Wednesday, November 09, 2011

New chapters

They say the hardest part of being thrown from a horse or a bicycle is getting back up on it.  It's hard, but essential.  Essential if you are going to carry on and keep moving forward.

I can't recall the last time in my life that I have felt so drained. So absolutely spent.  As I sift through my accumulated work e-mails, I see dates from the last two months that simply don't register.  "Where was I on that day - what was I doing?"  It's like someone fast-forwarded ahead two months and suddenly hit the play button again.

So. Here I am.  Back on the bike.  A little unsteady, perhaps - but fairly confident.

A parent's death is an amazing event.  My Dad's was even more - what word am I looking for? - bewildering? convoluted? - because of his disabilities and the life, the existence he and my mother had created around him and for him.

The week I spent at home felt like floating.  There were things to be done, assuredly - but schedules and clocks meant little.  We went through online checklists of things you should do when someone dies.  We sorted through photographs, made the appropriate phone calls, reminisced, ate, slept, and cried on occasion.  But it was very fluid.

My brother had changed drastically in the space of a month.  When I visited in September when Dad was still in the hospital, Mom had told me that he never confided in Dad - never talked to him about more than generalities.  All serious discussions were held between my brother and Mom.  I wasn't really surprised.  My brother and father are nearly mirror images of each other - in both appearance and temperament.  Take two selfish, bullheaded, quick-tempered individuals and lock them in a room together and you end up with a broken room.  That's pretty much them.

Now - my brother was all efficiency and care.  Making sure things got done, people were notified, checklist items checked off.  It was weird.  He had this hollow look behind his eyes that I hadn't seen before.  Something about Dad's death had impacted him dramatically.

Mom was abnormally okay.  There were tears when friends would visit and console her, or walk up to us at the grocery store or post office and offer their condolences.  But she carried on.

The coffee pot full of Folgers - three scoops - ran 24/7.  Breakfasts, lunches and dinners were on time and portioned so that my brother an I always ended up with abut 75% more food on our plates than she did.  Dishes were hand washed and put away.  So many elements of normal life just kept happening, automatically.

In between, there were chunks of time where my mother had no idea what she should be doing.  She needed to be doing.  Walking the dog, laundry, sorting - she had to stay in motion.

Small projects got started.  Simple things - things that wouldn't be jarring or potentially upsetting.  Removing the roll up bamboo blinds on the dining room doorways - the room that had most recently served as my father's bedroom and lavatory.  Opening windows - just a bit - to air the house out since my father was no longer there to complain about always being cold.  Opening the white window blinds behind the lace curtains to admit light -  there being no more potential for my father to suffer bodily indignities that might be visible to passersby.

Bottles and bottles and bottles of pills were collected - painkillers, blood thinners, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, God knows what all.  There must have been at least two trash bags full -- and we kept finding more.

We met with the funeral director who wanted to know more about Dad and his life.  He was to write the obituary, file the death certificate, put cards out at local businesses, post notices in the newspapers - stuff we never knew they did. 

Mom warned him that with my brother and  I in the room, he might learn more about Dad than he wanted to know.  We're not shy people.  For the next hour, he was laughing uproariously with us.

Dad was cremated - we selected a container.  A plain, simple maple box - elegantly understated.  Not fussy.
Brian did the flowers - beautifully, of course.

We met with the pastor to discuss the service.  We wanted it to be a celebration of his life - not a mourning of his passing.  Mom and my brother had selected some of Dad's favorite, uplifting Christian music.

Dad used to sing - here at the church.  He performed solos and sang with the choir.  He was a part of the church's 'Glory Gang' puppet ministry - yes, hand puppets for Jesus.  But only when he felt good - and those days got less and less as time went by.

By dinner time on Saturday, everything was arranged. 

Now we just had to make it to Monday for the service.

To be continued...