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June 2, 2005
I actually had to look up the date to see what it was. The last two weeks have been a blur. Yep, it really has only been two weeks since I wrote my last off topic column, when I had just decided to set things in motion. The way it has gone and how things have turned out, I have to believe that things were already in motion and my paltry little contributions to the process were just busy work, filling in a few blanks here and there, a signature here, a phone call there.
I have to take this opportunity to thank a true angel on earth who has been there for me every step of this journey, Maxine, who is Kurt's wife (of "The Head" fame). Max has really gone above and beyond, to the extreme. She not only set up the entire loan process so that all I had to do was show up, sign a million papers and pick up the check, but she also facilitated the entire moving process for Kye and Vince ("with pleasure," as she put it).
Once she heard from me initially, Max swung into action in her ultra-efficient, Type A Personality way. I don't even know WHAT all transpired, but I do know that Maxine was so motivated and so confident of the loan process, that she took money from her own account and waved it in front of Kye and Vince, who bit. She found them another place to live (I haven't checked it out yet, and likely won't for quite a while) the same week and arranged for them to have a moving truck for a couple of days. Very familiar with the inside of my house, she came over "to help," but was actually keeping an eye on what was leaving the house and going into the truck. "Oh, your mother just LOVED that piece right there where it's been for absolutely years!" *stern look* After Kye and Vince were moved out, she brought in a cleaning crew to completely scour the house. It took them the better part of three days. By the time I got down here last weekend, the house was in pretty good shape. The yard was at least mowed, but I will be doing a LOT of work this weekend to get in some herbs and plants. Fortunately, we have a really, really great nursery in town and I can set out healthy plants. Sure, they won't be my own hybrids I was growing, but I can start over again. I brought some down from up North anyway and can keep them going to work on better next year when life is more stable. I've found that when you are bringing plants into their best, healthiest and most vital selves, you need to be in a really good mindset for top results. They always know when you're feeling bad.
I'm not really feeling bad now, just a weird combination of exhilarated and depleted. Things have definitely moved fast. Two weeks and a day ago, I was fighting a wicked cold and was totally without a thought that right now, I'd be sitting in my old home, planning a future without Colin and trying to catch my breath!
There's not as much work to do on the house as I feared there would be. The last time I was here was the end of October and it looked really bad then. Max's folks really know their stuff. I have to replace out a couple of sinks, strip off a whole lot of wall paper, then repaper, paint or panel (I'm still deciding). I've always favored wallpaper with chair runners. Anything I do will be a lot of work (I'm thinking paneling is the least effort), but this is not a time to shirk. If I am truly fixing this up as my home, it has to be a combination of honoring the home in which I was raised (which to me, means preserving its basic essence, rather than a complete revamp) and at the same time, adding my own touches to make it more Sagey. I've always enjoyed a more rustic, country look with an emphasis on nice antiques and light wood accents. See? I'm thinking out loud on paper.
All of the utilities are now in my name. I have DISH NETWORK instead of cable, so I actually have SOAP NET for the first time in my life. I am a good chunk in debt at the moment from the recent mortgage (thank God they skip a month!), but I have enough in the bank to make the payments, plus live on whatever I bring in from my own side work. Basically, I am going to be OK. I will need to make some investments in the house and garden area. The mortgage and basic utilities are my only bills, thank God. After that, I settle back down into whatever life is to be.
I feel peaceful. I feel committed. I feel home. There is work to do, but it's good work. :)
So here are the answers to some of your recent questions:
My mom is doing well, health-wise, probably better than she has in the past 5 years or so. She is currently... let me think... with Marji and Sal in New York, having moved around from kid to kid over the past year and a half. I last saw her in October. I talk with her about once a month or so. She hasn't had any recurrence of the dementia, as far as I have been told, and seems to be fairing well. I miss her. I miss the way things used to be before her health got so bad. Now, the world has turned a few more times and things aren't like they used to be. I know well that we all have our subjective view of how things are and how events go down and Mom has hers, which seems to have little resemblance to my recollections. That hurts, but we can't hold onto hurt forever, so I am working hard to let it go. I am not one given to pity parties or grudges, but this one is taking me a bit to work out. Fortunately, I don't expect to see her until October again. It's my understanding that originally, she was coming back to California for her birthday celebration. As I understand it, she is fairly pissed at me for my "deplorable" treatment of Vince and Kye, so she might change her plans. I just let it roll off. So yeah, Ma is doing great as far as I know.
Oh yes, The Head. The story is HERE, for those who do not know about the head. When I was home last October, I gifted Kurt with The Head by putting a cape on it and hanging it in his shower.
Given how brilliantly Maxine orchestrated the Home end of the move, I figured I owed her big time and Kurt by proxy. On my way home, I stopped off by their house to get a status check. I'd been on the road all day and was pretty well wiped out, but I didn't know if there would be electricity in the house or what the state of it would be. (As it turned out, it was polished and clean and my bed was ready and waiting for me, even though it needed a new mattress big time. My fridge was stocked and the cupboards were full. I literally could not have asked for more.) All of that was Max. She has just been a godsend. So I caught them at dinner and as always, they were gracious and very welcoming. Kurt and I have been friends since we were kids and I've known Max almost as long, so they are like family (better than family, at the moment - grr). Kurt was grilling tri tip and they had made enough for me (God bless'em) in case I showed up. We had a pleasant meal, then sat outside in chaise lounges, smoking, drinking and talking. It was so good to be back in my own town with my own people. I'm just an ol' homebody, I guess. I wanted to weep with relief.
At one point, I excused myself to use the facilities and went insane tearing through their house looking for The Head. It had to be there somewhere. I went through closets (it's too big to fit in a drawer, I mean, it's head sized), looked through their garage (which is organized to a fair-thee-well), cedar trunks, everything. I couldn't find the damned thing. After about 20 frenzied minutes, I knew I was pushing the "I'm in the bathroom" thing, having bled the lizard in a hurried 30 seconds or so. I rejoined them and determined to try again. I figured I owed him a freebie on The Head for all they had done for me lately. I was just going to take it and leave a note.
After a lovely evening together, I went home for the first time in forever and saw all that Maxine had done. It wasn't until then that the full impact hit. I knew she'd handled Kye and Vince's move and that she'd gotten the place cleaned up, plus handled the legal, financial & real estate stuff (I was grateful enough for that to give them a freebie on The Head). When I saw ALL of the work that had been done, I was agog.
Imagine this... go with me.
I pulled the Impala into the circle driveway. I was tired, but pleasantly so. I decided to wait until the next day to unpack the car and the little trailer I'd rented to carry my few belongings. I'd packed a gym bag of clothes and toiletries, plus a bedroll, figuring I'd be camping on the floor (if I could stand to, a hotel at worst). There wasn't much light. Mom never liked security lights much and so ours was usually disabled. Now was no exception. The moon was just coming off of being full and for the time of year, it was unusually heavy and big, so I could see pretty well. I opened the gate and made my way up the familiar cobblestone path. Up the steps to the porch, with the second one creaking right on cue. It made me smile.
I felt over the porch light for the spare key. I'd given mine to Kye and Vince when I left. Our door still uses one of the old skeleton keys. The tumblers turned and I was reminded of how long it had been since we locked our doors. Someone was always home. I can't remember the last time I walked into the house when it was dark. A light always burned either on the porch or from inside. I threw both light switches at once, just inside the front door to the right, illuminating both the front porch and the living room. It was almost as it used to be. The furniture that Kye and Vince had moved or removed was back in its place. The family room had a big open space where Mom's hospital bed had been. I forgot that the home health care place had, as was appropriate, taken it back when she moved and after I left. Even the fireplaces were cleaned. The gouges in the hardwood floors were already repaired and the paint removed. The walls were as clean as they could get, under the circumstances. As I said before, the cupboards and fridge were stocked and oh God bless her heart, there was a bottle of Captain's and a 2 liter of Coke on the counter. The house was devoid of plants, which I didn't expect to affect me. Mom and I always had a plethora of house plants around and there were none (I will fix that). The house smelled of cleaners and plaster and paint, but it was clean and it was home. The furniture was polished to a high sheen and the table was even set with my mother's candlesticks and white tapers, with one of Max's embroidered runners down the middle.
I went upstairs and it was in the same condition. My room was no longer a toy room, but was my room again. My bed was back in place (it had been relegated to the barn previously) and it welcomed me. It even had a new comforter set on it. I went back downstairs long enough to close up the house for the night, then I climbed into my bed and slept better than I have in forever.
The next morning, I woke up around 8am or so. Even through the closed window by my bed, I could hear the familiar sound of the songbirds, chirping away at top volume. I popped open the window to hear them even better. So much work that I thought I would have to do is already done. Now, I renovate a bit and then get on with living. I tell you, Extreme Home Makeover has nothing on Max. She moves fast and she moves well.
Got up to do the usual morning "go take a pee," lifted the toilet seat and had a freakin heart attack. There, looking right back at me, was The Head, it's toothy maw laughing at me from inside the bowl, slightly compressed to actually fit inside. Taped to the inside of the toilet lid was a note from Kurt.
"Here's a little homecoming gift from me to you. Welcome home, man." I had to smile. No way would he let me get by with a freebie. It was all or nothing. That's friendship. Right now, The Head is sitting proudly on top of the computer desk I treated myself to, watching me type this out to you. It's just another part of being home again.
So that's me and that's where I am. Every day, another piece of the puzzle falls into place. It's all good and it's all me.
All the best,
Prior Off-topic Columns
May 19, 2005