The National Parks Traveler has just published my latest article. If you care to check it out, just click on the photo above.
Everything feels “off”. By “off”, I mean not only as in “powered down” but also off as in “off kilter” or “askew”. I go home to my apartment and it doesn’t look or feel the same. Naturally, it wouldn’t look the same because it’s a total pig sty right now, complete with undusted surfaces, unwashed dishes in the sink and stacks of boxes filled with items taken from Mom’s home. Those boxes are in every room of my 2-bed, 2-bath apartment. I have no idea where I will put everything, but I’ll handle it because those items are now all that are left of my mother and father. Those items are all that I wanted to keep. The rest have either gone to my sister or they are to be sold in the estate sale this coming week or will be donated to charity.
My 89-year old mother passed away in early-mid February, a little less than 5 years after my 86-year old father died. She was in the hospital for a week and then I and my sister took her home to care for her with the help of Hospice. After Mom’s death, my sister flew back to her home and family in the Pacific Northwest and I began the duties as Executrix for my mother’s estate.
This has been one of the hardest, most physically- and emotionally-draining things I have ever done in my entire 53 (almost 54) years of life.
In addition to my full-time job, I am handling Mom’s estate. All by myself (ok, I have the attorney working on probating the will, but you know what I mean). And my sister and I are sooo very thankful that Mom had the means to pay for everything and that she had the foresight to put me as a signer (signor?) on her checking account.
You see, here in the U.S., you can’t die for free. Not unless you are totally indigent, I guess. Mom was not indigent, so of course there was a fee for the cremation, and another fee for interring her ashes in a little niche at the local cemetery. Then, there’s the filing of the income taxes. And the costs for probating her will. Plus, I can’t do much of anything without the Letters of Testamentary (part of the probate process) but that will only occur after the 10-14 day waiting period while the Court publishes notice of the probate in the local paper to let any creditors know of Mom’s demise. Luckily, Mom’s house and car and everything else were all paid for. Nonetheless, I can’t sell her car or the house or get the taxes done or do any other of the myriad tasks dealing with Mom’s death without those Letters.
I wrote the obituary.
I informed people and agencies of Mom’s death.
Everything I have done is a reminder of the demise of her existence.
I talk to my sister on a daily basis – sometimes more than once – particularly if there is some sort of emergency (which there usually is). I, who never wanted any more responsibility than that of work (which is why I have not yet ever remarried, why I never wanted to buy a house or why I don’t even own a pet) now shoulder more responsibility than I sometimes feel I can handle (but I’m an Aries, so you can damned well be sure I will handle the responsibility and I’ll handle it successfully).
I have very little vacation time left for this year, and it’s only March. Most of my free days were spent caring for Mom or attending to her estate matters. I will have to take a day off to attend court in order to get the Letters Testamentary. I will have to take a day off to go to the local Social Security Office in order to inform them of Mom’s death and get a tax form to take to Mom’s accountant for taxes. I’m sure I’ll have to take another 2 or 3 days off regarding other estate issues, as well. I *am* taking a couple of 3-day trips during national holidays (Memorial Day and Thanksgiving) to spend time with my sister and her family; which reminds me, I still need to find out if United Airlines will allow me to carry the cremated remains of my father in checked luggage since I want to leave them with my sister for a future trip with her to Montana to spread Dad’s ashes over his favorite place there. Thankfully (right now, anyway), I also have enough time left to take a 10-day trip (including weekends and holidays) to London in December to see the Christmas lights and to watch the New Year’s fireworks over the London Eye and to just escape from everything I will have had to deal with over the year. I want to recharge my photography (’cause I haven’t felt like taking photos at all and still don’t feel like it) and I want to explore that wonderful city. Who knows – maybe I’ll meet an awesome Brit of my dreams there …. Stranger things have happened, right?
In the meantime, though, I feel sad and lonely and a little out of place. I get teary often; I was never one of those sentimental, sappy kind of people, so this teary thing is a nuisance and an emotional drain all at the same time. I miss Mom. I keep feeling like I should have / could have done more. I’m always exhausted. I’m still sick with a lingering cold. I’m now dealing with the wet carpet in the sunken living room all by myself; heavy rains and a crack (or two) in the foundation slab contributed to the issue and the house now smells while the carpet dries. I need a hug and there is nobody here to give me one; actually, I could use lots of hugs.
Everything just feels off.
I walk through Mom’s house, checking on the damp living room carpet to see how much more it has dried, looking at all the things set up by the estate sales agent in preparation for this weekend’s sale. It doesn’t feel like Mom’s house anymore because Mom’s not there any longer. It’s just a house now filled with loads of stuff collected over a lifetime of 89 years for Mom, and 86 years for Dad. And I feel empty. I know things must be “off” if I feel like going in to work is the same thing as taking a vacation.
I guess the best thing that can be said is that I am busy. I am busy with work (bless my co-workers for being so patient while I take off days here and there to handle this stuff), I am busy with the estate, and once all of this is over with and done, I will be handling my own messy apartment and initiating the process of researching places to live around and within Houston, much closer than where I currently reside (moving won’t happen until 2016).
Before all of this occurred, I was rather emotionally detached. Now, I find that I am sympathizing more with people and their situations – especially if they are going through similar experiences.
Right now, it all sucks but I know that this, too, shall pass. I know that somewhere at the end of this long, narrow tunnel there is a pinpoint of light; I don’t see it yet, but I know that it’s there.
I had planned on a relatively quiet Christmas, with 9 days left of vacation time to use up. I figured I might venture out to the nearby national wildlife refuge and maybe a nearby state park to check out the birdlife, but other than that, I had no big plans.
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Back track to December 2010. I was visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted family members for Christmas in eastern Washington. We were standing around their kitchen island conducting a whiskey taste testing (Redbreast Single Malt won hands down). Andrew and Julie (the sister to my niece-in-law) turned to me and said how much they would like to have me photograph their wedding…..whenever they set the date. I told them that would be awesome. We resumed our whiskey tasting.
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Fast forward to late September 2012. While talking to my sister, she mentioned that Julie and Andrew had set the wedding date for sometime in early December. This was the first I had heard of their pending wedding, and I knew I would not be able to make it because my remaining vacation days were already committed to those last two weeks of December. Sigh.
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Fast forward to early October 2012. I received an email from Julie telling me they’d set the date for December 28 in Tacoma, Washington and would I be able to photograph their wedding if all expenses – including the plane flight – were paid? December 28 was during my vacation, so I was beyond thrilled to be able to say “YES” after all! (It heartened me mightily that Andrew and Julie felt so strongly about having me as their wedding photographer).
We made the plane reservation with enough time for me to first spend several days before and after Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted relatives in eastern WA. I had a white Christmas Eve and and a White Christmas Day and a wonderful time while there.
Lights and ornaments and tinsel and pretty presents. No arguments, lots of laughter, non-stop eating and a little bit of egg nog. I soaked in the love and closeness and humor of family and the joyful screams of my great-niece and great-nephew as they opened their gifts. “This is the best gift ev-oh! You actually listened!” (this coming from a 4-year old who received a pair of Stompeez slippers).
It was a great Christmas!
What did you do for the holidays?
It’s December 24th. Christmas Eve Gift!
Since I was a toddler, it’s been a tradition in my family to try and be the first to surprise the other person by yelling out “Christmas Eve Gift”! The person who was “got” then had to give a little gift to the person who did the “gotcha”. As the years rolled by, it was not so much about the gifting as it was the “gotcha” part. To this end, family members would go to great lengths to surprise one another.
One Christmas Eve, I had gotten up very early to bake a huckleberry cobbler to take over to my parents next door, for breakfast. Nothing beats a nice, warm-from-the-oven cobbler. So I traipsed over to their house with the food, set it down on a chair outside, and unlocked their back door. The house was dark and I knew my parents (then in their early 80’s) were probably still asleep. As I entered the dark house, my parents jumped from behind the door (where they had been hiding in wait for me) and yelled “Christmas Eve Gift”, scaring the bejeebers out of me. They definitely “got” me! They were quite tickled with themselves, and I was glad I had put the cobbler on the chair outside…..otherwise we would have been eating huckleberry cobbler off of the floor
I was originally going to post festive photos captured during this holiday season. But after the senseless tragedy in a village in Connecticut on December 14, all I could think about was the total, desolate, dry heave devastation 26 loved ones will experience this Christmas and Christmases to come.
I am not a kid person. I don’t have any of my own. But I love my family which includes my great-niece and great-nephew. I would be devastated if what happened in Connecticut happened to any member of my family. Because this was on my mind all day, I found myself going through my photographic archives to find photos of my 2010 Christmas visit to my sister and brother-in-law’s home, when the entire family along with some friends gathered for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I needed something to remind me to smile and appreciate just how lucky I am that my own relatives are still alive, and that my great-niece and great-nephew have their entire futures still ahead of them and are excited over what Santa will leave for them under the tree.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Focus on Playing
Piling On The Christmas Cracker Crowns
Watching TV With A Friend
Gammy and Granddaughter
Mommy and Son
Daddy and Daughter
Family and Friends
If you need reminders to help you smile, go pull out your own photos, drawings attached on the fridge with magnets, and old holiday cards. Smile, hug your family members, and count your blessings.
I published a post honoring my father on Veteran’s Day, so in this post, I want to honor my mother on Mother’s Day.
I was what one person called “a mid-life surprise”. Mom and Dad had two daughters already, and although they tried for one more child, nothing happened, and the doctor told Mom to be happy with the two children she already had. Fourteen years later, when Mom turned 36: surprise!
Mom and Dad were high school sweethearts who married while Dad was serving in the army during WW II. During that time, she stayed with Dad’s mother (Granny) and Granny would take photos of Mom to send to Dad.
During my years growing up, the family went through some difficult times, but Mom was always there to make things better. Mom has always been an optimist. Not the rose-colored-glasses kind of optimist, but more the practical kind of optimist. I like to think I inherited my positive outlook from her. Mom could always make me feel better back then and still does today, at 87 years of age. Mom is the glue that binds our family together.
Love you, Mom!