Dear Beloved Mom, Happy Birthday, almost 3 months gone…

This pic of Mom looks much like me
This pic of Mom looks much like me – not sure the scenario or location

February 17, 2017

Dear Beloved Mom,

Well it’s your birthday. Usually I would be getting up and giving you a call to hear you tell me, “Well you are my 1st/2nd/3rd/4th/5th son to call me today” – instead I’m shaking and crying because I miss you so so much Mom.

Sure trying to be *strong* and trying to celebrate you and trying to be positive and trying to be optimistic – which was one of your best traits: no matter how tough things got, you always knew tomorrow would be better – but Mama, I’m worn out and I miss you and there’s no getting around that feeling.

I’ve even tried being grateful for my stupid sickness/syndrome/medical conundrum because the only good thing to come out of this tough stretch for me is, I was able to visit you down in Logan – the town I vowed never to return to after Grandpa died – four times, and held space with you in a terrible nursing home after your stupid back surgery, or when I came and we sat in your office worked on little projects all day. You were so much sharper than me in those days and so patient with me as I tried to get my legs under me while in a fog of prescription meds, confusion and frustration. We did so well together.

When Mom was sick and i was there
When Mom was sick and i was there

On (one of) our last day out together, when you “had 8 errands on the list” and I said “Mom I can only do 2 and have to wait in the car for 1 of them,” we went to two different Mexican grocery stores seeking bones for broth and handmade tamales. Of course the ladies at the stores knew you as you greeted them with your best 4 Spanish words and big smile.

When i was sick and Mom was there
When i was sick and Mom was there

I dawdled behind you like an old man but I was so proud of you but not surprised – People everywhere we went loved you so much because no matter who they were, you treated them with kindness, respect and actual authentic interest. Then, you surprised me with a trip to meet cousins for the first time, Uncle Mark’s boys already in their 20s yet I’d never met. They adored you and I had such fun getting to know them. Kirill and I are buddies online and riff on travels to Japan and renegade projects.

You also took me to see Auntie Mickey – a lovely talk in the same sunny room where later we’d celebrate your life – when I couldn’t handle Sunday supper with all the cousins and excitement. It’s weird to write that because I was the guy who loved excitement of getting to know everyone, making nicknames and telling stories. But you understood and took me on little gentle trips: we drove to Brigham city with Uncle Bob to see his new clinic and I just got to be an observer as you two chatted like you hadn’t seen each other for years.

I made bone broth in your crockpot and you insisted I try to play Jeopardy with you though I’m just not as quick as “old dave”, I know you noticed (and i probably still beat you but who’s keeping score :), when I’d get frustrated at my slowed brain, you’d just say “never you mind dear son, your Mother loves you no matter what.”

Anyway, though your only 2-½ months gone, so much happened,, though in some way seems like nothing as all. Either way, I’ll try to catch you up on everything that’s gone on since that evening of November 27, 2016…

You were off the phone with Dear Anders when the call went silent. For me I would’ve just assumed the battery went out or something, not worried thinking I’d give ya a ring a few days later. Instead, intuitive A. called you back 20 times and suspecting something was up, called cousin Scott who headed over, knocked on your door, then climbed through a window, calling “Auntie Lauralee” so he didn’t scare you.

He found you sitting in your green flowery reading chair in your bedroom, hands calmly at your side, your glasses on and looking peacefully straight ahead with your phone on the floor. He sprung into action, called A. saying “it doesn’t look good” then 911 and followed their instructions with chest compressions to resuscitate you. Within 10 minutes or so the paramedics and the whole parade showed up with all their machines and devices, experience and compassionate, despite their efforts, you were declared dead on the floor of your bedroom. A heart arrhythmia, apparently quick and unpredictable, was the cause.

The details are foggy to me as I didn’t learn about any of this until quite some time later which is in story in itself. Not only was A. the last to talk to you but he was the one that had to tell each of you other sons. It was the worst message I’ve ever received Mom.

Then, the adrenalin kicks in and everything becomes fast forward, hold-on mode. As i know it, Between S. and A., they found your W&T and plan so you were only at the funeral home in Logan for a short period before whisked down to University of Utah Body Donor Program facility in SLC.

Your five sons, each in their own fog, and dealing with it in their own because we are all unique as you let us be, way rushed to be together and to understand what had happened. None of it made sense Mom, I just seen you a month before and you were fantastic, but you were gone and this was nothing to trifle with.

We 5 assembled in a parking lot in snowy cold SLC foothills, not sure what to say or do or how to “be” but we mustered our strength and within moments of gathering, were on our way to say goodbye to you at the UofU morgue (the clinic told A. to came quickly because they needed to do various procedures to preserve your body).

The fellow who greeted us was kind, casual and looked could be Dan or A.’s bonus brother. A husky guy wearing a hoodie with the almost shaved head. He prepared us for what we would see and talked to us about the importance of your donation. We were also proud but was hard to feel it at that moment. For me anyway.

The bit which stuck with me is: you would be “patient number one” for a group of four new medical students. Once graduated, each would go on to treat around 300,000 patients but you will always be number one of millions. Also assured us they treat your body with maximum respect and dignity.

He explained when we saw you, you would look “almost normal except for a little bit of red blotchiness on your face which is normal from the blood settling” or something like that… So, at last, upon my two feet – the feet you created which have carried me all over the world – I took the hardest steps of my life into a room which was, as you would say, “clean enough to eat off the floor.” Nothing like a funeral home with muted tones and bad art and flowers, instead a clinical space with tiled floor, stainless steel counters and plastic dispenser of various embalming fluids.

He gave us all the time and privacy we wanted to sit, pet your hair, hold your hand, kiss your forehead and tell you how we love you. We took a photo of us standing o’er you. Just for us. I took one of your hand in mine. I didn’t want to let go.

He was right about another thing: you looked ready to sit up and say, “well great boys, you’re finally all here, there’s something I want to tell you…”

The fellow also explained when are through with you, finished with you… that sounds strange… your cremated remains would be handed off to Uncle Bob, then to each of us to do with as we wish. Oh and he offered to clip off locks of your hair which four of us accepted.

He also gave us your reading glasses who wore when you came in. So cute! He also explained that “there was one of those eyeglasses retainer….” and we all interrupted with “Chums!” & asked “did they match her outfit?” “Actually,” he said “they did.” Of course.

We didn’t want to leave but we all needed rest, relief and food and to figure out what comes next.

So somehow we arrived in Logan, i say somehow because i don’t recall. Bob and wife set up at a hotel, James and whole family at Uncle Bob’s, and me and D. and A. at your home. It was tough Mom but I/we wanted to be close to you and your things and your life. We know how much you loved your apartment and how hard you worked to make it just perfect. Of course it was spotless and somehow you have thought to stock the fridge for us coming :-) This *was* kind of weird since last visit, you had just enough healthy food for your diet (which you were doing so fantastic with!). However, the fridge was stocked and I remember trying to make some chicken in the crockpot but had no idea what I was doing, just running on adrenaline and emotion and trying to remember to eat.

I set up in your bedroom: slept in your bed, sat in the chair where are you passed. I sat and reached to your bookshelf and put my hand right on Griffin and Sabine (which will come in later in my story) but I quickly realized you hadn’t suffered or flailed around or else books would be knocked down and shelves would be a mess. Then, I looked over at on your credenza and saw your clothes laid out for the next day – I completely lost it had bawled by face off, wailed without restraint seeing your purple shirt, your jeans, your reading glasses and omnipresent chums all laid out. Your simple gold hoops and stud earrings sat by your bed, you were all ready for “another deluxe day.” There were also packages to be mailed, which i knew would drive you crazy if not delivered, notes of to-dos and a life in process. I didn’t want to touch anything or move anything around but, we also had to settle it and somehow live there for the foreseeable future.

In the middle of the night as I do, I sat in the bath for a several hours with a packet of Japanese bath salts found in the cupboard. I thought about a visit when I was first sick and foggy and I overfilled the bathtub, flooding the bathroom, ruining the carpet on the landing, and making a huge mess. I was so upset at myself for making such a stupid mistake and of course you said “never you mind” and we went out on a little adventure to replace the carpet.

While I don’t have tremendous experience any of this (woe the one who does), I knew my brothers and I would each have a different role to play in the coming days. Realizing there were hundreds and hundreds of comments on all different social channels from people far and wide who had heard bits and pieces but of course had so many questions (like we did), I wrote a “script” for a video dispatch to the questions and explain what was going on.

Then, I started to draft your obituary… I knew it had to be perfect but I also didn’t want to do something “traditional” with a laundry list of surviving relatives and places you’ve lived, hobbies, projects, jobs, successes, loves… that would fill up the whole Cache County Herald Journal after-all.

Olson boys send video dispatch about Mom
Olson boys send video dispatch about Mom

Somehow in the next couple of days, your five sons stood in your room, in front of the wall of photos of all of us (and various dogs and cats) through the years and did a 1-take, camera phone video, each reading bits of the script as best we could. Sure the video is an “great” by production standards but we all poured out our emotions and kept it together as best as we could. We know how much people love to you and they all deserve to know as much as we could keep them so we did our best to keep everyone informed It went out to the world and brought some peace, love and understanding to your throngs of global admirers.

Then, we started to think about what your memorial.

Flash forward to Saturday, me still in a fog, somehow we’d wrangled together a plan for a memorial celebration for you at Uncle Bob and aunt Mickey’s sunny o’rangerie room.

Now, I’ve officiated three weddings but this was my first funeral – albeit a non-typical one – as I acted as the conductor/ringleader (for lack of a better term). We knew you would want to keep it fun, cheery(ish), non-religious and full of laughs and stories. Our instructions advised attendees people could wear whatever makes them comfortable, can speak if desired (no obligation, no formal agenda), sure, bring a guitar if you want… whatever.

We came up with a few fun ideas including bringing all your reading glasses – about 30 pair – and all your Chums – about 80 pair – for people to wear and keep as a momento of you. You should’ve seen it Mom, everyone in the room had on glasses and chums, was so cute! Lots of us already wear glasses so we came prepared.

We assembled, arranged the room kind of in a big circle so everyone could see each other for the most part but of course, with all your kiddos and cousins, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, second cousins blah blah blah it was a packed room. We put a child play area in another room so we could keep the ceremony somewhat quiet and respectful as we are all a little emotionally shot, I was anyway.

Live stream of Lauralee's Memorial Celebration
Live stream of Lauralee’s Memorial Celebration

For me, and I suspect my brothers, this day was among the most important of our lives. I sent a message out to the world calling it a “magic day” as we gather to celebrate you. We decided to live stream over Facebook so all the people who chimed in from everywhere could take part. Two of S.’s boys helped as the front door guys to direct people back and K. took care of the phone for the live stream. Oh, before we started, Uncle Mark called and said all his love and it was great to hear his voice – I told him how great it was to meet his boys. I told him K reminds me of him and he insisted that everyone else said it was Yuri who did.

Everyone dressed in whatever they wanted: Bob was resplendent in his dress blue Navy uniform, our dear Danny was wearing a classic Mom outfit of khakis, tie-dye T-shirt, Birkenstocks and of course the chums and specs. James in a rumpled a shirt, droopy pants and tie (i’m kinda teasing but assume i’m correct a little bit) and all his children were angels… Anders in a similar shirt and tie but (of course) ironed crispy and matchy-matching. Due to my rather odd journey, I was wearing borrowed clothes from B. and buddy Dane and faced the day wearing jeans two sizes too big rolled up three times, and a black corduroy jacket which looked like it was borrowed from well… an older brother. I was super grateful for B. as he brought me socks, gonch and t-shirts (B. i’m a solid ‘M’ not an ‘L’) too and Dane hooked me up with some jeans and a sweater.

A rare photo of Mom and all 5 of us with baby Anders
A rare photo of Mom and all 5 of us with baby Anders

Besides all your relations, your pals (who were also my friends), arrived in force to show support. Trevor came down from BC (I promised him first pick of your Birkenstock collection), dear Marty and adorable Willis and wise Larry Harper came up from Utah Valley, lovely Kathryn was there putting a smile on all our faces (and completing her collection of meeting all five of your sons to which I joked that she earned a free sandwich).

We let the celebration develop on its own terms – organically as it were. I shared a handful of quotes from Walt Whitman and H.D. Thoreau and printed out a barrage of messages from people all over the world which really captured your spirit. From Sherry (Gordie’s sister) with a beautiful story about a few kind words you said to her which changed her life, to my cousin Lorelei with her thoughts, to your Agatha Christie buddy Scott from Australia to your college roommate to people we didn’t know but who “sat next to you for a pedicure and stayed in touch” to others who you helped with household treats and presents which you wrapped up individually demonstrating how everyone deserves nice things – there was a great variety of anecdotes and sentiments, but, “nothing sappy” as you would say.

Your son B. shared some Gary Snyder quotes and told a great rendition of the Doc Wisdom story – he and I driving him up to jail in Idaho while he swilled cold black coffee from a milk jug and smooched with a lady you went to Rick’s College with – as he slouched down the hallway, he turned back and declared you to be the most decent person. I had basically forgot about that and laughed so hard.

Dan talked about stealing your Chev Celebrity for a Grateful Dead show and how you set up your dutch oven kitchen and he came back to see a circle of kids and oldsters eating your grub and how we woke up to gunfire when we camped in the desert. The point: you would learn what he liked and adjust yourself to his likes.

James and Cena are read from the book you gave us all “I love you forever” but of course, he changed all the words to make it more personal. It was awful hard for him to get through it even though he is usually such a stoic individual.

Andrew told about how you two would tease each other with jokes and pranks from Asia to Vegas and so many points in between.

Uncle Bob shared some words, and Aunt Mickey an invocation, in their usual gentle way. Cousin Kezia, who carries so much of your bright and big personality, was told boisterous stories with confidence about your surgeries and how you’d offer a little snack to her and her boys with all sorts of treats. You are the #funauntie #greatauntie. Then, Cousin Bannatyne’s husband Scott brought everyone to tears by telling about ancestral research you did about their daughter’s name. As I looked over to hear Scott, a picture of you beautiful in your 20s with a big smile was right in line with Banna’s face. I had never realized how much she looks like you – the blonde locks, the toothsome grin and graceful ease – it startled me more than a little bit.

Bill and Kathy chimed in with but I suspect they were a shellshocked as the rest of us since you had just road tripped with them, driving uncle Bob’s Lincoln to Wyoming or something, the PREVIOUS week with concerns about Bill’s health.

Trevor echoed the story Dan told of stealing car for the Grateful Dead but added about how he got them all caught by leaving his journal in the car. You sent it up to him, with a pair of Birkenstocks, and a note saying that you knew about them stealing the car.

With my dear sensei Larry there, I talked a bit about how we all went to college together – you, me and Bob – and people would ask “is it weird to go to school with your Mom?” And we were like “no way.” It was one of the best times of my life and i’ve had some good times. 

I also apparently had the audacity to mention you encouraged us all and our ambitions, no matter how crazy… but Bob jumped in to say “when I said I was going back to school to be an engineer, Mom immediately replied ‘but you’re no good at math Bob’” bringing more laughs to brighten the mood. There were more of course but, like I said: it was a bit of a fog but it exists on the internet for posterity. I can’t watch it. Just as we are winding down, a lovely lady told an extended story… something about French onion soup. It was just the kind of person you’ve met and helped hundreds of times in your life. Something you taught us, as we all seem to “adopt” people who need a friend or some help for whatever reason. And she said how you brought her into your family and community and how much it meant to her. I felt she was a proxy for so many people you met and genuinely cared about.

Plenty of folks chimed in on the live stream: Lance, Usha, Libby, Helen, and Mac K. from Japan among the viewers. Of course, the comments poured in for days and i was especially pleased to see some of my faves like Ron and Reed chime in. Brought back so many memories. I also gave a few folks personal phone calls.

Akela with her fave Cubs, Beavers, Bunnies
Akela with her fave Cubs, Beavers, Bunnies / 4 outta 5

At the very end, I read the beautiful paragraph you wrote for us boys at the end of your will — my voice was shaking and cracking by then as we wrapped up after about two and a half hours I think.

By then, I was shaking and went upstairs to lie down for little bit and then went and heaved whatever was left in my stomach out – the demons and everything. I pulled myself to go down with everyone who buoyed me up as we took snapshots in front of the lovely lilies Myrna contributed [note: who has these photos anyhow?].

A. had put out a giant spread (with ingredients he and B. picked up at the BX), and, as he explained, designed to be “love plates” of all sorts of little snacks which you would prepare for us. There are miniature quiches, meats (including your fave liverwurst) and cheeses, veggie plates, antipasto, an Einstein bagel station, juice boxes… all deluxe of course and i did my best to try to eat some but I just wanted to hug everyone – which I did, as much as I could – before heading back to your house.

Gang of Pals at Lauralee's Memorial
Gang of Pals at Lauralee’s Memorial

We left the live streaming running for an hour or so after and you can hear all the laughing and chatter and stories coming and going. Tears, yes but also much laughter.

Our two pals from Provo headed out to get ahead of a storm (Larry, your back surgery cohort, camped on the floor) and I said, “I’m going up to lie down for 20 minutes” – I curled up in your bed, actually about 1/5 of your bed because A. had beat me to it, and fell asleep for 13 hours(!). Trevor came back with pizza and beverages to a relatively quiet house (i assume) and saw us curled up and left us alone. He’s such a sweet, sensitive guy and he just went with the flow, so I rewarded his kindness by obliging him to take two pairs of your Birkenstocks!

The next day, “life” started to happen again -– James and family were headed to church, Bob and wife were heading to Salt Lake and then Bangkok so we gathered in the morning and read through the will – we tried to have fun but were little bit baffled because some of us – well me anyway – are a little unsettled in life and not sure what to take and what to do with it all and so on. We all sort of helped each other by suggesting “good choices” and made up lists.

We only went around a few times – maybe because it seemed all overwhelming… how to load up these things and where to take them and how to deal with them. I remember we used to joke around with you when you explained how this would work in your will but nothing prepared us for it really. It is just stuff, lovely stuff to be sure, but didn’t seem to be the point.

Bob helped me arrange a flight to San Francisco to go see Dr. Thomas and pick up some items at Mike’s house and they headed away so D, A and I plus with L., T. and K. headed to Crystal Hot Springs. Dane and his girlfriend Jamielee met us there making a real treat for me to see so many of my dear friends hanging out together… I didn’t have to say a word, just sit and smile and try to let the last few days wash away.

Honestly, I thought it would get easier after Sunday but for me, waking up Monday was the saddest I felt, just empty, beyond melancholy and daunted by the tasks ahead. The pile of your clothes for tomorrow was still there but now the pictures (which I had rehung, levelled and stuck with putty in the corners) had to start coming down, boxes needed filled and the monumental task of dismantling your house respectfully and carefully began in earnest.

I couldn’t really deal so I did the only sensible thing: I walked to the Post Office like you and I have done so many times before. This time, I had a special package of ephemera collected for the aforementioned Nick Bantock… a dossier with a personal letter and all sort of envelopes, tickets, stationary, maps and so on. (Background: After I saw you in October, I purchased one of his original envelopes and began a gentle correspondence with him).

I laughed a little bit at myself that I was using a trip to the post office as therapy as I stopped for a cup of tea before returning home where D. and J. were tearing into things a bit more. D. was feeling ill but we got started making lists of all things that need attended to. With Anders being executor, it was sure a lot for him to tackle but all of us realized we had something to contribute whether getting death certificate, sorting out bills, paying up storage sheds, arranging affidavits and sorting out/liquidating your collections (green glass, agatha christie books, yellow glass, cake pedestals blah blah blah…). Love it all but wow, so much!

Anders headed back down to LV to get back to his job, he works so hard and so dedicated to his little place. We put things for him in storage and in the Sable for another day. And I did the quick trip to SF to see Dr. and I had expected to meet up with some friends for a concert (planned before any of this) but it didn’t happen, so instead I found myself alone in a borrowed house with rain pouring outside feeling just empty and alone and so confused – still trying to reconcile what had happened… So, I watched a TV series about young Queen Elizabeth which he would really enjoy.

Finally, back in my beloved Pacifica, after Drs, met up with Mike for a concert at my fave little bar by his house (where i’d also had a great long talk with Brandon in NYC where he works at the same University where M. & Sachita’s Ishan attends). I even had a conversation with Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys. I wanted to tell him how, when I was 14, my Mom would pick me up from the bus exchange after transit had stopped running on my way back from punk rock shows at 14 years old. I had brought a rather rare record for the band to sign and, turns out they hadn’t seen yet so was fun seeing them excited before I got back on the plane the next day.

Of course everything went wrong with the stupid flight back but Dane pick me up and I camped out at his house for a day or two to recover before heading back to Logan to join up with D. and J. – of course riding the airport shuttle as usual. Honestly it was desperately difficult as the last time I saw you Mom was when you dropped me off at the same hotel stop to catch that same airport shuttle going in a different direction. The picture I took of me giving you a big kiss with your giant smile, the very last moment I touched you, I kept it on my phone, shared it with friends – I’m so glad I have the treasure.

The last time i touched Mom
The last time i touched Mom

An aside about the will: I was proud to be given custodianship for family records and archives and photos and all your journals and books and what not. I will do decent things with all of it though it’s a bit much to process right now.

D. and J. had done a much of the heavy lifting… well all of the heavy lifting and D. had a batch of boxes with all the Cubs and Scouting stuff to go through. We sorted into stuff for James to take, stuff to keep for an archive and distributed uniforms (using D’s detective skills to figure out which was which). Much of the rest we had to get rid of but I will tell you… we went through every piece of paper and every patch and did a great job. Unfortunately D. and J. had taken away all the chairs so it was a bit uncomfortable :) yes I am delicate.

Banna whisked in one day with boxes, tape and garbage bags and then went and got us lunch and came back with a big pick-up truck for a couple of loads to thrift store. The guys had put an ad out on Logan freecycle inviting single Moms, and others in need, to come by and load up with your fantastic kitchenwares, clothes, notions and fabric, after giving the cousins first crack – everyone got to choose their own cake pedestal!

Then, I started into a big batch of boxes from the storage and different parts of the house, well not boxes per se, really those US Mail bins you “borrowed”… about which the post office is going to wonder what happened when all these are returned… And for a long afternoon and evening I went through box after box of your life. I had to steel myself for all the decisions and I’m not skilled at restraining emotions so I set some “objectives” or parameters or something to  try to keep anything irreplaceable, personally created, or permanent records. Oh my so much so hard so many memories! Boxes of church bulletins from a half a dozen different wards, binders of analog clip art and lettering kits, all the projects from Utah Technical/Community College including newspapers you worked on, stuff from your business competitions, and also from your silkscreening and photo classes (which of course I kept for scrapbooking). On and on it went… boxes from when you were a Relief Society President, boxes from Lansing time, boxes from Real Estate projects and classes, certificates, awards, galore. There was also all your day  planner books made from elementary school notebooks with cards stapled and lists written in your distinctive cursive and papers tucked in of all kinds. I really know who’s son I am when I saw those booklets. Mom, I gotta tell you, some of the stuff I had to chuck, actually a lot of it, but I kept so much and everything “important” and did my very best with each artifact. The archive from those early days in Utah were maybe the toughest. I had to grow up quick and learned to support you in ways i never expected to.

Funboy was feeling better from sickness so encouraged me along, but still lots of moving and action everywhere. After yet another trip to the storage to get our heads around what was left and what was needed to do, Cena headed north with the kids and D. and J. had filled up a trailer and their van truck and headed out the next morning.

Then it was just me and Logan. By this time I was frazzled about what to take and what to store and what to wear and a bit numb from it no doubt… argh! So I called Larry and asked him to come up and help me get out of there and enjoy a little bit of respite (we’re 2-½ weeks on at this point. So a day or two later he came up and helped with the last task I really took care of which was organizing all the Agatha Christie books. Out of boxes and into all the collections, onto all the gorilla racks and photographed to get ready to sell somewhere, somehow. We asked your friend Scott from Aus to help at least figure out what to do plus I collected addresses for your various fan clubs and associations to inquire if needed. I kinda wish we could keep the collection intact and donate so there is a Lauralee Library somewhere. We’ll see.

Then, one more trip to storage, one more trip to the thrift store, one more trip to Uncle Bob’s to drop off keys, one more trip to the post office… and finally La. and I went on a quick little road trip. We stayed in a yurt one night and a little “Grandpa Motel” the next night. A few diner meals and conversation provided relief but soon we are back in Logan for “just a few more things” before Salt Lake. Then I realized I didn’t know what I was doing next, where I was going or anything.

So I headed up to stay with Ed and Ellen in that little town on the Olympic Peninsula to ride out the holidays which I knew were going to be tough for me. They had nothing going on, no hoop-la, no commotion (and they encourage me to sleep as late as I want without any judgment). They could tell I was a little shellshocked for sure but treat me as their own kin. Somehow I rolled through Christmas and New Year’s with them. I really I don’t remember much – just holding on.

I spent a few days in Port Townsend at an old Victorian hotel I like then, via Seattle ended up at Dan’s house in Surrey by way of another airport shuttle. There, in some sort of coincidence, Bob was there using some leave or something so we had another impromptu reunion with a pierogi dinner with four of the five boys. I knew Andy would hate missing out so we made him a little video as we continued our decompression. Some days went by with D.: we made food, watched sports and movies, ran errands, did tasks around the house then somehow, I was in Victoria with Drs. appointments and insurance phone calls and more picking up and dropping off some storage. Just sleepwalking through it all. I tried to reply to the hundreds of comments from all corners during this time but I just didn’t have it in me after a while. Too many Band-Aids to pull off.

But, there’s a pleasant story: I went to meet Mr. Bantock. I toted along your copy of Griffin and Sabine and told him the story of what the past month. He was so incredibly charming kind and friendly to me and it’s the first time I’ve talked to someone about my epistolary literature, collages and scrapbooks as “art” rather than just craft. He asked for your name and Mom, without me asking, he signed your book to you and me with a pen selected from his rack, finishing with his own inky stamp and designed postage stamp. His studio was so neat with old card catalogues filled of all sorts of ephemera. I asked him questions about the process and fine-tuning and his background as a legit fine artist (which I certainly am not) and talked to him about providing some more mentoring for me. It was a moment of grace in a sea of chaos for me.

Original Art by Nick Bantock
Original Art by Nick Bantock purchased my me

So, I’m just kind of been floating Mom though I did a couple of other activities:

Two of my old pals from Hootsuite were getting married and I attended to their fancy wedding t Point Grey country club – so excited to see some of the old gang and there was bagpipers(!) along with hugs and stories and I couldn’t stop smiling. I faded after a couple of hours and slipped away but felt like I’ve been reunited with my tribe and told them “one of these days…”

The next day my old friend Chris took me to a First Nation traditional sweat lodge… I was a bit nervous but one Chief teased me and they all made me feel comfortable. The other Chief had lived in Japan years ago and had some great stories to share. Inside the igloo-sized hut with a dirt floor covered with cedar boughs and glowing red rocks, I said a little prayer of sorts for you Mom but it was probably more for me as I tried to just let the anxiety and the sadness leave me.

I realized it (the sadness) won’t, certainly not right away, and maybe I don’t even want it to. I don’t want to let you go. Of course, I know that as long as your boys are kicking, you are still alive – each of us has so much inside.

So now I’m down staying with A., now I’m looking at a stack of your boxes and packages shipped here (once we got the mail forwarded after the smallest estate affidavit) packages of clothes you ordered. We will return them of course and there still more to do… we sent out a big round of letters to all the different accounts and diligently working through the list to close out this and that. I thought it would be easier, this logistic part, I used to be so sharp and eager on this kind of stuff… I’ve even meant to switch your Facebook account to “legacy mode” but each final step is just another final step.

I also have the form to get your plaque engraved at the special monument up in the SLC Avenues. It’s at the cemetery where I used to park my VW bus when I lived in it going to University of Utah. It’s not far from the Stoneman’s family house too, so hopefully we’ll see some of your cousins when we go for the memorials… there’s one in May and one in August, they’re different somehow but I can’t figure it out exactly. Also, we have the option of buying a paving stone. Quite exciting :-)

Here in LV, A. is of course so sweet to me and he’s doing great with his place and makes us tasty healthy meals. I think he’s glad to have a buddy around as he misses talking to you on the phone on the way to and fro work.

I sat in his hot tub for four hours yesterday thinking about what to write to you. I talk to you aloud often, and I second-guess the things I kept, stuff that went away, I regret not making a little video of your house just as it was. Oh, I took one little momento which I keep with me: a ink stamp saying “first class mail” I took off your desk. I hold it and stamp it when I’m feeling very blue. I think each of the guys probably took a little something to hold onto.

I forgot to tell you about the obituary: it turned out great which I’m so pleased with because I was so nervous that if there was some crappy grammar or something off in it, that would be the “permanent record” for all the future generations of Lauralee’s doing their research. The morning the paper came out,… it’s a little foggy right now but the point is it took us going to four different convenient stores to get six copies of the paper. Sheesh.

Lauralee's Obituary
Lauralee’s Obituary in Cache County, Logan Hereal-Journal

In honour of your little notebooks, I made a scrapbook with other bits and pieces I collected from you. The scrapbook itself is one I made for you with a “Clue” boardgame as the backer board and one of your silkscreens of “Hyrum Barn” as the cover. The page with your obituary has the header from the paper, a little black-and-white photo of me as your little boy, and this Obit blurb saying how you are a world traveller, a beloved friend to so many, a trusted confidant and you loved your boys and we loved you so much right back. We used a recent photo from when you and A. visited with B. in LA. Your hands are clasped and excitement, probably about to eat something delicious, your eyes are bright, your hair is cute and your glasses are hanging around your neck. Uncle Bob wants a copy of the picture to hang in his house next to Grandma.

In the days after the ceremony, so many of the cousins and everyone else had different posts and tributes up about you. Dear Cousin Heather posted a photo of you, Uncles Mark and Bob sitting on the couch just a few months ago. (Uncle M. even gave a call to A. to remind him to be patient with doing all the estate stuff… “Take all the time you need gaffer.”

There’s something else going on today Mom,… the Monday after we read the will, Bob got word he is the U.S. Navy Engineer of the year or… I’m sure there’s a more official military name… And the date for the ceremony is February 17. So, in a world suddenly become a bit, comically and caustically chaotic, your son Bob will dress up in the shiniest duds, probably getting a free meal, and some sort of award in Washington DC. Pretty special the timing of it all.

You’ll love knowing all your boys have stuck together during all this aftermath with no arguments, quarrels or for shyster deals (that I know of anyway :-)) I’ve even been on the phone with James talking about his real estate marketing, his new logo and that sort of stuff. It feels good to help, although he doesn’t need to much as he’s doing great it seems.

Mom, I know this is going to take a long time. When went through it with my Dad… We saw him fade over the course of six weeks and, by the end, i/we wanted him to let go because we saw the suffering and pain. I was able to say so many things to him at the end and he did his best to say things to me. He was never super expressive but my point is that these were such drastically different circumstances and I’m still feeling the first one when this one came along.

When your Dad, my dear old Grandpa died, I recorded a big batch of poetry in Lynn Canyon on my favourite Varley trail and I’ve still not edited those files… let alone his cassette recorder “life history.” Then, after my Dad died, poetry came out of me (although I was in a medicated fog during much of that, but still it came out easily).

Now, I just feel empty. I know you want us to all be strong and move on and live our lives and celebrate you and make you proud but honestly I just want you back. I get a little ticked at your Doctors as there is some ambiguity and mystery about some medication which I don’t totally understand but we didn’t hear from him, or I didn’t anyway and I figured nothing is bringing you back. So instead I put on my headphones and listen to a special playlist featuring an album by Tanya Donnelly – who I liked back in the late 80s and 90s – and has a new three LP set which I loop through. Seems to fit my melancholy. That plus a few select Grateful Dead songs which remind me of the trip we took to Arizona and how you were so great in the parking lot with your Dutch oven’s making enchiladas and stew for all the wandering old hippies. On the way back, we stopped in Hurricane, Utah where you loaded up on Chums at the factory.

Of course, when I’m feeling blue I just want to talk to my Mom but I can’t pick up the phone so I’m writing you this letter to tell you I miss you and love you so I’ve cried so many tears and had the hardest time just getting up, putting on my big boy pants and going out to the world.

And of course, I’ll need to make at least another trip to Logan to clear out storage because in my insanity, clearly, I couldn’t let your breakfront cabinet go anywhere else. I may not have a home but I have a lovely six piece display cabinet! All the pictures and artifacts and history are still at storage and one of these days something will become of it all. But it’s not happening today, not this week, not this month.

Anders has the day off so we’re going to do stuff you with love starting with going out for a fruit and yogurt breakfast and then taking a drive to somewhere neat – of course you’re with his Mom. He got his car all cleaned up and we tidied the house too. We’re always recounting your expressions and imitations of all kinds.

Dave hustling candle business
Dave hustling candle business

I learned so much from your Mom, going through the box of all their “Bright Idea Company”… our decorative candle business, and seeing photos of little me with striped shirt, big glasses and crooked neck in the basement of the 154th St. house, rolling candles in glitter to then get up the next day to head off to some craft market. In fact my first newspaper appearances (a portend  of things to come) are me selling candles (shirtless) at Whatcom county fair circa 1977, and me in a leprechaun outfit standing in front of you, with your big smile, while I look rather distraught at being roped into entertaining for St. Patrick’s day at an old folks’ home. You insisted I loved it so I’ll just believe it. It’s probably that I just didn’t like sharing the stage :). #ham

There’s so much more to tell you Mom, about some stuff that I’ve done medically, more tests, some different treatments and my brain is working better than in quite sometime. There’s no way I could’ve held up through this six months ago – I was (relatively) present the whole time… by my standards anyway meaning I didn’t “crash” until after everything critical was done. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still get easily overwhelmed and get sensory overload, my eyes get big and glassy, I start stuttering and can’t get my thoughts out, get dizzy and nauseous, twitching and shaking muscles. However, I’m better at seeing it coming and and dealing when episodes come.

Best for me to keep my life as simple as I can, but honestly I’ve never been good at doing so. You always taught me to bite off life in big chunks, always be there when people needed me, always using my talents to their fullest, to seek adventure of various kinds, but now I just need to feel a little peace and stillness.

I Love You Forever,

your baby Davey

Me and Mom, a great pair from day one
Me and Mom, a great pair from day one

2 thoughts on “Dear Beloved Mom, Happy Birthday, almost 3 months gone…”

  1. Oh, DaveMan. As I press letters on this machine after having read this particular tribute to your mom, I am reminded how easy it is to disintegrate or to integrate life. Right now, I am a bit delaminated and attempting to find a way to bring the disparate oddities and desperate grabs at hope together again in a weave that will take me though to the next stage. Your words and experiences are a balm and a bristle. That’s the way it ought to be; and the process of reintegration is given lift by that beauty mind of yours…

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