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Spokane, WA
This profile photo is my mom and me at the beach--she is 26 and I am about 18 months. LOVE the joy!! I am a mom of three and a teacher; being a teacher means I have to go back and cut the f-bombs. There were a few. Because Alzheimer's sucks badly. This blog, for nine years now--skipping a few while I was too cheap to buy my domain name-- helps me un-peel and process the endless layers of sad woven with weird and--impossibly--comedy.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Black Plastic Box and The Twelfth of Never

   Mommy’s final touch” is what I told the nice funeral man when he asked what I wanted to engrave on the back of a thumbprint pendant that my guardian ordered…probably as a surprise.. but he thought I’d want to use my own words. (I was limited by three lines of eight characters) He wrote it down on a piece of paper next to an envelope that said “IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS” which was the official death certificate. But I had my eyes on the black boxes inside a large gift bag; also black.

I looked at the labels on them after I took them out of the nice gift bag. I took a photo of them and then posted it on Facebook but then un-posted it within ten minutes because it felt too private even for me. I feel compelled to share everything publicly that other people maybe don’t share. But I have to admit that what I count on as a reader are writers who are honest and vulnerable with sharing their crazy ugly and beautiful insights and losses and screw ups and clumsily inspirational imperfections. (Yeah, that’s why I worship Anne Lamott and lean heavily on Joan Didion and Jenny Lawson. All for different reasons.)

Anyway, after avoiding the boxes of remains all day long and feeling that they were haunting me-- I even thought of The Telltale Heart—I finally stopped resisting them.

Now, the ashes are currently heavy on my chest. And I don't mean metaphorically. The black plastic box is on my actual chest while I listen to music from the Spotify mix I made two weeks ago and labeled "Lisa's grieving mix." I hadn’t needed to listen to it until today.

When I first realized I needed to hold the box of Lynn instead of avoid and be scared of it on the dining room table, I actually spooned with it, crying very hard and I could feel pain—a new pain not like the other one on the day she died or on the day I was in the funeral home and she was still cold in a box in the same building. The part of my chest that used to be heavy when she was the sad Alzheimer's patient now feels a distinctly more empty heaviness.
Isabella came up when I was ugly crying and didn't try to fix it or say anything wrong or right she just hugged me. It was very kind and helpful. Off my chest, the heavy box isn't all that heavy. Maybe 6 pounds? Now that I'm just hugging it like an inanimate pal. An uncomfortable but beloved stuffed animal. Next to me, not on top.

The kind funeral manager guy had explained last month that the ashes aren't really ashes. They are ground bones, and whatever else was left after cremation. He says in Washington you have to grind them so they can be distributed in bodies of water and on land without altering anything. Like so many other progressive laws, Washington has a “go ahead and spread your loved ones around wherever” clause. So maybe I will do that. But not today. Not this month, or this season. Jesus now I’m listening to Johnny Mathis. She loved him. I recently added Johnny Mathis to Lisa's grieving mix. "I'll love you ‘til the poets run out of rhyme. Until the 12th of never. And that's a long, long time."

I remembered after I was done sobbing that I should have let scientists have her brain to study it. Now I'll never know if it's Alzheimer's or some kind of other dementia. I had been rattling off my book knowledge about Alzheimer’s for so many years: “Yes, well they can only guess about Alzheimer’s, the only way to diagnose with certainty is to confirm the presence of plaques and tangles in the brain tissue,” I’d explain all casually.

Then again unless a neurologist or scientist was contacting me and wanting my mother’s brain that would have been pretty strange to, what, to have just asked for it and then kept it in a small cooler? I was honestly hating myself earlier today for not thinking of research first.

I’m on the mend. I let my husband back in the room after a good 25 minute indulgent grief session (I sent everyone out stating that they were judging me for my weird methods; snot and tears pouring down my face as I gripped the remains and felt them thud from one side of the temporary storage parcel to the other), and now I am writing down what I wrote earlier today with my black plastic box under my arm as I listened to one of mom's favorite recent songs “Fake Plastic Trees" which is poetic in a way only Radiohead and my brother may truly understand. Anyway. I will do my hair and get out of my robe. It’s 9:51 PM. Turns out my snow day was a bonus bereavement day.
The “Twelfth of Never” is a long time. I do need to pace myself.

Thoughtful young me

Thoughtful young me

Seventies chicks

Seventies chicks
Me and my mom Lynn, 1973

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