Florida to check in with the Snarl who was been feeling especially lonely, so far away from family and working her way through midterms. She also has some orthopedic deal with her knee and I’m not ready to let her make decisions about things like PT, possible surgery and the like without her mother’s input.

I’ll stay in touch and post some pictures of the Cooper’s hawk later this week and check in with you all but this isn’t the time to be tied to blogging. I’m just grateful so many of you are there each day. Thanks.

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39 responses to “And now I don’t

  1. It’s most definitely a process isn’t it? Thinking of you often and fondly. Keep the faith. ^j^

  2. Of course it’s not. I’ll be thinking about you. Pop in now and then if you have time. Look for the occasional email from me. Lots and lots of love coming your way from my vast verandah.

  3. Nothing so amazing as a human life could ever end in a neat and tiny parcel. You are sifting through the layers of a legacy with a million feelings attached to each one. Don’t rush it, your grief or yourself.

    God Bless.

    xo

  4. Come when it suits you, Vicki! Your fine writing and keen wit are a blessing to all! Prayers for Bud and you and yours!

  5. I agree with Bernadette, and I know just how you feel. I will miss you and think of you daily. Take good care of yourself and of Snarl.

  6. Take care of yourself, my dear, and don’t forget to check in on email, IM, and the like. Much love to you.

    xoxo

    Jen

  7. Been thinking of you and your family. There are a zillion books about grief, and we all take some path to get right to the heart of it. How ever you get there, I wish you well and easiness. Whenever you want to post, I know I’ll be here, waiting for your thoughtful words.

  8. Like all your other buds, I’d wait near forever for you. You have been really good to keep us up to date on things, so feel free to take as long as you want, kid. We will be here when you get back.

  9. Rodger’s down in Tennessee with his dad, who’s 6 months farther into this awful but inevitable process of loss and grief. Coaxing out those bits of laughter and wonderful memories are the key, I’m convinced. With love from those who hold you dear.

  10. Sending lots o love, Vicki. It’s going to be up and down for a while, a bit forever.

  11. Come back when you want, Vicki, and I hope you don’t think you have to entertain us or put up a brave front or whatever people say. Just be you and be good to yourself. *hugs*

  12. Not an easy time.. I know. Take care of yourself and your family. I will say a special prayer for Bud.

  13. Haven’t read “and now I don’t” yet, but am responding to your comment seen on a certain Verandah. You said, “Isn’t it ironic- cleaning up the house mess for those children who were so good at trashing it when they lived there?” First time eldest child came home for a weekend, I just didn’t have it all done. It was messy, maybe even some dust. And the son whose room was SO horrendous as to deserve videotaping to show to a child of HIS some day? That son’s nose was out of joint, remarking that he noticed we didn’t even clean up for his visit home. He’d been at college all of six weeks. HIS son is 12 now, and the bedroom shows signs of his genetice predispostion, AND WE STILL HAVE THE TAPE!

  14. Take care of your family, take care of yourself and be patient with yourself. Sorrows wax and wane like the tide, but be patient. We’re here whenever you need us, so rant, rave, scream, cry, laugh, remember, sing, smile, whatever you need to do. Just be patient – even grass will eventually become creamy milk.

  15. That is a beautiful, poignant photo of Bud.

  16. Yeah, it does come and go. I’m still in it myself.

  17. Take care of yourself, Vicki. I’ll be happy to see you back whenever you’re ready, however you’re feeling, whatever you want to put up here. And I’ll be thinking of you, Bud and the rest of your family.

  18. It comes and goes hard, doesn’t it, sweet Vicki. It will never stop coming and going, by the way, but eventually the ‘hard’ is gone, and only the smiles remain. Smiles with a few tears, but smiles all the same.

    It takes time. That’s the hardest of all, because there’s nothing we can do about that.

    Loving thoughts from Indiana, dear friend.

  19. Wow. I just went back and read all about your mom. She sounds truly amazing and you speak of her so elloquently. I wish you and your family and especially dear bud all the best. My heart breaks for all of you in your collective sorrow, and it rejoices for your mom as she lived a full and happy life.

  20. Oh criminy, Vick. I’m sitting here with the tears streaming. Lovely photo. Lovely words. Lovely Vicki. If you DO want to work through it here, I certainly won’t stop you. Because it is a process. A process that I have yet to go through. And watching you in my voyeuristic way, rotten as it might be, could help me immensely. You have said so much in this post. Shite. You’ve spoken volumes. Thank you friend. For sharing the love and the pain and all of it.

    I love you, Vick. Sure hope we can spend some more time together this summer. Prayers to you and to Bud. What a beautiful legacy…

  21. Ups and downs–I remember the days. I thought I could handle things, and then suddenly would fall apart. Strange and small details brought it on. I hope that life settles into a calmer pattern for you. Take care.

  22. Being so clear in the midst of roller coastery feelings will see you through. Thinking of you…

  23. It seems unfair that the world seems to treat death as so much an everyday part of life nowadays. People note the passing but seem to quickly move on. It makes it harder to grieve for those you’ve lost.

  24. I am sorry for your loss. I lost my mom a little more than a year ago and it can still leap out at me from nowhere. It’s all a process. Take care of yourself and be patient.
    Here from Melange. I’m a frequent visitor and am adding you to my blog roll.

  25. Just checking on you.

    xo

  26. Checking in to say hi. Hope your daughter does well.

  27. Thinking of you and your family. Sending you big hugs.

  28. I am so sorry I’m late to all of this. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

  29. Oh sweetie…I’m so sorry. You’re in my thoughts and prayers. I wish much strength and peace my friend.

  30. I hope you have a warming time with Snarl. 🙂 Lots of virtual hugs here for you.

  31. Hi, just visiting by way of Gene’s blog.
    Your writing tells a sad tale beautifully.

  32. I hope you do a Airstream Trailer retreat, dear Vicki.

    You rest up, come back when you’re ready. The Internet’s not going anywhere.

    Peace to you.

  33. You’re right, some days are going to be okay some won’t. The Budism about the mail breaks my heart. I don’t know when or how things will become easier to cope with, and her memory will bring nothing but smiles, but I hope it will be soon. I’m glad you have each other.

  34. Stopping by again to tell you that I’m thinking of you, Vicki. In the wetland next to my mental health professional’s office, the red-winged blackbirds are courting in the cattails. Their flashy shoulder patches and open-throated singing thrill me. Spring is coming.

  35. It’s a tough time for your family and especially Bud. Whatever I can add won’t help much with your or his grief. At times like this it’s comforting, in a strange sort of way, the little things like the mirror that are remembered and bring a smile. Just know you all are in my prayers.

  36. Here from Michelle’s and feeling like I popped in on a private moment. I’m very sorry for your loss. You’re post was a wonderful tribute to your family.

  37. It seems the best way to buy cheap cars is on Craigslist.com. If you need me to search for stuff for The Snarl let me know.

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