Monday, February 27, 2017

Guns and roses

Having heard enough stories about the behavior of family members after the death of an elderly relative—circling like vultures before the person dies and then squabbling like scavengers on the carcass of a dead animal over who will get the choice bits—our mother decided years before she died that we “were not having that in our family.”

So she began making lists of the things she wanted each of us to have, and she didn’t wait until she was dead for some of these things to be passed on.

Some time ago our dad fell and fractured vertebrae in his spine. He spent some time in a nursing home and then recovered enough so he could be moved to a group home, but would never be able to live in the family home again. We moved to that house in early 1960s, and most of the childhood memories of the two youngest in the family are connected with that house. My brothers and sister began the gut-wrenching task of clearing the house so it could be sold.

And the lists came out, and I had a long conversation with the brother who is the executor of the family trust, and he began reading things off the lists that my mother and father had left, making sure that I either had those items already or still wanted them.

I was to get was the butcher knife. The butcher knife? Me? My dad’s sister had given my parents a set of kitchen knives as a wedding present when they got married in 1945. The knife is razor sharp. On the occasions when the four of us have been in the kitchen working to prepare a meal, we would get into good natured “mock arguments” – especially the younger brother and I -- about who was going to get the knife. I think everyone would have liked to have it.

My sister e-mails me and wants to know if I want one of the fine china tea cups my mom loved to collect. She didn’t just collect them and sit them on shelf to gather dust. She gave tea parties and her friends drank tea out of them.

A box arrives. There is the knife, which I will eventually mail to one of the others so they can enjoy it too. There is one of my mother’s teacups...

some aprons, some kitchen towels, the good stainless steal flatware, a stoneware mug I always drank out of when I stayed there on vacation. There is the bobble-head Chihuahua that one of the kids got Dad when it was the Taco Bell promotion. Something is wrong with one of its eyes and it looks sort of creepy.

Another box arrives. Only I have to go to the pawnshop at the end of the road to pick that one up. The two old .22 rifles that our Dad got from his father have arrived. I suppose my brother could simply have boxed them himself and mailed them, and no one would have been the wiser, but he decided to do this legally. This means they have to be shipped from someone with a Federal Firearms License to someone who has a Federal Firearms License, and for me to take possession of them, I have to fill out the ATF Form. I find myself chuckling under my breath as I answer “no” to questions wanting to know, among other things, if I am…
  • a felon…
  • a fugitive from justice…
  • addicted to illegal drugs or controlled substances…
  • mentally defective (well, Richard might have an opinion about that)
  • in the country illegally
And one day a big Mercedes sedan pulls up in front of the house. This man was the lowest bidder at a shipping Web site that my sister used to find someone to pick the desk up and bring it here. He had a truckload of stuff, but by the time he reached Oklahoma, where he lives, my desk was the only thing left and so he wrestled it into his car. I used the desk throughout high school and college, dad took it over when I moved out and used it to prepare Bible study lessons and funeral speeches and wedding ceremonies...

 and now it is here. 

And a chapter in our lives is about to end.

My niece writes:
Said goodbye to my Grandpa and Grandma's house today for the last time before it is sold. While this collage might seem like pictures of random little things, these things are packed full of wonderful happy memories for me. I have so many memories at this house I could fill a novel. From tea parties and puzzles with my Grandma, to snacking on loquats on the bench swing in the backyard and spitting the seeds with my Grandpa, I could fill pages with these memories…

A lot of tears have been shed…

The house has been sold, and escrow is supposed to close on March 2. Another family with two little boys will be moving in. I hope they have as much joy in that house as we had.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Forever 33

As each year passed in our son's life and we celebrated that birthday, the details of what we did become just a tad fuzzy.

We had a party for the extended family when he turned 1 year old, but by the time his second birthday arrived, we had moved to Oregon and we were the only family, so birthdays were rather quiet, usually with just us to honor the day.

The birthday I remember the best was his 4th birthday, when we were in Oregon. He was obsessed with trains – indeed, the first words he spoke that could be construed as a sentence were “go by by car train.” So for that birthday, I took him and the blanket (he carried the blanket with him everywhere he went) for a ride on the Amtrak train. It was commuter train, so there were frequent stops. It didn’t cost that much and we didn’t go very far – maybe 25 or 30 miles. We got off at the next town were there was depot, waited a while, and got on the return train headed back the other way. The joy on his face was worth every penny the tickets cost.

After we moved here, we did take some pictures with the cake at each birthday when he was young, and because we did not have a flash attachment for the camera, these were always outside. It was always chilly, and sometimes there was snow on the ground. Were we taking pictures outside this year for his birthday, we would be in shorts and t-shirts it is that unseasonably hot.

When he was 6, one of the ducks roaming the yard thought we might have something interesting for her to eat. We were somewhat worried that she was going to fly up on the cake pan and help herself, which she was showing every indication of doing. I believe Richard chased her away.

He will forever be 33 years old. Had he lived, he would have been 40 years old tomorrow. I can hardly get my mind around that.