I am hauling furniture like a seasoned worker from the local moving company but without pay. I’m what you call cheap labor. Looking down at my ripped arms straining to lug an ancient marble table from condo to car I mentally gage how many steps I have to go before accomplishing this goal. Did I mention the heat and the fact that I am no longer in my thirties or forties for that matter (the truth is I’m practically out of my fifties).
I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.
My arms aren’t really ripped, but they appear to be when I’m hauling heavy furniture, which causes me to trip on the uneven cement, because I was admiring my biceps. I’m sure my toe will recover. One of the residents is staring me down from her balcony, a disapproving look on her wrinkled face, she says, “humph,” and walks back into her house. Where’s the love? Clearly after the age of seventy manners are not of great concern.
We just keep moving chattel around like a large chess game, I can’t keep track of all the pieces, but clearly I’m not the queen. The kids came over one night and gathered up pictures, cookware, and linens. I watched as familiar heirlooms came down from the walls and without pomp and circumstance were carted off to new lives. I’ll have to visit when I get the chance.
Mom is now strung out from San Francisco to Willow Glen and I feel uneasy about this recasting of her life. How will I ever find her? I’m hanging on to the last vestiges her personal staging like a groupie at an Eagles concert with a backstage pass. I may have mentioned a few thousand times I’m not big on change. Of course I just read an article on Facebook shared by Jim Goudreau that says the most unsuccessful people are afraid of change. Try to remember there’s a lot of fake news out there.
I would have preferred to keep her condo like a shrine. A place I could visit, sit in her chair, enjoy a glass of chardonnay with ice. Is that asking too much? “At the end, all that’s left of you are your possessions. Perhaps that’s why I’ve never been able to throw anything away. Perhaps that’s why I hoarded the world: with the hope that when I died, the sum total of my things would suggest a life larger than the one I lived,” says Nicole Krass. Judge me all you want, but I feel calmer when surrounded by the familiar, be it things or people.
Closing an estate is an arduous chore indeed especially when the players are purposely dreadful. Don’t get me started on Charles Schwab, Bankers, out-of-state Lawyers, or our dysfunctional Healthcare System. No one tells you how to sanely maneuver through this foreign territory. It’s difficult under the best circumstances. Everything requires additional documentation, notaries, registrations, gatekeepers, passwords, and a piece of my heart. Ruthless. I see it this way, she died, the assets go to her children. Why is this so hard to accomplish?
I have to believe Mom is working behind the scenes because despite my best efforts to screw things up there is amazing grace and a lot of serendipity at play. We located the missing key, we find the grace to let her go piece by piece, and then we stumble on a favorite quote she wrote down and left with her hankies. Sue is graciously helping with the legal stuff, we found a reasonable person at the AAA office, and a good bottle of wine in the closet just when we needed it. She saved six two dollar bills, one for each of the grandkids, that’s stinking adorable.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
We gather, collect, and painstakingly care for so much shit. I decided I need to weed through my junk and start passing it along before I die. I am three inches away from being classified a hoarder. It’s insane. Dorothy Breininger says, “I knew then that the fewer items I was acquiring, dusting, packing, moving, and lugging around in life would free up my energy and time to create…” Well that’s one way of looking at it.
Nancy yells from the back of the house, “I found Dad,” tucked away in a pristine white box neatly labeled Dick Johnson. I said, “I knew he’d be hanging around here somewhere, stack him in the closet next to mom.” We haven’t fully decided what to do with their remains but I’m sure they are ecstatic to be back together in the same form, “from dust we come, to dust we shall return.” Thomas Campbell says, “to live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.” We’re hosting a Celebration of Life next weekend and I’m sure she’ll be fully resurrected for a couple of hours.
One of the pieces I chose to keep was a beloved marble table from my mom’s side of the family. It cost me a toe but I hauled that thing from Los Gatos to Campbell. It now resides between the reading chairs in the master bedroom. It brings a smile to my face each and every morning. I’m enormously grateful to be a hauler of life.
There she is in the beginning, is now, and ever will be. Amen.
This post was previously published on Living in the Gap and is republished here with permission from the author.
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