The Wreckage

Mom’s and Dad’s house is empty of the objects that made it our home.  In fact, worse — the built-ins have been torn down with the most ginormous crowbar and sit as wreckage in the living room. 

The apartment looks like sullied shambles of an ordinary place. 

But it isn’t ordinary.  It is where our young lives happened and generations argued and celebrated, laughed and cried, welcomed new life and mourned those who died. 

And it is ok that realtors fix a value to a life-battered, empty, and unrenovated space.  The price is what the market will bear.  Memories don’t add value.  How could they?  They are only priceless and unique to us who lived them.  And those memories — the love and hurts and pain and epiphanies (few) — don’t live there.  They live in the three of us — my siblings and me.

So, on Saturday, as we schlepped the last boxes of slides and books that HOSOB (husband of sister of blogger) so lovingly packed up, POB (partner of blogger) asked me if I wanted to take down the mezzuzah on the doorpost of house.

I couldn’t.  At the time, I didn’t understand my visceral “nooooooo!”

Later, I realized that removing the mezzuzah was the final, symbolic gesture that would transform my parents’ home to a vacant apartment up for sale.

But, at the time, I knew it was too much for me to bear.  And too much to do alone.  It was a moment that needed all of us kids to do.

So, I will wait for SOB (sister of blogger).  Next weekend, she and I, with our brother on the phone, will take down the mezzuzah.  We, three.  Together. 

And, we, three, together, will close a chapter. 

Lessons Learned Oddly Applied

Growing up, Mom and Dad made sure every visitor felt welcome in our home with a (proverbial or actual) warm and welcoming embrace. 

And our cultural, religious and family traditions had to follow suit.  My parents never cared much for tradition that didn’t honor everyone, engender both joy and remembrance and welcome the stranger.

I remember, at one Passover years and years ago, a relatively new friend of Mom (she made friends every day, even in the elevator or on a City bus) came over for her first Passover seder and brought something that she had made and  . . .  

WAIT FOR IT, WAIT . . .

there were noodles in it.  [NOT kosher for Passover.]

It was a shock to all of us that someone would make something homemade (especially to my mother) because, after all, we lived in New York City.

SIDEBAR:  No one “cooked” except for Mrs. Travers (of blessed memory) who made the same cherry Jello mold with fruit since the early 1960s.  Don’t laugh because it became so “groovy retro” in the 1990s.

So my mother was charmed and mortified all at once. Still, what to do about the noodles?

Without missing a beat, my mother put the noodle dish on the Passover table.  As everyone sat down, she thanked her friend for bringing it and advised those observing the Passover dietary restrictions that this was not a dish for them.

Just as it is written that, each of us was liberated from the land of Egypt and we eat the Hillel sandwich of the matzah and maror signifying the bitterness  of slavery and other symbolic foods, the Blogger family ate the matzah, maror and some pasta and veggies, in observance of our tradition and our parents’ rules about joy and welcoming the stranger in our house.

Fast forward twenty or more years to Dad’s Shiva.

Ok, “Shiva” was only one night, so it doesn’t even meet the requirements of the name, Shiva. And, a female rabbi who looked about 11 years old led the service. 

And THEN . . . .

My brother beckons me to the kitchen. 

SIDEBAR: It has taken many years but I think that my brother and I are in a good place.  I know we love each other.  And, I have a deep admiration and respect for him.  And, he is just so adorable and handsome and funny.

“Hey, E . . . . ” he says with his Texas drawl.  “SOB’s [Sister of blogger’s] birthday is in two days and we are going back to Dallas. We brought this birthday cake with these crazy striped pastries on top.  Like the ones Grandma and Grandpa used to bring from the bakery in Brooklyn.”

The following things ran through my head:

BIRTHDAY CAKE. 

SHIVA. 

A HOUSE PARTIALLY FILLED WITH MEN WEARING KIPAS,

A 12-YEAR OLD FEMALE RABBI LEADING MINYAN.

TRUMP THANKING MY FATHER FOR HIS SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY [see earlier post].

MOM.  DAD.  PASSOVER SO MANY YEARS AGO.

THE LOVE OF A BROTHER WHO DIDN’T WANT HIS SISTER’S BIRTHDAY TO GET LOST IN REMEMBRANCE OF DAD’S LIFE WELL-LIVED.

“BOB [Brother of blogger], great idea!!  Let’s wait until the Shiva minyan is over and those who would be totally offended have left, OK?”

So, when we thought “the coast was clear” and some of SOB’s friends were still around, out came the birthday cake, with candles and everything.

Also? It was GREAT cake. (Just sayin’.)

And, courtesy of BOB and his family, there was joy for us three kids amid the sadness.  And we bent the traditions so far back that they almost broke in two — but not quite.

And Mom and Dad smiled down.  They were proud. 

And the three of us?  We would not have done a thing differently.

Lessons from My Father

Dad died peacefully in his bed, with his children around him.

The last of our greatest generation.  The last of the generation who grew up in poverty, fought in the wars that American won, worked hard and, with the help of the GI bill and public education, lived the American Dream.

And, most of all, Dad was a good, kind and loving man.  And, as the rabbi said, he was an extraordinary, ordinary person, who felt so fortunate in life and was always ready to share with others less fortunate.

The Shiva candle burned for a week.  That final day, I watched as the flame flickered and weakened.  I was scared that I would lose Dad as soon as that candle went out.  As the day wore on and the candle was finally extinguished, I knew that I needed to make sure that the best of Dad lived on in me.

And he was a whole lot nicer than I am.

Today, I was on the subway heading to work, and torturing myself with reading my siblings’ beautiful eulogies and listening to Ode to Joy (Himno de la Alegría), which I played for Dad in his last days.  Ok, not Jewish, but I wanted Dad to leave this world with stirring music. (I also played Psalms as is our tradition).

I got off at my stop (Penn Station) and walked quickly to the staircase.

There was a man blocking the staircase.  Everyone, including me, was exasperated that he was slowing us down.

But, I felt Dad put his now immortal hand on my shoulder, and I looked more closely at the man.  He had a cane and looked far too enfeebled for his age.  He looked like the many of the people in Penn Station — a little shabby and a lot down on their luck.

And I could tell he could not figure out how to manage his suitcase while negotiating the stairs with a cane.

“Sir, please let me be of assistance,” I said more as a statement than a request.

He looked at me, somewhat suspiciously and then somewhat relieved.

“Let me carry your suitcase down the stairs right behind you.”  He nodded.

We descended the stairs at his pace.  Many people behind us were sighing loudly in frustration. I didn’t care.  Even though a few minutes earlier, I was one of them.

We reached the landing and he looked unsure how to get out of the subway labyrinth and into Penn Station.

I pointed him in the right direction, but realized that there were more stairs, so I took the suitcase and deposited at the top of the stairs, so when he finished climbing them, the suitcase would be waiting for him.

At that point, I think he was getting uncomfortable with my help.  And I also knew that there were no more stairs until he had to board his commuter train.  So, I directed him and shook his hand and wished him a safe trip.

I dedicate these moments of kindness to my Dad because while the candle’s flame went out, the example of his life is not extinguished.

I love you forever, Dad.

New Year’s Day in the Coffee Shop of the Undead

Ah, life in the Coffee Shop of the Undead is, well, hanging by a string.

Back story: http://40andoverblog.com/?p=5641; http://40andoverblog.com/?p=4858; http://40andoverblog.com/?p=5701; http://40andoverblog.com/?p=4435

Maybe not life, as much as sanity.  Ok, not sanity so much as functional insanity.  Life in the Coffee Shop of the Undead is measured by the functionality of those with dementia and other neurological disorders.

I guess it is also measured by physical compromise.  If you aren’t crazy, then you are most likely so enfeebled that, if you make it to the place from your house, you (actually, your home health aide) should do a victory lap around the (tiny) place.

So where else would Dad go to see his friends?  Regardless of Dad’s daily level of crazy, which hit the nuclear contamination levels today, he tips his hat to the elders already seated.  For over 50 years, some of them were just passersby on the street, but now that they are the surviving remnant, they acknowledge each other.  Others, like Marty and Joan (the kids of the group at mid-to-late 70s) get a real greeting.  Dad reserves the warmest greeting for Sam, his old friend.

But Sam wasn’t at lunch today. Always a worrisome sign.  Sam has Alzheimer’s and some other dementia diagnoses, but like any disease, he can function some days and not others.

After we left the coffee shop, we bumped into Sam just outside.  (I am grateful that Dad and he have known each other for so long that, even with his mental disease, he recognizes Dad (and us)).

We greet Sam.

Sam says, “I have some very bad news.  I was going to call.”

SOB and I hold our breaths.  Is it his companion, Norma?  Is it his ex-wife? His daughter? His granddaughter?

Sam continues.  “My brain is not working so well.  I have issues now.”

SOB and I exhale at the same time.  THIS IS NOT NEWS. EVEN TO SAM.  HE JUST CAN’T REMEMBER THAT IT ISN’T NEWS.

Dad — even with his nuclear-level dementia today — didn’t miss a beat, “if you would like company, we will come over or, food, we can bring it over.”

SOB and I marvel at the way Dad can summon the man he was for a friend in need. 

The man he was.  The totally addled man he is.  They live side-by-side in the same body.

That is why it is so hard to handle the bad days.

Because there will be good moments to give a child hope.

And then, a moment later, the child wonders where her daddy has gone.

 

Life with Father, episode 16

At the Passover Seder, brisket is served, because:

  1. the majority of the attendees are, well, carnivor-tarians;
  2. we have delicious things for the vegetarians, vegans and those gluten-free; and
  3. G-d did not deliver us from Egypt to eat turkey.

Dad likes a thinly sliced and lean brisket.  I like thick slices of the marbled cut, so it is moist but not fatty.

SIDEBAR: Also? I cannot cut brisket in thin slices.  I suck at it.

Dad is quite forgetful nowadays; yet, he is capable of moments of startling clarity.   Especially concerning the cut and the slicing of the brisket.

In the run up to the Seder, Dad instructed me any number of times about how my slicing is too thick (dare he say, in-elegant? (yes, yes, he dared)) and that the meat was not lean enough.

SIDEBAR:  Tell it to the poor grass fed cow who guest-starred at dinner.

When it came to the stressful moment when I had to cut the brisket, my hands were shaking.  And, as the meat crumbled under my slicing, I was almost in tears that Dad would notice the disastrous cutting of the brisket more than anything else about Seder.

Seder seemed to go well.  Dad ate his fill and was in a good, if disconnected, mood.

I spoke to him this afternoon.  As he complimented me on my leading of the discussion about the Exodus from Egypt, he also mentioned the “crazy style of food” at Seder.

My heart sank.  I couldn’t hold it in.

“Daddy, I am so sorry about the crumbly brisket and the thick slices.  I just can’t cut it the way you do!”

“Well, darling, why didn’t you ask me to cut the brisket?  I would have been happy to.”

UH OH. It is a delicate balance: elegant brisket AND a deranged old man with a knife or safety and not so pretty brisket.  I know, it is a toss up.  

“Dad, let’s discuss this next year, ok?”

“Ok, darling, but it will look and taste a lot better . . . .”

And so we add another prayer to our Seder:

Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha’alom, asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav vitsivanu al slicing of the brisket.

Blessed is G-d, Sovereign of the Universe, Who hallows our lives through commandments and Who has commanded us regarding the slicing of the brisket.

Happy holidays.

 

The Future is Bright

I am executrix/administrator/trustee/attorney-in-fact for quite a few in the elder generation, whether alive and dead or, frankly, somewhere in between.

When ULOB died, he had no will.  So his only heirs at law were those immediate blood relations who survived him — SOB, BOB and me.   The word, “heir,” has a connotation that one sits back and someone unknown official throws money and jewels at such lucky heir.

Now, back to reality.  There was an apartment to clean out, assets to be gathered, debts to be paid and tax returns to be filed.  And that means that at least one person has to step up and seek appointment by the surrogate’s court as administrator.  Translation:  At least one of SOB, BOB and me.

I drew the short straw.  I don’t actually think we had a contest.  I think SOB and BOB met when I was in the bathroom and decided that I was in charge.  At least they apologized.

And so, I became the court-appointed administrator for ULOB.  The gathering of assets and paying of debts were not difficult.  Figuring out the fate of the annuities that named the two women of his life — AROB and POULOB — as joint beneficiaries, was harder.

SIDEBAR:  All I can say that if AROB and POULOB had both survived ULOB and I had to divide these annuities between the two — well, I would not think so kindly of ULOB.  AROB (z”l) made life less uncomfortable by predeceasing ULOB.

And then, there are three tax returns — one for the year in which ULOB died, one of ULOB’s estate and one that I have to file as the fiduciary of his estate.  Every one of these measures different periods and sometimes counts the same money.  “Whatever,” the three of us say, it isn’t going to bring ULOB back to life so we pay unto Caesar that which the Tax Code says.

Except we didn’t know much about ULOB’s finances.  I chose to continue using ULOB’s long time accountant to make sure we covered everything.  Continuity is important in these matters,  And, because ULOB’s accountant was probably older than ULOB, I also have a lawyer overseeing things.

I sent the stuff off to ULOB’s accountant and hadn’t heard in weeks.  I emailed the lawyer, wondering if perhaps the elder CPA had  . . . .  Luckily, he emailed me that day.  “I am missing social security and pension information.  Can’t do returns without them.  Also need 1099s through date of death.”

SIDEBAR:  ULOB never had very steady work, so who knew he had a [as it turned out, miniscule] pension?  And because I am also consumed with Dad’s taxes, I forgot about the 1099 for social security.  That was my oversight.

Aaargh.  The latter request was easy.  But what pension?  And the Social Security Administration?  The mail had stopped coming long ago.  Oy Oy Oy Oy.

KILL ME NOW.  I WILL MAKE IT EASY AND LIE IN THE MIDDLE OF SIXTH AVENUE.

I looked in ULOB’s decrepit files and figured out the pension source.  But I had to email my siblings.

From: [Blogger]
To: [SOB]; [BOB]
Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2014 16:23:25 -0400
Subject: [ULOB]

 

So, I learned that [ULOB] got a pension from the Equity League.  Trying to get a 1099.  Also, on the phone with Social Security Administration for a 1099.  I am never being anyone’s executor again ever. [emphasis added]

 

I thought that was a clear statement of my intentions and future wishes.  In retrospect, I should have had a court “so-order” it.

Actually getting the 1099s were time consuming but not difficult (but absolutely bloggable –especially at the SSA office — at another time).  [P.S.: if anyone needs a guide through the morass, just call or email me.]

In four hours, I got both replacement 1099s.  In triumph, I sent an email to my siblings:

 

Got’em

[Blogger]

Sent:

Thursday, March 27, 2014 12:51 PM

To:

[SOB]; [BOB]

Went to the Equity League pension office AND the social security administration and got both missing 1099s!!!!!  I am basking the glory of a productive day.  (although not so productive from a career perspective.)

 

 

But still I do not want any more responsibilities, especially since managing the world of Dad (may he live to 120) is a constant project.  And then SOB, ever the protective older sister, sends me a reply email, gently quieting my fears about the future, all the while adding an additional burden:

[Blogger], Thank you for managing all Dad’s finances and [ULOB]’s will and finances.

I’m sorry but  I listed you as my executor, but don’t worry as we will both be demented and incompetent so you will be excused from the task. [emphasis added]

 

Love,

[SOB]

After a moment of shaking my fist at the screen, I laughed out loud.  SOB always brings me back to the proper perspective.  We will both be in our 90s (G-d willing) and then . . . who cares?  I will be executor.  No problem, SOB.  Bring it on.

The future is, indeed, bright and carefree, after all.

 

Life in No-Fi

We all await the excitement of that moment — that one moment in time — when we are actually in the “4G air space” so we enjoy the rapid connectivity for which we pay extra every month, but never actually receive because we live in a “3G” world.

But I don’t always want to be connected.  I also dream of “unplugged” time during which I can relax and think deep thoughts and ponder the universe or my navel (whichever), over wine, music and a barbeque.

And then I spent a year one week in Wainscot (a sub-township of East Hampton) where Verizon has no “G”s at all.

None. 

Zero. 

Not a “G” within miles.

To get one bar of “G”-ness, I had to go north, cross a highway filled with aggressive sports car drivers and go in the direction of the North Fork.  I am glad that Verizon services the crunchier, family friendly North Fork, but Verizon must take pity on those souls who do not, by choice (rather for familial obligations and homesteading), inhabit the tonier side of the highway.

For work-related calls, I had to drive around for connectivity and then find a safe place to park.  I got so desperate that two bars of connectivity was a G-dsend.  When asked where I was — just to have idle chit chat until all parties to any given call dialed in — I simply could not mention that I was parked in the lot right near the King Kullen supermarket and, as luck would have it, in front of the liquor store.

Yes, yes, the Hamptons can be glamorous.  For some.

Being disconnected was not so bad, except for the essential people whom I needed to call or with whom I needed to be in contact.

But talking on the phone was unbearably like that commercial, “Can you hear me now?” except there was no “good” following the answer.

Only, “You are breaking up.  Text me.”

Which even worked for SOB, one of the most technically un-savvy 50-something year-olds I know.

But not for almost 93 year-old Dad who isn’t so great on the phone anyway.  Even when I had THREE bars in Montauk, it wasn’t enough for Dad.

Hello?

Hey, Dad! It is [Blogger]!

Helloooo?

Dad! It is [Blogger]!

Helloooooo?

DAD, DAD, CAN YOU HEAR ME?  IT’S [BLOGGER]!

Yes, darling, how are you and everyone there?

SIDEBAR:  If he can’t hear, then he can’t remember.  So, he didn’t really remember where I was or why or with whom.  Then everything goes to shit.  I get why the phone is hard on the elderly.

We are great, Dad.

Who is there?  Where are you?

Dad, we are away for a week.  There is bad reception.  Can you hear me?

Helloooooo?

DAD, DAD, I will text [SOB] and she will call you and let you know what I said.  ok?

Ok, sweetheart, where are you now?  Hellooooo?

CALL DISCONNECTS.  My heart sinks.  I have only confused my Dad, not helped the situation by checking in.

I text SOB.  I must speak to Dad through an interpreter while I am in No-Fi land.

No-Fi land.  A land of legend and dreams.  Of gods and monsters.  Of serenity but also of being with the person you have become.  Good, bad and, sometimes, ugly.

Still, I yearn for this land.

Or so I think.

No-Fi is in the future — when I don’t worry about parents but my loved ones and children (who may be aliens, depending on age and stage) are with me (which may mean building a compound for the multitudes).  But therein lies the rub.  If I am not worried about my Dad (or aunts and uncles, or fake aunts and uncles), then that means they are gone.

So, I guess I would rather live in Wi-Fi for as long as I can.

No-Fi is not uncomplicated.  It is a place you go to heal after life’s journey relieves you of some of your most beloved companions.  And the quiet forces you to think about who you are and what you want to become.

Yes, it is easier to be connected.

Oh, the relationships we find in this City

Unfortunately, our family has frequent flyer miles at a particular funeral home.  We all hope that it will be a while until we need these services again.

ULOB was buried on Friday.  Yesterday, I received a call on my cell phone from an unrecognizable phone number.  Usually, this is not a good sign.

It was Frank, the man who assisted us in the recent burials of AROB and ULOB.

SIDEBAR:  Uh oh, I thought.  And, then, I thought, is the Grim Reaper REALLY “phoning it in”?

Frank called to make sure that we were happy with the funeral home’s services.  He also wanted me to know that he was dropping a customer satisfaction survey in the mail to me and that he is available when we were ready to deal with the headstones and any other internment needs.  Really?

I know, you are all thinking of the personal relationship I have with MiniStorage (see http://40andoverblog.com/?p=5153 and http://40andoverblog.com/?p=5168).  Well, there is another relationship I didn’t mention…..

With Disaster Masters.  When it looked like ULOB might be able to get out of the hospital and want to go home, SOB and I met with a consultant who prepares homes of elderly people for assisted care.  He has a whole shtick, he visits the house, takes pictures, gives an assessment, and tells you what he can do and what he can’t do.

“‘Clean’ is a bad word. This place will never be clean.  You see that yellow on the ceiling?  That’s from 60 years of smoking.  We are going to try to make this place habitable.  Let me state even more narrowly:  habitable so the home health attendant doesn’t do the ‘I quit dance’!!!”

And then Mr. Disaster Master demonstrated — spinning around with hands flailing in the air.

ULOB was off the respirator and possibly leaving ICU and I was so scared that he would be discharged before we had time to sanitize the place.  Mr. Disaster Master wasn’t in a rush — probably because he has seen this before so many times.  At first he only wanted to speak to me because I had power of attorney, but when I wanted him to make the place habitable whether or not ULOB ever came home, he only wanted to speak to SOB, because as a doctor, she understood the vagaries of life and post-trauma health.

I congratulated him on figuring out who was going to be his ally.  And I told him that, nevertheless, I wanted a plan after the weekend (I had given him a downpayment).

I sent him a reminder email over that weekend, to which he responded:

“[Blogger]:

I need to learn how [ULOB] is doing physically and mentally.  These issues often change people.   Can he do the stairs after this trauma?  The PT and OT people should be TOLD that he lives in a tall 4 flight walkup when he gets into rehab.  These places generally only give one hour a day and ½ of that is billing time.  We want to assure that he is well up to speed. If not, then we may be looking at a downsizing move for him.  When I understand exactly what the deliverable is I will then be able to provide the right solution.  Till then we just play the what-if game and that is a waste of time for all of us.

Best, [Mr. Disaster Master]”

This guy sounds like an infomercial spokeman but, whoa, he could read a situation.

  • Anxious nieces.
  • A disgusting home.
  • A dying uncle who would, assuming that he survived the hospital stay, would surely die if he couldn’t go home to his disgusting home.

He knew so much about us — SOB, ULOB and me — in that hour that we were in ULOB’s apartment that it was eerie.

I really believe that he knew that ULOB could never go home again and he didn’t want to prey upon my willingness to throw money at the situation on the off-chance that ULOB pulled out a miracle.  It was frustrating in the beginning to feel that he wasn’t in a hurry, but he said it was because he knew his business.  And I believe that.  And he just didn’t think that his services would be needed after all.

Ron Alford (ron@theplan.com) is the one to call when needs like these arise.

He is a good man in rough city who helps people during heart-wrenching times.

Seinfeld and the Gang — Part 3: The Love Hangover

Every generation has its sci-fi flick about hell having no fury like an artificially intelligent computer scorned.

And, because I am partial to women, my own personal horror flick would probably have a robot/computer who looks like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (www.imdb.com/title/tt0093010/).

NOTE TO ALL:  I really do not spend much time thinking about this.  Really.  No, really!!

All I can say is welcome to our new family relationship with mini storage.  On Saturday, both my cousin and I engaged (grudgingly) in the ceremonial coma-signing of more paper than anyone could imagine for less than 100 square feet of real estate (even in New York).  On Tuesday (today), we were both sent TWO questionnaires about the quality of service and attention and our overall experience when renting the storage space.  I guess the computer really wants to feel the love.  Whoa.

SIBEBAR:  Maybe, my cousin, who is straight, would agree on my choice of Glenn Close.  Note to self: ask cousin about his ideal pyscho stalker.  P.S.: try not to freak him out by the question.

We exchanged ooked-out emails about the incredible attention paid to our mere rental, albeit on the NEW 9th floor of the facility.

SIDEBAR:  I am thinking about the movie adaptation:  trapped with the devil on a non-existent floor of an apartment building . . . maybe a twist on Rosemary’s Baby?  Paging Mia Farrow (even if you looked like a pre-adolescent boy in that movie and really DID marry Woody Allen).

I told my cousin that maybe he should have thought to send flowers and candy, because they know where we live.  He did not respond to that email.

SIDEBAR:  I am thinking that I don’t have to worry about whether or not I will freak him out.  I already have.

But, hey, I am still not as scary as a computer in need of love and affection.

 

Seinfeld Gang and me, Part II

Picking up from the prior blog entry:

SOB and I park the car and go to AROB’s house.  Our cousin and his wife are already packing things up.  This is a hoarder’s home.  Don’t look too closely.

photo(6)

 

We box up anything and everything of value — sentimental or otherwise.  We load into the BIG F’ING rental car and we all drive down to the storage place.

SIDEBAR:  Did we ever determine whether I needed a trucker’s license and a tattoo?

We arrive at the storage place. I had two emails from Alan Dumpit, my reservation number and the memories of two inane conversations to poison my mood as soon as the guy behind the counter welcomed us, and wanted to understand our storage needs.

“I told this all to Alan Dumpit!”

“Why are you not smiling at me? [I was not!!]  This is all good.  Alan isn’t here and I want to welcome you and make sure you are getting what you want.”

“I want a storage room big enough to store a one bedroom apartment equivalent of stuff.”  [Of course, if we were talking about all the stuff crammed into that apartment, then I would need a McMansion sized locker.]

“Who is renting the storage space?”

OMG.  SOB [sister of blogger] doesn’t understand why I am foaming at the mouth.  She doesn’t know the whole back story.  [Until she read it last night in the last blog entry.]

“I am, but it will be under my cousin’s name.”

“So, I should be talking to your cousin,” and, as he turns, I realize my poor cousin is a sitting duck, “Let’s discuss what your needs are . . . .”

After I watch my cousin endure the “creation of the storage relationship” phase for 30 minutes, I take pity and I interpose my credit card between the men and offer to move on to the paying ceremony.

photo(3)

Oh no no no no.  We had not begun the ceremonial paper signing phase of the new relationship.  That required two storage consultants to get the papers and involved initialing obscure provisions everywhere in the documents.  My cousin and I were not exactly robo-signing; I think we were more probably coma-signing. I was waiting for incense, holy water and Aaron’s priestly blessing.

And, of course it was a very, very special day because, we were told, it was the grand opening of the 9th floor of the building.  Still, no discount; instead, overpoweringly toxic paint smells and near-deafening drilling noise.

Finally, we were all initiated into the storage community, complete with the ceremonial handing over of the dead bolt.  I was, in fact, a little disappointed about the absence of incense, holy water and Aaron’s priestly blessing (especially since the latter is in this week’s Torah portion).

We ran to claim the dollies to haul the stuff. Or, rather, we ran FROM the storage consultants.  We unloaded the behemoth of a car and did a quite respectful send-up to Four Stooges and The Marx Brothers, as we dropped boxes, scraped the newly painted walls and drew a little blood from each of us.  The race to the elevators from different aisles was kind of fun, too.

Finally, we, the FAB FOUR put AROB’s [Aunt R’s] valuables and effects in a safe (if toxic) place and closed that dead bolt, baby.  (SOB, photographer.)photo(2)Relief and laughter broke out as we got back into the BIG CAR, and I asked, “any other justice need dispensing? We have the car until tomorrow!”

To review:

  1. AROB was buried by two cornerstones of family (her chosen family and her family of origin) in a plot that will have her headstone.  CHECK
  2. ULOB’s rights, etc., are resolved.  CHECK
  3. AROB’s sister is being looked after and my cousin and his wife are rehabilitating the souls of a generation who neglected her.  CHECK
  4. Apartment to be given back to Landlord.  HALF CHECK  (some things need to happen).

SIDEBAR:  But first, after this day, we needed some wine and hors d’oeuvres.

And I think for SOB and me, through this excruciating process, we have accepted that AROB had flaws that recalibrate our views of her present but don’t tarnish our visions of her as a hero of our youth.  I know I have gone from harshly judgmental to willing to allow that there may facts I will never know that may be kinder to her choices.