Yes, I actually have a diary AND a blog. Most of what goes up here is not personal, but I recently suffered a tragedy, the loss of my mother, and I think the only way to share that is to share the diary entry for the day. I have cleaned it up a little, given it some context, but it is generally unedited.
Wednesday, 17 October 2012
Up late, running behind in the morning. Come into work knowing I must get a report draft done at work for the Disaster Recovery Test that happened Sunday, so I have time to get it reviewed and edited before Friday.
Novel-wise, after reading and digesting some plot books last night, I really feel like Jesus and the Red Baron is about to come together. This causes a conflict in me, a need to do one thing and a feverish desire to do something else. Ah, the minor dramas life are founded on.
Immediately after writing the above lines, probably somewhere around 7:30am, during a break, my cell phone rings, caller ID saying it’s my mother. I open the cell phone and say, “Hi Mom, what’s up?” but a man’s voice responds. I think for a moment I’ve simply misread the caller ID, but then he says, “Sir, this is Officer (I don’t remember) from the Hawkins Police Department.” and I’m immediately chilled. When he continues and says, “I don’t know how to tell you this,” I know immediately that my mother is dead.
There is no other reason a police officer would call from my mother’s house and say those words. He continues to explain that she was found dead this morning and that they needs someone in the family to come down and release the body to the funeral home. I am not much use for several moments, all I can say is, “Oh god, oh god,” but I finally remember that her brother, Uncle Tim, lives nearby in Tyler. I then wonder how I forgot that I had an Uncle at all. I guess in shock/grief, the mind does some crazy stuff.
The second I am off the phone, I type up a careening 3-sentence email to my boss that mostly apologizes that the DR report will be late, and then I shut down my computer and call my wife. I am not thinking clearly, still, and tell her to take Sami to school. Just before I leave work, I tell my co-worker Nesbit what’s happened, and he asks over and over if I am able to drive or not. I must look shaky or staggery or something. I tell him I am NOT sure if I can drive, but I don’t really have a choice.
Nebit’s right, I drive like a madman — I’m just lucky not to hit anyone. At one point, I pull through a stop light like it was a stop sign. Future reference: Driving while crying, not safe.
When I get to my house, I call Uncle Tim, and he says he’s heading down and asks when will be there, and then I realize that yes, of course, I have to go down immediately. I should’ve know better than to put Sami in school, I should’ve known I would have to go out to mom’s house ASAP, but my brain is not working well. I tell Tim we will be there as soon as we can.
We pick up Sami Faye, throw some clothes in a paper bag, and head out for the two-hour road trip to Hawkins. On the way, I call Betty Brown, my mom’s best friend who lives near her, but Betty’s not in. Her husband answers instead and is terrified that it’s me. He thinks he will have to tell me that my mother is dead, and it’s tearing him up like a tiger from the inside. I manage to choke back my own emotions, and quickly tell him I already know what’s going on, and just have Betty call me when she gets back. Tim and Cheryl call to tell me that they’ve left while the body is removed; Tim cannot stand to see dead bodies, and I think he should probably counted sane for that. They are at the only restaurant in town, having lunch. I ask them if they have a key, because we do not, and if the door is locked, we may be locked out. They don’t have a key, and they think the house may already be locked.
We get out there, though, and the house is not locked. Tim and Cheryl are inside, holding down the fort. The house is wrecked — not dirty — very few dirty dishes, actually, all in the sink, and a steak on the table she had intended to eat, yes — but the mess is primarily paper. Bills, statements, and junk mail going back twenty years, every prescription bottle or health supplement or medicine she bought in the past 10 years, many of them sealed in the wrapper in valuepaks but still expired. The pantries are the same: huge boxes of food and expensive teas, expired for years, but unopened and still sealed.
She was a collector, my mom, but unfortunately she collected a lot of things that were useless.
We spend most of the day cleaning the papers out of the kitchen — they’re stacked three feet high on the dining room table and most of the counters, shoved into shoeboxes, shoved into every drawer. One huge drawer overflows with phone books, all of them she’s ever received. And everywhere, everywhere, we find pictures of Sami Faye. My mom really loved her, I guess, even though she seemed so distant during visits. Like my wife says, I don’t think Mom figured out how to be a Grandma, but she was happy to be one.
At some point during the day, my wife tells Sami Faye that Ma Jo is dead and gone away forever, and that her house is ours now. Lucky for us, Sami is too young to understand. She takes it very well, and is sure that Ma Jo will come back one day.
Sami, it turns out, loves Nick, Jr, and watches it for hours, especially this show called UmiZumi. We don’t have cable at home, so this is an unexpected blessing and really frees us up to work.
Call Steve D, mom’s retirement person, call a lot of relatives, but I don’t get to the bank before it closes. That will be for tomorrow.
The amount of trash is unbelievable. Near dark, there is an entire corner of the yard full of trashbags, all full of paper.
There’s a moment of panic in the evening as I remember there are guns in the house, and our daughter is loose. We go searching and find a BB rifle, and for a few minutes we think it’s real, so we call Uncle Tim. He tells us that if we find any guns, just lock them in the trunk of the car.
At the funeral home, earlier in the day, we sort out most of what will happen at the funeral. We will come back tomorrow to pick the urn and pay the bill. Mom always wanted to be cremated, and she owned a plot next to dad, so we know where to put her. Cremation, it turns out, is very inexpensive. Betty B doesn’t know that mom wanted to be cremated, and I am very concerned about this as she is my mom’s closest living friend. I am upset for a while, thinking maybe my mother didn’t tell anyone but me, and that I am going to be looked down on as a cheapskate and as a someone who has dishonored the memory of his parents, but Brother Bill, the pastor who lives next door to Mom, says Mom told lots of people about cremation, and to not worry about it.
We sleep at the house, bringing in the mattress of the daybed into the bedroom that was mine in my youth. We know for sure that we will stay mostly through the weekend, but we have to go back up briefly before Friday to ship an Etsy sale and get stuff for us. Still, it is hard to sleep with all the work left to do.