Saturday, May 3, 2008

Mom's Legacy

When I returned to work, I wondered how I should've spent my bereavement time. By then it was too late, and I felt as though I'd wasted it. I imagined turning back the clock to do it over again. I'd talk with our Pastor. Or look for a copy of Grieving For Dummies. But what's done is done. Sadly, I have no recollection of the three days that I took off from work.

All I really remember about my mother's recent death is the very low-key memorial gathering that my brother hosted. My brother-in-law arranged the catering for it. It was held conveniently on a Saturday, so I didn't even need to take time off from work. No one officiated with a prayer or eulogy. My mother didn't want any fuss, not even an obituary. She got her wish.

This was in stark contrast to my father's passing twenty years earlier. There was a wake and an immensely moving funeral mass, attended by nearly everyone who ever met him. Even my closest coworkers were there. I remember shopping for a casket and grave marker. I tossed rose petals into the grave just before shovelfuls of dirt rained down on the casket.

There was one other vivid memory I have about mom's last days. It was when I visited her in the hospital. She was re-admitted to the hospital because her cancer came back. I hadn't seen her in nearly a year. I'm glad I stopped at the ward desk to ask a hospital attendant to take me in to see her. I did not recognize the old, thin body that was in the bed. I was sure I was in the wrong room. But when her familiar green eyes opened and she spoke, I realized it was her.

She was thin because cancer had spread into her abdominal area. She felt nauseous all the time and couldn't keep food down. She was tired and seemed confused. When I left, I knew it was our last visit together. I walked back to my car overwhelmed with grief.

My brother and sister are cleaning out the house now. I went back a few weeks ago to help.

We learned one aspect of her personality was that she was a professional complainer. We learned this because of scrupulous records that she kept of phone conversations, letters and refund check stubs (many for small amounts like $0.99) with companies whose products were defective in some way. So there were stacks and envelopes filled with carefully kept notes. It was important that we not discard whole stacks without first going through them. Mom kept money in the oddest of places.

She also collected anything that folks might want to use for crafts: yarn, egg cartons, frozen dinner platters, whipped topping tubs, glass jars, pipe cleaners, ice pop sticks, etc. Again, each of these objects needed to inspected. One stack of egg cartons had some jewelery in one of the middle cartons. My siblings must've already tossed the toilet paper rolls, or we have not found the stash yet.

Growing up, we had no inking that it was unusual for a person to keep such collections. In fact, it was really convenient for when we'd have a project that required dozens of buttons or bottle caps. There was not a thing she couldn't produce if you asked her. "Hey mom, where's that old blue and white striped shirt I used to wear about eight years ago." It wasn't a question of whether she still had it, but where she'd put it.

But with the three of us out of the house, mom's hoards grew. So even though my brother and sister did a great deal of clearing of things, the house looked even more cluttered than when I last visited. At one point, she stopped having people over.

All I can do is wonder. Was her life so empty that she had to fill her free time and space with acquisitions? What could she have done for a local school, library or senior center with all that time and energy? How would our lives been different if she had treatment for OCD and hoarding?

At first glance, mom's legacy would seem to be a house filled with hoards. But I see now that her legacy is my own tendency to hoard, which, admittedly is not a good thing. But with that comes the motivation to eliminate my own hoards and fill my free time and empty spaces with love.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Fun With Puns

I came across a file with these puns in it just now while looking for something else. It's dated 1998-01-19, so they've been out there a looong time. Still, if you have my amazing ability to retain information, you'll probably think they're fresh and new. Enjoy...

Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, but when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank - proving once and for all that you can't have your kayak and heat it, too.

Two boll weevils grew up in South Carolina. One went to Hollywood and became a famous actor. The other stayed behind in the cotton fields and never amounted to much. The second one, naturally, became known as the lesser of two weevils.

A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He sidles up to the bar and announces: "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw."

A neutron goes into a bar and asks the bartender, "How much for a beer?" The bartender replies, "For you, no charge."

Two atoms are walking down the street and they run in to each other. One says to the other, "Are you all right?"
"No, I lost an electron!"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm positive!"

Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused his dentist's novocaine during root canal work? He wanted to transcend dental medication!

A group of chess enthusiasts had checked into a hotel, and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?", they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."

A doctor made it his regular habit to stop off at a bar for a hazelnut daiquiri on his way home. The bartender knew of his habit, and would always have the drink waiting at precisely 5:03 PM. One afternoon, as the end of the work day approached, the bartender was dismayed to find that he was out of hazelnut extract. Thinking quickly, he threw together a daiquiri made with hickory nuts and set it on the bar. The doctor came in at his regular time, took one sip of the drink and exclaimed, "This isn't a hazelnut daiquiri!"
"No, I'm sorry", replied the bartender, "it's a hickory daiquiri, doc."

A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree and reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter. The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows readers digest and writers cramp.

There was a man who entered a local paper's pun contest. He sent in ten different puns, in the hope that at least one of the puns would win. Unfortunately, no pun in ten did.

The friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to help raise some funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, the rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. He asked his mother to go and ask the friars to get out of business. They ignored her as well. So the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close shop. Terrified, they did so - thereby proving that... only Hugh can prevent florist friars.

A man goes to his dentist because he feels something wrong in his mouth. The dentist examines him and says, "That new upper plate I put in for you six months ago is eroding. What have you been eating?"
The man replies, "All I can think of is that about four months ago my wife made some asparagus and put some stuff on it that was delicious... Hollandaise sauce. I loved it so much I now put it on everything - meat, toast, fish, vegetables - everything."
"Well," says the dentist, "that's the problem. Hollandaise sauce is made with lots of lemon juice, which is highly corrosive. It's eaten away your upper plate. I'll make you a new plate, and use chrome this time."
"Why chrome?" asks the patient. The dentist replies, "It's simple. Everyone knows that there's no plate like chrome for the Hollandaise!"

Recently, a man in Paris nearly got away with stealing several paintings from the Louvre. However, after planning the crime, getting in and out and past security, he was captured only two blocks away when his Econoline van ran out of gas. When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied " I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh!"