The five of us met my mother at JFK in early October, to fly with her to her vacation home in the West Indies. The plan was, after my father’s unexpected death earlier this year, to sort through my father’s things and also sort out the house, which for some years has needed repairs, touch-ups, and general decluttering. We had been making good headway and also making time for some fun — the local Halloween party at the nearby beach club, a lovely dinner party for my mother’s 79th birthday, a very fun meal at a new restaurant in town — when things came crashing down four weeks ago, when my mother died even more suddenly than my father did. He died not three months after being diagnosed with brain cancer; she died two days after going into the hospital feeling faint, dizzy, and hot. It turned out to be advanced heart failure and kidney failure, not altogether unexpected for someone with diabetes and high blood pressure who has made the most of life and ignored doctors’ warnings and daughters’ pleas for years. But still terribly sudden and shocking for all of us, and just days after a happy birthday. I’ve taken comfort knowing that things moved so swiftly that she had no idea what was happening before she lost consciousness, that she was in no pain, wasn’t scared. And that she hadn’t been home alone in the apartment in New York.
Some 35 years ago, on her island,
We are bereft, and marooned, emotionally and almost literally, not able to come home last week as planned. With so many extra loose ends to tie up, we delayed our departure until this coming Sunday (weather willing, and we are hoping it will be more willing than the weather this past weekend), and even then we are leaving many things undone, in an upside down world, though we have fixed and cleaned and painted and tidied. The kids have been troopers, coping with the work and the sadness. Poor Davy had expected and hoped to celebrate his 10th birthday with Grandmama, and Thanksgiving the next day was a shadow of its former self.
Instead of an overnight stop at the airport hotel as originally planned, we’ll spend several days in NYC , to see my sister, the lawyer, the office, and leave for Canada on Wednesday, which should get us back home in time for Christmas Eve. Our holidays will be considerably diminished, but the kids at the moment are craving home and home comforts. I would be happy to crawl into my own bed and pull the covers over my head for the next six months, but thanks to rent control laws in NYC, we have 90 days from the date of death to empty my mother’s apartment. We need to get back to farming and real life in February, so next month we’ll be driving across North America with a truck and trailer. No, it’s not my first choice, either.
I came across this poster recently and I find it much more reassuring than the slogan I’d come up with about halfway through 2010, “One damned thing after another”.
Definitely an approach my life loving mother embraced, though she would have asked for vodka. And extra ice.
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“To lose one parent, Mr Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.”
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (1895)