Shredding medical records. Setting aside documents that prompt memories--I'd forgotten that--then sweeping them all into two piles, shred and recycle. To be unburdened of memory and its frequent consort, guilt.
So there was a letter, dated November 20, indicating a name change of the company administering an insurance policy. So there were the holidays to get through, which is no excuse, I know, because it's an insurance policy when I believed there had been none, but today--today--I finally called immediately after rushing home from work. So there was a policy, but someone named Megan said it had been canceled. I asked when. She said December 1st. I asked why. After a five minute wait, she said it appeared it had been canceled by mistake.
And that it could be reinstated.
And that she could transfer me to the claims department, which she offered to do after I explained that I wanted to file a claim on the policy.
The claims representative, Sally, was very courteous and started the process immediately of sending out forms to me.
My heart rose and sank uncountable times during this conversation. To hope against hope that one might navigate the tide of forms, delays, and red tape that is the insurance industry--to hope that there might be a little money that could help me relocate, if indeed that is what I will need to do this summer--it's almost too much to hope for.
And it should not be such an ordeal. These things should follow as a natural and, indeed, courteous consequence of such traumatic life events. I used to work for an insurance company.
I can hardly breathe for hope that this may bring some small, good outcome.
Up early this morning to lean into the day with some sense of purpose, hopefully to gain a small feeling of accomplishment but mainly to prevent the inertia of wallowing. I started a fresh to-do list, jotting down the immediate with the long-term, the deeper ponderings with more mundane household tasks, in no particular order except as they came to me.
Do laundry. Check. Easy enough, though a two-hour task stretched to four because I kept forgetting about it. I'm still tugged off course by innumerable distractions, not the least of which has been FB, though in my defense, I do try to pop in and back out quickly. Without television, I gave in and reactivated my Netflix account--just one dvd at a time--so if I don't work up the stamina to go out to the movies just yet (I know some of my friends are watching Into the Woods even as I type this, but I just don't want to be the sobbing blubberer that drowns out the dialogue during all the death scenes), at least I can catch up on a few from last year.
Go through his computer files for anything that might help. Check. Lots of pictures deleted (if you're reading this, you know who you are) and some others saved because they're good, and a few others I should delete but haven't yet (if you're reading this, I'd like to know who you are). A copy of his will from 2006, but, alas, I have found no printed (and witnessed) copy. I did find many photos that I would have included in the slide show I put together for Yule. No journal. No letters to me. Not much writing at all. This makes me very sad, because Randy had some wonderful stories (and some harrowing ones about his at-best negligent parents).
Finish emptying the fridge. Check. Out with the yellowed kale and wan scallions in the bottom crisper. Out with the last of the gravy he made for Thanksgiving dinner (do not judge me, bitches; it is hard work to throw away food made by a man whose cooking will be terribly missed). Out with the--what is that?--well, out with it. Make room. Breathe.
Think about making a new will and legal documents. Okay, I'm thinking. I would like to get this out of the way because, well, because my job is stressful beyond belief right now and I spent half of Tuesday at work thinking I might be having a heart attack. Which I didn't. As far as I know. But still, it would suck for my siblings to have to come out to Pennsylvania and try to go through all my stuff with no legal access to my estate. Ha. What a word, estate, conjuring wealth. Because the opposite.
Stop checking Growlr every 15 minutes. Check. Because if anyone wanted to message me, they'd message me, and if anyone wanted anything more, well that's not very likely right now, is it?
Figure out how to cook the pork roast. Okay, I'm not sure I have it figured out, but the damn thing is in the damn crock pot, the potatoes and carrots are nearly tender enough to take out (so they don't go to mush), and though the meat feels nowhere near tender and fork-flaky (if that's a word), I don't think it's supposed to just yet, so points to me for chopping veggies and mincing garlic and searing the meat and figuring out how to cover the rickety, too-small lid with a folded dish towel to keep the steam from completely escaping. Side note on crock pots: You gets what you pays for.
Be kind to anyone who checks in today. Harder than it seems, because some people don't seem to get that Have a great Christmas! is so not the thing to say right now, which means I have to be the better friend, dittoing the sentiment, instead of calling said friends on their insensitivity, which at least in one case has been, for years, a classic pattern of shallow and evading platitudes whenever difficult emotional matters arise in conversation. Said friend has not been dumped because--well, I need to ponder this more deeply, but I think it's because (a) there's history, which means friend knows things about both Randy and me, and could possibly help me sort out some of those events, and (b) I may be a mess, but I know that not everyone is as strong (or tactful, or reliable) as I want/need them to be.
Repot some of the basket plants. Check. Six plants from one gift basket became eight (the palm, which is really a mass of about thirty seedling palms, got teased apart into three smaller clumps). Most are now on R's window sill, where I hope I will remember to water them. The other gift basket will have to wait, because its huge amaryllis, having opened four blossoms, is now set to open more flowers on a second spike. I don't want to mess that up.
Throw out his shoes. Check.
Sort the papers in his room. Check: most into the recycle bin, some into the shredder.
Decide about the press. So much to decide here: do I suspend the press for another year to new submissions while I figure out how and where I will live? Or jump into it, inviting the universe to buoy me along into a regained footing and, hopefully, the kind of growth and recognition I think Seven Kitchen
s deserves? I've made a separate list, a huge list, of items to consider, and all of it needs to be decided by the end of this year. (Yeah, no pressure.)
Write thank you notes. I was saving this for nightfall, which slows me down to a near-standstill. I've managed I think three cards this week and have probably thirty or more to go. I wish I didn't have to go to work tomorrow; a four-day weekend would have been a balm right now. Plus I need to leave the car with my mechanic and can't do that because I've no other way to get to work. Maybe next week somehow. Meanwhile, I'm using an old towel to drape across the opening where my driver's-side window won't close. Keeps the rain mostly out. Cold, cold on the morning drive, though.
Be kind to myself. Working on this. We all have demons. Mine are lately taking the form of various regrets, though I try to dismiss these gently but firmly. What good is looking backward? What's done is so very done. Looking ahead, though, can be terrifying: my new scary mantra, I can do anything, a blade to cut through doubt and my usual fear of the unknown, points keenly at the next moment, and the next after that: Now choose.
Today we opened the house from 12 - 2 so friends and neighbors could drop by, eat a little something, and remember Randy. I should have done a better job of notifying everyone. As Jarrell famously writes in "Skunk Hour," My mind's not right.
Good to see friends. Hard to embrace some for the first time since they heard the news. Glad I managed to clean and de-clutter the downstairs: though such things are unimportant to me, they mattered to Randy.
I baked my applesauce cake again. S, P and J prepared everything else. The time went quickly. It was good to see neighbors catching up. We dumped coats in my apartment and had food set up on P & J's side of the house--more room--but it was good to duck back home a few times for quieter conversations.
Then it was over, and we four shifted gear to head out and finish the last task: releasing his remains in the forest while the daylight was good.
The snow lay only in patches here and there, which relieved me because I hadn't known what to expect. It's always so much colder in the higher ground. A few slippery spots, a hurried trek through deep woods that seemed at times completely unfamiliar, and then I knew where I was again and we turned off to gather at Randy's tree.
Emptying the urn was harder than I'd expected. It's only been two weeks since he died. When I lost David, just coming up on twenty years ago, I kept his remains for two years before finally letting them go into the garden, as he'd requested. But today is the solstice, and tonight the new moon, and as hard as it was to follow through when the moment finally came, I knew the timing was right and that waiting would serve no good purpose.
His favorite tree. Clumps of moss bright green through the snow. Bright, frigid water flashing in the creek. The silent woods surrounding us. We four friends, honoring his wish to be released in this beautiful, tranquil spot.
And then it was done. I climbed down to the creek and filled the urn with icy water, splashed it on the gray-dusted snow.
And now a part of him becomes the tree.
Back home, the quiet after everything. The feeling that none of this is real, that I've only somehow gone through a wrong door, that it's all a mistake. But such kindnesses from friends and neighbors, their labor to speak words that will matter, tell me it's real, it happened. I somehow hold myself above the current of grief, believing I have to, as if sheer will enacts a kind of levitation. Only in unguarded moments now do I slip, tumble into it, such bright and piercing grief.
Okay, so I thought I'd go ahead and buy the goldfish. One seems wrong -- too lonely -- so after work, as I browsed the Petsmart aisle looking at fish tanks and things I do not need and don't really want, I worked my way back to the actual fish, where two pimply, impossibly thin youngsters were carrying on their private conversation loudly enough for any stranger to overhear. To his credit, one youngster did say Good afternoon, and then resumed his chitchat with the other. I put goldfish pellets in my basket. I added a package of water treatment packets. I scrutinized the pretty little fantail goldfish. I asked for help when none seemed forthcoming. It went something like this:
Me: I'd like to purchase two of these small goldfish, please.
Associate 1: What size tank do you have?
Me: About two gallons.
A1: I wouldn't recommend goldfish. What you want instead is a betta.
Me: What I want are two goldfish.
A1: They grow too big for that size bowl.
Me: At which point I would get them a larger one.
A1: I wouldn't recommend that.
Me: So I am trying to make a purchase in your store, and twice now you've told me no and recommended I buy something I don't want?
Associate 2: She's not saying no. We just recommend that you get the betta not the goldfish.
A2: The goldish can live a really long time, like twenty years.
Me: . (What, I look like I won't last twenty fucking years?)
A2: They produce a lot of waste.
A2: They keep growing. They get too big. They'll outgrow their bowl and then people--
Me: --and then I would put them into a bigger tank. Why are you making this so hard?
A1 and A2: We're not saying you can't--
Me: Yes. You are.
A1 and A2: We're just recommending--
Me: I didn't ask for your recommendation. I asked for two of these (fucking) goldfish (you fucking nitwits). Have you ever heard of something called customer service? It does not consist of arguing with the customer over what he or she wants.
A1/A2: We're not--
Me: Have yourselves a really nice (fucking) day.
(Parenthetical comments were amazingly kept inside my head and did not pass through my mouth.)
I asked at the register for a manager. What I asked was, Is there a manager around? I asked nicely. The cashier nodded and said, Uh-huh.
I gave her the look that said Would you like to kindly jump out of the way of this train wreck barreling down upon us or shall I shove you to safety for your own good even though you do not deserve it? She pointed.
The manager, when I started explaining the nature of my attempted purchase, interrupted with How big is your tank? Two gallons, I said. We don't recommend two goldfish for that size tank, she said. Do you want one goldfish?
I took a breath. Shouldn't the question--the question you should be asking, the question they should have asked--should not the question be, Would you like a bigger tank to better accommodate the two goldfish you are purchasing today?
We really don't recommend--
I walked out. I retrieved the small hatchet I keep under my passenger seat. I went back inside and smashed, one after the other, sixteen fish tanks. Goldfish, guppies, neons, angelfish--so lucky to already be angels--and then swept a good half-dozen betta bowls from their shelf, dazed, morose betta barely flicking their beady eyes. I pointed into the slapping writhe and asked A2 to please fetch me two fantails from the puddle.