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?"
Leaving 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.