This blog post is probably going to make less sense than usual. It's certainly going to be out of order semantically; I'll try to minimize the disjunctions as best I can and I apologize in advance. Lately I haven't had the time (thanks to log4shell) or the compute cycles (thanks to my mental health) to sit down and work on this post. Everything's been laying pretty heavily lately, and it's been an effort to just make myself sit down and work on this post. I keep thinking of little things to post to keep those switches in my head going, but I kind of wanted to get this out of the way, first. We'll see where this goes.
I've heard it said that there's no one way to grieve. Not everybody breaks down crying or lays in bed staring at the wall or anything like that. "It's all very personal," to steal a phrase. I feel empty. Like a cookie cutter shark took a big chunk out of me, and took one of my hearts with it. Weirdly, I don't seem to have anything inside that's worried one way or another about that. I've barely been reading lately, and I can't really stand listening to music for very long. Neither have I had the compute cycles to sit down and really write anything. I've no idea when anyone will actually see this post, I've been working on it since before Thanksgiving.
After I got home from Pittsburgh a couple of weeks back, I thought I'd have some time to sit and think about mom dying. That didn't happen, in part due to family-type stuff that had to be seen to. When you ship lots of boxes of stuff, said boxes all have to go somewhere... funny that. In this context, that means going through everything to pick out what goes to Goodwill to make room to store the (hopefully soon-to-be unpacked) china. And, of course, it's back to the daily grind, days full of meetings and long nights of being a system administrator in the land of devops. Not a lot of downtime to mull things over, there.
For a long while, mom and I would talk on the phone every Sunday and catch up on how things were going. Through the course of the week I'd make mental notes of stuff to talk about - California wildfires, what new fresh hell was going on in the US that week, work, things like that. One of her old friends in Pennsylvania got hurt in an accident not long after the funeral, and after I hung up I instinctively went to call her cellphone and let her know. I stopped myself right before hitting the dial button because I saw her iPhone sitting on the desk next to me.
A parent dying is simultaneously one thing almost everyone goes through (folks who didn't know their parents, I see you) but nobody really knows how to handle. There's no handbook for it, no manual for the process, and almost no way to prepare for it. You expect it to be one thing and it's another. You don't know when it'll happen, but then you get a phone call and you're out the door faster than you can blink.
I keep running into gotchas as I work on her estate. New accounts that crop up, questions about legal procedure, how to handle certain things that I'll probably have to fly back to Pittsburgh sooner rather than later to take care of. Surprisingly no one, I suppose, I keep thinking "I think mom took care of that when dzi-dzia died, I'll ask her." Every damned time. I've been going through her mail on the weekends (more or less), sifting the essential stuff out of the spam, and... well, there's not a lot I can really do.
A signpost in life that I used to orient by isn't there anymore.
Our elders really are treasures. They've seen far more than any of their descendents have, due to the fact that they've been around longer. They've been through more, and for the most part grown wiser by it. They've run into more gotchas in life that folks my age have so far and hopefully know how to navigate them. An entire university's worth of knowledge vanishes each time a parent dies. So much wisdom is lost that it's hard to wrap your head around it.
I've been making notes about the estate process as I go through it. When I've finally got everything worked out I plan on posting them, in the hope that they'll help someone someday. Might have to run it past the estate attorney before I post it to make sure I got everything right.
Every time I stumble across something that I forgot, or didn't know before I left Pittsburgh, I feel like an idiot. For example, did you know that you have to call up each and every credit card company, report the card holder's death, and then start a legal process (which involves yet another original copy of the death certificate) to get their lines of credit frozen? I didn't. I thought that would be picked up when the notice of death hit the state and federal governments. This, of course, means that I surely left too many copies of the death certificate back in Pittsburgh, I need to get up at what the fuck o'clock to make sure I have enough time to get through to an operator before I have to start work, and maybe get a few more copies of the executorship letter. Which, all things being equal, I think I'll have to go back to Pittsburgh to make sure that I can get all of that done in a reasonably timely manner.
Something that's been weighing heavily on me is that mom never had a chance to visit us anywhere, really. Lyssa and I went back to Pennsylvania a few times a year ever since I moved out of Pennsylvania to visit her and my grandfather for many years. However, I think she came down only once or twice, but not to visit us. I know that she had a lot going on, she took care of my grandfather for quite a few years (and, in fact, retired in part so that she could do so). I'll not begrudge her that at all. That doesn't mean that I don't wish that she'd visited Lyssa and I once in a while. I'd always wanted her to know that I was all right, that I have wonderful people in my life and great friends. And, perhaps, have introduced her to some of my chosen family. Mom never got to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with us, either. We always spent it with her in Pennsylvania. That kind of stings. But, we had what we had, and we made the most of it.
Unfortunately, to live is to die. For growth and change to happen, the old has to make way for the new. That doesn't mean that it doesn't suck. That doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt. GNU Clacks headers never shrink. Necrologies never get shorter. Ancestor altars never get smaller.
I don't have any witty or poignant way to close this post out. It hasn't been on my mind, frankly, and to be honest trying to write one would just suck. I'm not going to pretend I can, either. All I can say is that I'm hanging in there. Maybe I'll write some dumb computer geek stuff or something later. I don't know.
Happy holidays everyone. Whatever holidays you celebrate at this time of year with whomever. Hold them tight and spend time with them. You don't know when the last time you'll be able to will be, nor do you know how much time you'll have with them. And they don't know how much time they'll have with you.
I don't regret the time I spent with my mom. I tried to treat every time as if it was the last, and I think it worked out pretty well. I made my apologies for things I did that needed them, and made amends where and when I could. I said the things I needed to say as honestly as I could. In one of our last conversations mom said that I'd done the right things, and that they were right and enough, and that she was proud of me. So, I'm okay with that. No regrets there.
I miss you, mom.