Monday, April 20, 2009

Funerals, floods and furnaces

This is what has been occupying my time of late. Singly, I can handle anything, bunch them all together and I enter siege mode. Isn't there a quote: "April is the cruelest month."? If it's not April that's mentioned, I'm officially changing it, right here right now. We began the month with the passing of my mother in law, she'd been declining for a while but it's always hard, no matter how prepared you think you are.
I have decided that I am going to leave instructions with a friend to remove things like photo albums and good furniture from my residence upon news of my passing, then they will be instructed to burn my house down. I don't want anyone to know what kind of stuff I deemed worthy of saving in life. After a weekend of cleaning out the apartment, we learned a lot about my husband's mother, things I doubt even her children knew. We found over 300 jigsaw puzzles, nearly a dozen cans of Pledge, four George Foreman grills (four?), and upwards of ten jars of peanut butter. These along with a huge collection of glass beads and probably a hundred or so homemade potholders. What she possibly have been doing with these items in such amounts? I did a reassessment of the stuff I have squirreled away and realized my family would probably wonder the same thing about me. Even though I haven't picked up a crochet hook in about five years, I still have a large cache of yarn. I keep books that I've read and liked because I just KNOW I'm going to read them again...I haven't. I cannot bear to throw portraits (school pictures and such) away, even when they're the tiny little mini pictures that you don't give to anyone. Something about throwing my child's smiling face into the trash can is simply undoable. I have a lot of cookbooks, even though I rarely use them for anything other than occasional reading material. They do make me look like a real cook, though.
My family has a weird and sometimes inappropriate sense of humor that surface at odd moments. Usually somber occasions like funerals can become moments of stifled giggles and shaking shoulders. We have learned over the years that places like mortuaries tend to bring out the worst in our morbid humor. There's a running joke in my family about nubby plywood or knotty pine caskets. Here's the thing, you can actually get knotty pine. My beloved and his siblings decided on cremation, which opened a whole new world of receptacle shopping I never considered beforehand. You can actually buy a casket in which to cremate your loved one, these range from top of the line: satin lined and pillow provided to, and I swear I'm not making this up, a cardboard box. The latter, of course, set off a number of things in my sick little brain and it quickly became obvious that my beloved has become infected as well. We spent nearly an hour not once making eye contact.
Urns are another matter entirely. They also range from a plastic box ($200) to urns that can double as coffee table art ($950). My personal favorite was the sculpture of dolphins frolicking in surf...I'm not even sure how this one opened and it remains a bit of a mystery. What do you say when your bridge club comes over and admires your new art? Why thank you, Lois, that's mother in there, would you like a cookie? You can also buy "keepsake" urns, tiny little urns (maybe three inches tall) into which they put a bit of your loved one's ashes. Those perplexed me a bit and I was thankful my beloved opted out of that one.
The day after the funeral, the river that runs through town began to rise, and we spent the next few days filling and placing thirty pound sandbags in the near freezing temperatures. We moved everything in the basement up as high as we could, items like the Christmas tree ornaments were living in the dining room for a while. God bless Rubbermaid storage cardboard boxes for this girl! We dodged a bullet this year and other than some street flooding, came out pretty well.
The final test of my mettle came about three days after the flood scare in the form of a furnace that decided to give its final warm breath. Really? I mean...REALLY!? I left the world of coping nicely and entered Rambo mode "Is that all you got?!" Bring it on. WOLVERINES!!!! Yeah, whatever. I curled up in the fetal position for a bit there and sucked my thumb before digging out every space heater I could find (can't WAIT to see my electric bill this month). I'm really really really really ready for spring, how about you?