And when it comes to incurring my wrath, tag you’re it.
My mother has now been dead for three weeks. Ester Sunday, was the first major holiday without her and marked the second week since suffering the second major hemorrhagic stroke, but this one killed her. Easter morning was tough. I was still weepy and felt the need to connect to people which frankly, isn’t always the norm for me. I kept calling people who weren’t home. They were out and about with their families doing what families do on this particular holiday: hunting eggs, eating dinners with and all the trimmings, attending church in their new Easter raiments. I realized, I was alone. Cue the waterworks. My mother…. half of the reason I retired and moved to The Hills, is gone. I need to find my life as I step further into the Autumn of it.
I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with Jesus, but invited all messiahs to the table to cover all bases. I prayed in my own way to be unburdened by the sadness and issue and cease and desist order to my tear ducts for overproduction. So, away went the sadness. It’s the most unproductive stage of grief. But, that quickly morphed into anger as I realized why I was crying.
You see dear ones, my mother was toxic, which is a polite way of saying she was actually mentally askew. I feel it’s high time someone said it outside my immediate family. She was cruel, abusive and would’ve been investigated (or worse) by Children’s’ Protective Services had that entity existed in the early sixties. So, I spent two weeks in a rapidly aging, graying puddle of sad, hapless pancake batter, because of the bad mother I had and the good mother I so desperately wanted, needed and deserved, but never got.
THE WEEK DRAGGED ON
I received a call from her former long term care facility that I had to pick up her affects by close of business that day OR….they’d start charging storage fee. So due to Covid regulations to keep everyone safe and as inconvenienced as much as possible, I had to make an appointment and go through temperature taking hoops with gloves and gowns to pick up three boxes and the institution assigned pillow and pillow case—the one she died on. It was sitting on the boxes uncovered. I could still see some of her gray hair on the case. I was livid at their lack of procedure, at their lack of consideration.
The receptionist helped me take the boxes to my car and in attempt to break the awkward silence, she asked me how I was doing. In my angered state, I blurted out, “I just lost my mother. I’ll give you three guesses.” She walked away quietly without saying a word as I adjusted the boxes in the trunk. I’ll NEVER see her again, nor will ever step foot back in that better furnished Auschwitz. I tossed the pillow in the trash. It meant nothing. In my anger, I’ve lost all sentimentality.
Then on Wednesday, I was contacted by the local funeral home to pick up my mother’s ashes, which were in three sealed ceramic urns that my sisters and I are keeping and a plastic bag placed inside an unsealed biodegradable box. It was unsealed because we had planned on scattering some of her around various places in our hometown. The four items were placed in a black tote which to be honest, made for a heavy load. But one of the employees asked if they could help me and I said, “No thanks. She carried me for nine months…I can take her 30 yards.”
Makes me sound like a kind, loving dutiful daughter, right? Wrong. I said because it was true, but mainly because it was a statement motivated by the need to end a conversation between two undertakers and me, clutching a heavy cheap, tote filled with my mother’s ashes. It wasn’t some sweet, tender moment. It was morbid and teetered on the macabre.
I feel that the body upon death just becomes an unfurnished, rental unit in Houston’s Gulfton neighborhood. It’s just an empty vessel. I treat my beloved dead pets corpses the same way. I want no part of them.
So, I got the bag o’ashes home and placed it where I wouldn’t notice it. My sisters are coming in two weeks for my birthday. We’ll bury the ashes then. Don’t worry, the symbolism of performing this last stage of the death process as I turn 62 actually feels quite fitting. It’ll be the ultimate closure.
AN EMOTIONAL HEAT WAVE
Anyway, the mercury rose to the lower 90’s in the Hill Country and my niece and I were out and about running errands. I got home mid afternoon and it was hot inside my house. I turned on the A/C and walked by the obscured bag containing the ashes, namely the ones in the unsealed box, and I instantly recognized the smell. The heat, the plastic bag, the unsealed box—it was AWfUL. I cannot even attempt to conjure the words to could describe that horror.
My A/C has been on 67° ever since.
LASTLY, A PRIMER FOR THOSE ENCOUNTERING A BEREAVED PERSON
Please don’t ever tell someone who lost a parent or spouse, that you’re “sorry for their loss”. I know the situation is awkward enough as it is and this is a pat response that effortless rolls off the tongue, but try to stop yourself. Unless you know the person very well and the dynamics of their relationship with the deceased, keep it limited to “I’m sorry”or if you feel compelled to make it longer, then “I’m sorry this is happening to you” works perfectly. I’ve not heard a word from most of my extended family and since the bulk of them are in serious denial about their own crazy parent/emotionally battered child relationships, I choose to keep it that way. They’d just make excuses. I’m not in the mood to deal with their actions. Keep excuses to yourself. So, if you’re sensing issues within the bereaved person you’re trying to console, don’t even dare blame the dead’s earlier actions or comments that might have inflicted pain on the disease or the medication…. even their age. And NEVER encourage the bereaved to rethink their position because she/he was the only mother /father they’ll ever have.
Grieving a spouse or parent who was mentally and physically abusive generates a nasty roux of mixed emotions and actually removes filters with amazing speed. One older woman told me what a doll my mother was, how she was loved by everyone she met and that life must have been such a hoot with someone so cute and funny.
I actually saw her hair move slightly after I told her to “fuck off”.
I might be sorry about this response someday, I might regret not being more gracious. Maybe this is a temporary response, maybe it isn’t. You might ask, “how could this woman have known?” Well, all the more reason to keep comments of this nature, short, sweet and generic. For now, this woman’s ignorance despite her “best intentions” were enraging at a time when I was extremely raw.