Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How Am I?

"After a great pain, a formal feeling comes."

And laundry, and meetings with the bank, funeral directors, clergy, and lawyers.

My father named me as executor, and in that capacity, there's a lot to do. The death certificates came in yesterday, and I had to run them all around. And then there's the phone calls: calling distant family to give them the news, calling the utility companies to get things transferred into my name, returning the raft of phone calls that seem to show up on the answering machine every time I leave the house.

My brother, it seems, is a Huge Phone Queen. He kept me on the phone for an hour yesterday as he's now back in Florida.

Mostly, I just want to clean. I've targeted the kitchen first. Yesterday I took care of the countertops, and today I want to empty the cabinets onto the kitchen table, sort through it all, throw some stuff out, wipe the cabinets down inside and out with Murphy's Oil, and put it all back.

I'm going to be making piles. Or rather, make that Piles. There's the Good Will Pile, the Stuff I Might Sell On eBay Pile, the Stuff That Goes In The Dumpster Pile, the Stuff To Try To Get One Of Those Shady Operators That Buy Estate Furniture In To Look At Pile.

I'm on the fence about when to go back to work at Ho(t)me(n) Depot. Next week? After the funeral? And if I should go back part-time or full-time when I do.

There are two things of my father's that I want to keep. One is his desk. It's steel. Right now, it's got this sort of laminate thing to make it look like cherry wood. (It makes it look like a sort of laminate to make it look like cherry wood.) But it occurred to me that I could grind that off, or maybe take it off with a blow-torch, and I'd have this cool looking steel desk like the ones that fetch so much at the Chelsea flea markets. The other thing is my father's comb. It's made of aluminum, and he came by it during his service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. I have a brush that belonged to his father. Burned into the handle of the brush are the words, "Genuine Boar Bristles." At some point in junior high, it became de riguer to carry around a comb in your back pocket at all times. I used to steal my father's aluminum comb for those purposes. "Did you take my comb again? What the hell are you doing taking my comb?" my father would call from the bathroom.

So how am I? Doubtless you'll want to know. Everyone seems to. "How are you?" I'm asked again and again. Usually with tone of voice and inflection to imply that the listener isn't just making a casual answer by way of salutation to which the only appropriate reply is, "Good, and you?"

Unfortunately, I don't always pick up on that, and reply, "Pretty good!" in my usual chipper way. Then, seeing the disappointment in the face of whoever I'm talking to, I have to backtrack and come up with something like, "Well, y'know... I'm holding my own."

And I am.

Beyond that, it gets complicated. I'm relieved that my father's suffering wasn't greater. I'm surprised that this man who seemed to me to be as eternal as the Delaware River is no longer here. I'm haunted by the final image of him in my mind--slack-jawed, his eyes closed, so Not There Anymore. I'm astonished at the money he left behind for my brother and me. If I didn't know how tech savvy my father wasn't, I'd suspect that he was the one behind those scammy emails from the Nigerian Health Minister we've all been receiving. The man was a civil servant. Where did it all come from? And what am I going to do with it? I am tremulous at the prospect of phrases like, "When my father was alive..." popping up in my lexicon. Of this man who has loomed so large for me his whole life now being a cylinder of ash in Doylestown Cemetery. I am betwixt and between, with thoughts crossing my mind like, "I can plant a bunch of ornamental grasses and wildflowers in those low spots in the lawn," then reconsidering since The Plan is to have this place on the market by June. I am full of wonder at the prospect of leaving 4853 Tollgate Road for the second time in my life: What's out there in the wide world? What will I do? Where will I go? What will I find there?

Oh. And I'm increasingly frustrated that I still haven't been able to see the final episode of Project Runway so I still don't know who won and please don't tell me because I'm terrified that I'll overhear something or come by that information before I have the chance to sit there biting my nails up to my elbows while the three finalists stand there on the runway as Heidi, Nina, Michael, and the Special Guest Judge arrive at their decision.

My mind is like a river. These ideas and dispositions and lines of thought come washing down, carried by the current. I'm amazed at the clarity I have. And all with this Zen-like detachment that is terrifically unfamiliar. I'm just letting me happen and not getting in the way. But at the same time, I know this clarity will pass. The world will eventually come flooding back.

Interestingly, I don't have much to say about it. I just am.

I'm doing okay.


Anonymous said...

Take it as it comes; live it as it is. And don't let anyone tell you how you should be feeling. Well-meaning people do that all the time to those who have lost a loved one. I do suggest to people that they don't make any major decisions about jobs, real estate, or relationships for a good long while, in order to let their minds and spirits settle into the changed reality.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Drew. I know how you feel. I lost my mom a while back and the following weeks/months seemed to have passed without me. it seemed like i was walking through a dream and i was detached from me. take all the time you need in this state.

'bastian said...

You don't have to be "pretty good". Just be, SIR.

[useless internet hug]

Anonymous said...

Be careful about that money. You've been wanting to get out of there and do things for quite a while now. Put a little aside to go nuts on and go nuts. Get some of that out of your system. Then, in about six months, see how you feel. You've had a lot of big plans. You have the means and the time to do them now. And you're still young enough to do almost anything.