Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Making their house my house

I inherited my parents’ house last year when my father died. They moved here in 1985 and lived in it for 33 years, and everywhere I look, I see their choices: some furniture, art, wallpaper, countertops, paint colors. Last weekend I actually looked at another house for sale in our community and fell in love with it for three reasons: it’s completely renovated, has a screened in porch, and would be mine, not my parents’. But I couldn’t give up my huge triple window that looks out on the golf course. I don’t play golf, but after years of living in apartments, the expanse of lush green feeds my soul. Plus someone else takes care of it!

So now I’m looking at my house to see what changes I can make to turn this more into MY home and not my parents’. I haven’t been idle, there have been changes, but other things I’ve said I need to change have just sat there while I delayed making decisions. Partly that’s because I was worried about costs, and about my complete lack of experience in managing any renovation projects. And partly because some of the things I thought about getting rid of may be things my brother wants – unlikely, but still. And a large part was simple inertia.

But it’s time now. I took down all the remaining wall art that belonged to my parents that I didn’t really like so I can see blank space and start to picture what will go there. I’ve been having fun searching Pinterest and websites, reading up on decorating options and getting ideas. I’ve watched HGTV for years and know what I’m looking for, though there are certainly things I could miss.

Living Room: I already bought new lamps for the living room and am starting to look at different furniture options. And the window here also needs a window treatment, probably a cornice to match the dining room. I’m keeping the carpet because it’s what I’m used to from apartment living, and the off-white walls work for me. I did make changes to the white brick fireplace and hearth decor, but there’s way too much furniture that doesn’t match or match me.

Opposite the fireplace is a three-piece dark wood bookcase unit that has been exactly in that spot for almost 35 years. I hadn’t really thought about getting rid of it until my brother said it sucked the light out of the room, and then wham! I saw it was true. So I put it up on our community newsletter and sold it. I have something else in mind for the space but it would need to be assembled – and I could hire someone to do that for me, because I don’t think I’m strong enough to manage it.

Dining Room: My giant McKnight poster is going up here, which will transform the space. It’s hard to hang alone but I’ll have help this weekend when my brother and sister-in-law come. I also ordered two framed vintage travel posters to flank the huge window in the dining, prints I’ve been looking at for almost 2 years. I removed a leaf from the table and will pack up the china and silver service from the china cabinet, to go to my brother’s house eventually for his children if they want it. I don’t hate the chairs but I do hate the chair SEATS and need to figure out how to get them recovered. And the window needs a window treatment that’s too high for cats to destroy. A cornice would fit and there’s fabric I love that might work.

Kitchen: Lots of thoughts here. It’s a huge space with an eating area and acres of dark wood cabinets and tile countertops. I’ve thought about painting the cabinets white, painting them two tone, or not painting them at all, which what I’m thinking now. But the wallpaper is definitely coming down and the countertops need to go. And if I don’t paint the cabinets, I can use the savings to spring for new flooring, which is also needed.

Bathrooms: The biggest problem with the bathrooms is the wallpaper, which is original to the house. And it’s butt ugly to me. Yes, I would probably enjoy a new vanity and sink, but really what I want is to paint over the very dated walls – and put a pivot door on my stall shower, because I’m not turning the jetted tub area into a big roll-in shower as long as the cats enjoy playing around it. But the red and white striped master bath walls have to GO.

Exterior: I want to screen in part or all of the large back porch. Mine is the only house in my block on the golf course side that hasn’t glassed in the back porch to make more living space – but I’m one person and certainly don’t need extra space to heat and cool. Screened porch, though, would be a wonderful treat for me – and the kitties – to enjoy the outside without bugs. I also need to have someone punch a hole in the brick exterior by the garage to I can vent the dryer to the outside instead of inside the garage.

So I have plenty of things to look at and into. I need to decide what I want so I can then get some cost estimates to work out a budget and see what I can do now and what needs to wait. I’m very lucky – my father left me not only the house but also some savings that I can apply to the renovations.

It’s time to do this and not just think about it.

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Requiem for my parents

Saturday night I sang the Durufle Requiem in concert with about 80 other people plus orchestra. It’s gorgeous music and is based on chant motifs that move lyrically from voice part to voice part. I sang it once before in Boston with the Trinity Choir, which served me well with this new performance.

I realized on Friday, as I sang along for the eleventy millionth time to a recording, that I could let go of that and just sing it. It’s in my bones now and I barely need the score to know those weird notes to pull out of the air after 8 bars of time signature changes. Being able to just sing it freed me to feel it and realize that I was singing this Requiem for my parents.

Mom’s birthday is this week and Daddy’s was two weeks ago. Mom died in 2014 and Dad passed away last May. We had memorial services for both, of course, but their ashes have been sitting on the dressers at my house waiting to move to their final resting place at Cathedral in the Pines. Dad wanted Mom’s ashes nearby and since it was a comfort to him, that’s where they stayed. He would talk to her sometimes, as would I. Last spring he was finally ready to let her go so we bought the plaques for their “condos” as he and Mom termed their niches in the columbarium, but he passed away before we could actually inter the ashes. And it was too hot and logistically complicated to do it when Daddy died.

We are finally seeing them to their final rest next Friday, and my brother and I have cooked up a service from elements of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist traditions. I mostly just want them to be at rest and not in my closet (I moved them off the dresser when I got my baby kitties, since nothing is safe with them around). But I feel like I’m back in the limbo time between the death and the service. I want to get this done. I want it to be over, for them to be at rest. It’s the last thing I can do for them, other than just live my life well.

So keep them, keep us, in your prayers.

Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord;
And let light perpetual shine upon them.
May their souls, and the souls of all the departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

And from the Durufle Requiem:

IX. In Paradisum
In Paradisum deducant Angeli,
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.

Chorus Angelorum te suscipit
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternam habeas requiem.


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52 Ancestors – #7 How My Parents Met

If you spend 10 minutes with my father, you hear the story of how he met my mom. It’s his favorite story in the world and I’ve heard it a million times. But it’s still a good story. In his words, verbatim and for the record:

Engaged

“I went to Duke University and I was poor. I didn’t have a nickel. One day when I was a junior, a fraternity brother on my hall asked me if I had a date that night. I said, ‘Sure do,” and he asked me if I’d like to make it a double date. He had a car. Oh boy, that was something! So I said, “Sure.”

“The women’s campus at Duke was 3 miles away from the men’s campus. We drove over and picked up my date first, then we went to pick up his date. When she came down the stairs, I took one look at her and said to myself, “Oh, my GOD, that’s the one I want!”

“The next morning I called her at 8:00, the earliest time you could call the women’s dorm, and I asked her out for a date that night. She said yes. And that was it. Neither one of us ever dated anyone else for the rest of our lives. She was 17 years old. My Peggy.”

Now wasn’t that a good story?

 


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The Parents are Already Home

Mom and Dad at Mystic SeaportI had a wonderful visit with my parents this last week.  They arrived late due to a flight cancellation, so we ended up missing 1.5 days.  We didn’t have big sight-seeing things lined up, since we did so much on their last visit.  More of our time was spent catching up and talking about everything, having computer lessons, watching movies, and going over family genealogy (I’m the record keeper in the family).  Our biggest outing was to Mystic Seaport, which was celebrating an 1876 anniversary commemoration of the

We lived in New Jersey when I was growing up, and my mom grew up there as well.  We moved away in 1970, which is a really long time.  But Mom and Dad have stayed in touch with friends from their days there, and on this trip we visited with two of them – Phyllis from NJ (last seen 39 years ago) and JoAnn who was in K-12 with my mom (last seen 61 years ago).  It was fun to see them pick up almost as though they’d seen each other yesterday.

As for me, I always worry about managing my food when I have company.  I sometimes eat weirdo off-cycle meals, with bigger lunches than dinner, and I didn’t know how that would work with the parents here.  But it actually was fine.  I found my way to a Friday WW meeting, since the Saturday ones were cancelled because of the July 4th holiday, and that helped me reinforce eating carefully.  Which didn’t stop me from having a Friendly’s happy ending sundae when we went to Mystic on Saturday.  It was yummy but not as good as I remembered and I don’t really want another. That’s progress.

I was aware as we talked this weekend that I was probably more honest with my parents than I’d ever been about my weight and life as a fat person.  It wasn’t defensive or argument, just not hiding who I am anymore.  I told my mom when we went out to lunch and looked at eating on the patio, that I was afraid I would get stuck in the flimsy chair.  On another day, my worry that I wasn’t sure I could actually walk from the distant parking down to the dock where we’d hoped to get on a harbor cruise.  My honesty about how hard it was to find clothes that fit that I actually liked, and that I wouldn’t be wearing shorts out in public because my legs are so lumpy.

We also spent time talking about weight loss surgery.  My packet of information arrived from the surgeon’s office in response to my doctor’s referral.  I am to be assessed by a clinical nutritionist and a psychologist, and answer a long questionnaire from the surgeon.  I also picked up a copy of Weight Loss Surgery for Dummies (thanks, C, for the recommendation!) which will already be a good resource.  My parents are 100% behind me in making this choice and understand the need to lose weight before I can have the knee surgery I also need (Dad had a double-knee replacement 8 years ago so he really gets it).

When I got home from the airport after seeing the parents off, I ran around doing laundry, tidying up, changing the bed, paying bills, cuddling with Tessie.  Some of that was done through tears.  I never know when I see my parents if I will see them again.  I’m almost 55 years old and incredibly blessed to have both of them alive, active, healthy and aware.  But time marches on and I know there will come a time when I won’t have them to hold and love and support.  Now matters.  So do they.


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Quick Vacation Check-in

My parents arrived at 6:30pm, a day and a half after their original schedule.  We had a nice visit in the car (they loved my new little Prius and I was shocked to find out that Dad thought I had a blue one) and a late dinner of Crockpot Salsa Chicken.  Yesterday was a lazy day with lots of visiting and a driving tour that included a stop at the Union Station, where  Dad got a dry run for today’s train trip to D.C.  Word is that he was reassured and found today easy.  Good thing, coz we could just drop him off and keep going.

Mom and I drove down to meet an old high school friend of hers that she hadn’t seen in 61 years.  They met each other in kindergarten, which kind of boggles my mind.  They reminisced and told stories and had a great time.  It was fun to watch them.

The kitty is still pretty spooked by the company, spending a lot of time under the bed or crouched in meatloaf position on the floor of the bedroom listening to voices and checking out the situation.  I hope she gets comfortable soon coz they’re dying to cuddle her and I need a pic of us together!


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The Parents Have Airline Problems

The Maids Working InsideAlmost everything on my to-do list is done, except polishing a few silver pieces that came from Mom’s family.  Yesterday was very busy.  The Maids arrived as a team of 2 instead of 4 (people were sick) but they cleaned up a storm and everything looked and smelled fresh and beautiful.  I’d tidied everything in sight before they arrived, partly for them and mostly because my parents are coming and I want things to look uncluttered.   I might even be inspired enough to keep this up on my own for more than a week 🙂

After The Maids left, I did a run down Dixwell, ticking things off my list:  1. Get gas.  2. Carwash (which undoubtedly caused the torrential rain later).  3. Buy wine.  4. Stock up on groceries.   And after all of that, I did three loads of wash, leaving me clean towels, sheets and clothes.  Phew.

But then around 8pm, my mom called to say that the airline had cancelled their 6:30am flight and rebooked them on Sunday, putting them into Hartford at 5:45pm, almost 18 hours after their planned time.  I know they are upset and confused, but at least they weren’t stranded in an airport for days (visions of my Christmas trip delays at Newark Airport flashed through my head).  They can relax today and leave tomorrow at a humane time instead of having to wake up at4:30am.

AirplaneThe airline reassigned them to new flights but they don’t have seat assignments and were in a tizzy beccause online the seats showed as full.  At least I knew to tell them that seats are held back to be assigned at the airport, but I made some calls to American and confirmed some info, which I passed along, as well as the 800 number for customer support. I have it programmed into my phone and I’ll make sure Mom has it in her cell phone when she’s here (she hasn’t figured out programming in numbers yet).

So instead of having a packed morning ending with a run up to BDL to pick my parents and a full day with them tomorrow, I have today and most of tomorrow to myself.  Not what was planned but I can enjoy the very clean and tidy apartment and my kitty, who is mostly recovered from the trauma of having a team of loud people invade her little space.  Maybe I’ll throw in a trip to BJ’s which isn’t exactly a visitor’s destination, but fun for me.


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Family Politics

My parents (and brother and sister-in-law, for that matter) are right-wing Texas Republicans and I am a liberal New England Democrat. We usually avoid discussing politics because I usually feel outnumbered and attacked, and out-gunned in the argument department. Well, my brother is a lawyer and they can be hard to argue with because they just like to argue.

It’s been interesting over the last year, though, to hear snippets of political opinions sandwiched in with our regular calls. Bush has cratered in their eyes as the war dragged on and the economy slid into recession, squeezing their retirement funds. They simply cannot stand Hillary and don’t trust Obama for all kinds of reasons, including that mud-slinging email making the rounds. While they don’t like McCain, they can’t bring themselves to vote for a Democrat.

Tonight, though, I heard something different in their voices — a recognition that the world has changed in ways they don’t like or understand. Frustration that U.S. kids know less, study less, achieve less than students in countries that have been beneath our competition in the past, places like India and China. Sadness that McCain’s sacrifices in Vietnam are being discounted. Determination to sell off Exxon stock before the new administration penalizes the company and drives down the price. Uncertainty about the future and what it will be like for me and for their grandkids.

We will not agree on politics. They will vote for McCain and I will not. I might kill Hillary myself if she doesn’t bow out and let the Democrats start figuring out how to deal with the general election instead of the current madness. I’m already sick of all of it. There are big issues facing this country and the fears and concerns that bother my parents also bother me. Well, maybe not the Exxon stock one. I want to not fight a war or have an election that goes on for 2 years and just get on with addressing those issues. They’re not going away on their own.