A posting on Facebook of a Japanese mother who died in an earthquake when her house collapsed on top of her, but she was in a position to protect her 3-month old child and left him a text message of love on her cell phone. “If you can survive, you must remember that I love you.” Ya’ know, I would be pretty good in that extreme life or death situation. I’d do the right thing. I am pretty sure of it. It is in the practice of the day-to-day that I stumble and trip over myself. I think that is pretty common but worth saying this morning.
I awoke with some yearning to put my bedroom in order. Yes, my clothes and basic furniture have been where they belong for weeks now, but the walls are bare and to me this feels like a house that is being moved into or out of but not a home yet. I have enjoyed the blank, clean pallet of this house since I came home from vacation. It has served as a good break from the past, a good pause with time to reconstruct, and as I’ve said before, I had the grand idea that I could rearrange, repurpose, and make the house over new, making it different from when it was shared with David. But, again as I’ve said before, I was the one to arrange and decorate and for many things, I like the places I decided to place. And this morning, I have the urge to begin. The blue carpet for my bedroom, the wall hangings from Vietnam need to go on my wall, the mirror in the upstairs hall. Slowly, slowly art. I need to buy picture hangers.
Yesterday, I was listening to a book on tape and the author was describing memories of a dead loved one. In a rush, I realized that I could not think of one specific memory of David. My mind raced as I scraped the dusty corners of my memory for scraps of specificity. Not the general memories of shared meals, celebrations, travels. For a moment, I could not retrieve a single one. I breathe. I have been pushing memory moments away in order to keep myself together, in order to keep moving. Those memories hurt too much to keep in front of my head. I needed them in the high back corner of some mental closet. I was safest with memories out of easy reach. Oh, so many memories still flooded in -- at times overwhelming me, stopping me dead in my tracks, too sweet, too painful. “Sometimes I stand in the middle of the floor. . . ”
I breathed. I have been protecting myself from collapse and now, I don’t have to do that quite so religiously. I can loosen the grip just a little bit. When I did that, the first memory that popped into my head was of David naked and getting into bed. No, this is not a blue moment. Hardly R-rated. Just a memory of his strong, almost always young body. Compact and sturdy. Lovely. Vital. Very much alive. It was an every day memory and a memory of the many, many days and nights of our being together. I remember fitting into his shoulder as we lay ready for a nap or a long night’s rest. Just the simple time of together. Right now, this is not a completely happy memory. It hurts to remember. It still hurts, but more of an ache, not the sharp physical stabbing pain of last year.
Much later, my plans for the day went sideways and I spent most of the day cleaning up my desk, paying bills, and working on my mother’s estate. I have been paying bills as they come in this month because I needed to be able to put my kitchen cabinets on my credit card. In the old days, before death, this would not have been a big deal. The cabinets, although expensive, would not have put me so close to my credit card limit. We had a really big limit. But I don’t. If I was an excellent blogger, I’d reference back to the day I called to get David’s name off the credit card only to have the card completely cancelled because his name came first. Oh, the thought of that still makes me angry! But, the upshot was that a new card from a different bank -- my current bank and not the bank that we had retained the credit card for almost as long as we were married. And as people who use only one credit card, there was a lot of charging that went through that card -- and still the best they could do was to cancel. $%^%@
No, really I am fine about it now. But . . . the new card came with a small limit that I have not come close to making in the past year until last Saturday. I could have called and asked for more credit but didn’t. I wonder if the card company will increase it themselves. Or are things different in these financial times.
But because of my constant bill paying throughout the month to clear my card for the big charge, I had not really sat with bills and such since I got back from vacation. I put away a lot. And then wrote a letter to the estate attorney who asked to be paid for work done in the last two years and who wanted to know the status of the Bloomfield house and a few pointed financial items. I had written during the summer that if the estate was not resolved by September I was going to step down as executor. My attorney was not pleased with that news. One of my siblings wrote, “You know what David would have wanted you to do,” and reminded me that I was not a “quitter.” Well, I felt for my attorney. And David would have chided me for not stepping down a year ago!
I have not been in a bad marriage, or had that many bad friend experiences -- one, maybe two, but that is all -- but the estate situation reminds me of the bad plays that I was in that I knew I should have gotten out of before opening night. Two productions, in particular, which was badly managed and bad, bad plays. Each time, I stuck it out to the end out of some misplaced sense of loyalty. In one instance, if I had left, the opening would have had to be put back. But the opening was terrible. So, if I had left maybe the play would have been improved. Maybe there would have been no play at all, which would not have been any great loss to the art world.
Hold on for a little while longer, my attorney said. That was July, Saturday is October. Tank remediation is finished, but restoration of the property has not been finished because the adjuster needed to see the property again and the adjusters were busy with hurricane claims all this month. With luck -- like I’ve had any of that in this instance -- work will be finished by the end of October. Hitting the market in November is pretty grim making the possibility of sale before the end of the year dim.
And so, again, I hold my fist up in the air, curse the heavens and say I will not be working on estate matters in 2012.
When I compare my mother’s estate to the other family estate’s in the last few years -- my father’s and David’s estates were settled in about three months. David’s father’s estate will be finished in, at most, 6 months. My mother died in June 2009. And I am very grumpy about doing the work.