Friday, August 20, 2010

going back to clean out the house, part 2

I stop at the bank to give my brother one less thing to do. “I need to leave some information about my mother's estate...” I tell the woman. “And when I say 'estate,'” I mumble to myself minutes later as I head back out the door, “I mean the 650 square-foot rental full of dust and expired toothpaste coupons.”

Most of the sorting, of course, is paper. The things I found in my mother's house. I really can't decide what is more precious:

The envelope addressed to the White House, stamped and ready for battle, or maybe the DVD titled “Life or Debt: Simple Steps for a Lifetime of Financial Freedom”...still unopened.

The business card of a “Middle Eastern dance artist,” or mom's current membership card to the NAACP.

Mom's passport, renewed and up-to-date, without a single stamp in it other than the invisible seal of optimism, or –and this could be the topper— the lyrics to “Born to be Wild” handwritten on looseleaf.

Magazines about living with Diabetes, wrist braces, neck braces, canes, walkers, prosthetic breasts, I toss each in turn into the donation pile, with the same mantra: “Well, mom, you don't need these, or these, or these. You're free now.” It should make me feel better, but it doesn't.

The phone rings and I see from the caller ID it's the consolidation company that paid out on her bills. They aren't collectors, no harm in talking to them, and so, I do. When I inform the woman that my mother is unfortunately deceased, she stops short and sounds genuinely sorry. I leave her with my brother's phone number. When we're ready to hang up, she expresses her sympathy once again, but then just can't help herself, “Have a great day!” she effuses.

I find an old Polaroid of mom from some Halloween past, dressed as a devil and hamming it up for the camera. I tape it at eye level to the door jam so devil-mom can watch over us as we sort through her books. In my delirium, I find this somehow hilarious, though my siblings don't get the joke. “What is that? Why is that there?” one or the other of my sisters keeps asking. “Is that Rita?” Better it were a photo of her with the same impish grin holding a whiskey sour instead of a pitch fork and toasting us while we sweat in the hell of her tiny house, the ceiling fans all dangerous blades, the monopoly game up for grabs.


Dianne said...

the passport makes me sad kiddo
but then the lyrics on looseleaf paper make me happy
as does the letter to the White House - that is so so Bobbie

love ya

Daryl said...

(((Kitty))) .. trite as the 'have a great day' but .. I really have no words, its still too raw

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