DECEMBER 30, 2022 – We are closing up this year getting ready for the next one two three!
As this year draws to a close, I can reflect back on my WORD of the Year – Applause – and administer some to MYSELF!
It has taken me a LONG TIME to get this far in my grief and dealing with life after Mom.
So APPLAUSE to ME for that! [insert hands clapping – MY hands clapping for me!]
The day before yesterday I had the car to myself (no dog in it) after having cleaned it out and filled up with hay, straw, and shavings prepping for the next bout of cold winter. So I figured, while the weather is calm and dry why not go over to W. (aka The GHOST Town) and remove the four wreaths from the graves and put them, not in MY office where I was going to but decided I didn’t want that reminder every time I went over there, but to Mom’s office instead. Simple enough, right? Wrong.
I did fine DOING it. Felt good about myself. Chatted to my dead relatives. Kissed Daddy and Mommie. Checked on Sue and O., who apparently never got any flowers or anything for Christmas, and I thought that was sad. But it was getting darker, so I didn’t go by Robbie & Dewey’s this time.
I was doing ok, so I took the interstate to the office and unloaded them … then hugged my Mommie’s coat – the same coat she wore during her doctor and hospital visits – the coat hangs on her chair at her office in the same spot where she commanded her world – and mine, too, I suppose.
Kissed her ‘Lancôme’ cheek, and said ‘Good-night’. AGAIN.
Did I take a swig of tequila whilst there? You bet I did.
And then I drove home thinking of how W. was HER town. Never mine. She and Ralph were part of that town. I was just the side-piece. Or find a better word. The side-car to her cycle. I was only there because SHE was there. My experiences, by and large, were HER experiences. Where ‘we’ lived - all her decision. HER houses. What ‘we’ ate, her decisions. Where and when we ate, her decisions. The Jackson House – her place (with me along for the ride, and I did love it there. The chocolate pies! They were little custard-sized pies and I still remember how delicious they were! We would sit at the counter and eat together as Mom happily chatted with the people who worked there, or came in a customers – she knew everybody in town!).
I told you I had a happy CHILDHOOD. It was only after our move to 21E and her marriage to Ralph when my happiness changed.
So there it is now, a town FULL of memories. Ghosts. The PAST.
Mom’s not coming back to work. Even though I could tell you exactly how her day would have gone had she been alive that day. She would have gotten up and already had her coffee made the night before – or rather she would set the timer so it would be ready for when she woke up.
She would put on her nylon nightgown robe [are you going to cry again typing this story out? Seems like it.] – it matches the nightgown she slept in, and was likely a Christmas present – one she picked out for us to go get for her! -lol. Step into her slippers and … I can hear that sound of her slippers on the carpet coming down the hallway … swhoosh, swhoosh, swhoosh … then pour herself a cup of coffee into either her blue and white Corelle cup or later the white larger mug she bought at WalMart which I am drinking from now – literally now. I also have coffee first thing in the morning. I think her brand was regular Folgers. I’m now into Nespresso! (A George Clooney company!)
She (also like me) tried to limit her sugar, so went through a fake sugar phase of whatever was on the market then. Splenda? Sweet-N-Low. Different ones as the markets changed. Ralph was big into those as sweeteners, too. So maybe she only bought them for him. She always kept a little Corelle sugar jar with a teeny spoon that I guess came with one of those sweeteners, “because you only need a little bit”.
Later down the road she would just skip the sweetener altogether. But she would put some milk in her coffee – a 2% WalMart milk – that I found disgusting. Still do. I remember the conversations she would have with various people, Aunt Jo in particular, where she would debate whether your milk should be 1%, 2%, or whole. They both agreed that whole milk was gross, but I think Aunt Jo preferred 1% and Mom would tell her she’s wrong because “1% just tastes like water to me”. Funny.
And, don’t forget, THE CIGARETTES. Ever present. And, yes, that was part of her morning routine, too. Bleck. Pukifying. Cigarettes and coffee.
Then maybe a slice of toast. One of her (and my) favorite breakfasts, that we had for decades until the manufacturer took it off the market – was toast and honeybutter! Man did we eat a lot of toast and honeybutter! First we put margarine on the bread, then honeybutter over that. It was yummy! She would typically get just the regular one, but sometimes come home with the cinnamon flavored one. And knowing what I know about food now, I bet it was some kind of fake lab cinnamon, but it was still tasty!
After breakfast she would take a shower and “get ready for work”. She would spend a lot of time doing her hair. (If you ever wondered where I got my inspiration for my career, this is where!). Aunt Jo spent a lot of time on her hair, too. Must be a generational thing. Hairdos were super important in the 1950’s, so I suppose they kept that going. (PS – as I’m writing this, I swear I can SMELL cinnamon honeybutter on toast!).
She had TONS of hair implements. Really. When I cleaned out her house (you know the thing it took me YEARS to accomplish by myself) I kept finding more and more of them. Hair curling irons of all sizes and textures. Anything sold by QVC as a miracle to hair! Anything she saw at WalMart. Just a collection of them. I’ll never get around to doing my Cosmetology Museum, but they need to go in one!
So, she’s dressed in her later style of jeans, turtleneck, and cable-knit sweater uniform, white sneakers in the oddest size of like a 10AAAA – that’s a Quad A – Long & NARROW – shoe. Hair done, and ready to exit into the world into her favorite car – The Cadillac! Later in life she started preferring a beige Lexus RX 350. She would buy a new one that looked exactly like the ‘old’ one and no one would know for months! I don’t know why she wanted to keep that a secret, but she apparently did. Maybe she told Aunt Jo or Jeff, but she never told me “I bought a new car!”. I don’t know why.
Thinking of her last years, after Ralph, when her daily life got VERY routine – she would get the mail, go to the bank, go to work, work for a bit, then possibly play golf with Patty E. (who is also deceased, sadly, too young – but at least managed to die AFTER Mom so Mom didn’t have to suffer another best friend death like her first one that happened right after DADDY’s death).
Or she and Aunt Jo would meet for lunch. Maybe at the W. Country Club, where Mom and Ralph were members – and she kept it going after he died. Or possibly G. – a place with the best sandwiches in town. Or Applebees. That was decent for a while. Until the night when she ordered French Onion Soup and they didn’t have any! This pissed me right off. We knew Mom was terminal at that point and if she wanted French Onion Soup YOU GIVE HER FRENCH ONION SOUP, DAMN IT! Restaurants need to think about that. This might be someone’s last meal request. KEEP YOUR FUCKING INVENTORY IN STOCK! Running out of soup is unforgivable. You’ll never see me in another Applebees ever again. (Plus, their food sucks, but that’s a different story.)
Or she would get a manicure or even a mani/pedi. CAJUN SHRIMP from OPI. Always remember the Cajun Shrimp nail polish!
Then – before dark – she would come home. So let’s say on this day, a winter day, it would be getting dark after 5:00, so as I was leaving her office I could imagine her back at home, TV on, cigarettes nearby with many ashes and stumps in her ashtray on the table by her chair or on the breakfast table, and she’s in the kitchen pouring her first of “two” (ha!) cheap-ass Chardonnays. Maybe eating a snack of crackers and cheese. Basic white saltines with also basic American cheese slices.
I’d call to check on her and we’d talk about nothing.
I miss those calls.
I miss my Mommie.
HOW DO YOU EVER ‘GET OVER’ THIS?
Eight years now. EIGHT years.
…. So, back to ME. Applause to me for getting this far. Applause to me for getting her house cleaned out, and getting it sold. Applause to me for managing this all on my own. No help from her ‘family’ (insert laughter here). None whatsoever. Not even a thank you when I gifted the hot sauces to my former cousin. NOTHING. But that’s too much to go into now. But, also something I’ve had to ‘process’ and ‘get over’. HA. What a joke. In so many ways. And not a good joke, either.
So while I am doing my task of honoring my father and mother (and Grandmother and Aunt and Uncle and so on) I think I’m holding up emotionally. Then I come home. I’m more irritable than usual – which is a lot because I’m highly irritable most days anyway. I’m screaming at traffic. I’m losing any patience I have left (and there’s not much left). Then ‘the voice says unto me’: “It’s because you were over there yesterday.” “It affects you like this every time you go there.” Is it the seeing my Mother’s GRAVE that does it? You betcha. Is it going into HER office and kissing HER coat and remembering her greasy Lancôme cheek that I would kiss goodnight when I slept over at her house. Yes. Yes, it is.
It rips me to shreds.
So. I’ve had to think about what I’m doing.
If putting wreaths on the graves of my dead relatives – the ones who made up my entire life so far – causes THIS MUCH torture in me, then WHY am I continuing to do it? Sure, I have the best intentions. I WANT to ‘do the right thing’. I am sad when I see graves without any remembrance flowers or wreaths, but would my mother want me to suffer like this? I don’t think so.
I got a bout of shingles again the day after I put the wreaths up. And the day after bringing them down I’m crying such deep painful tears … this isn’t good for me. At some point I have to stand up for myself and say “Sorry, I can’t do this anymore.”.
So what I’ve thought about doing is instead of an annual torturous trip to the cemetery in a town where I have too many bad memories, and all I get out of it is pain and suffering, even when I pretend I’m doing okay, I think I will write up a lovely note and have it engraved and put it by her grave as a perpetual plaque of remembrance. I will always love you. This is your Mother’s day bouquet and your Christmas wreath. I simply can’t torture myself anymore. She’s not there. I talk to her in spirit – not as a decaying body in a box.
Now I have to go take some lysine and shingles Rx so nothing breaks out again. Oh, and some cortisol calming stuff, too.
There has to be an ending to this story. Living the rest of my life in grief and the past isn’t healthy.
Help get me outta here.
December 30, 2022
The Blog says, "Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview." So what do I write?