Thursday, August 23, 2007


A Long Haul...


"How long can babies cry like that before they break something?" my big brother asks as we wend our way north through the darkness the night of our arrival. The baby hasn't been crying that much, actually, but BB isn't used to the noise. "How can you stand it?" he asks me more than once during my visit. But all I can think is, I was going to ask you the same question. How CAN he stand waking up every morning--or afternoon, as the case may be--to a house devoid of all human sounds except what he makes? Not for the first time, not for the thousandth, I am so grateful for my family, and filled with such pity for my brother. After all, I'm the only immediate family he has left.

My pity doesn't stop me from being a little shit, though. As we walk through the door of my parents'--my brother's--house, I am astounded by my view of the kitchen. Or rather, by the obstruction of it. The main counter--actually, all of the counters--are completely obscured by a mound of mail that has been accumulating, I'm sure, since I left after the funeral.

"I'm a little behind sorting the mail," BB says, evidently competing in the Understatement of the Year Contest.

I stare at him. "Good God!" I cry. "That pile's got to be two feet high!"

He gives me a sour look. "Oh, don't be such a dick with your exaggerations. Bet you can't wait to write THAT in your blog, 'Well, my brother has a stack of mail two feet high. And let's not forget about the dead cats in the freezer!'"

Her Lovely Self's head nearly swivels off its neck at this news. "There aren't…are there?"

But I'm too busy rooting in my parents'--my brother's--junk drawer to answer. I fish out a tape measure.

"God forbid I be accused of exaggeration," I say, pulling out the yellow tape. At its peak, the pile of mail on the main counter in the kitchen measures 28 inches.

"I'm going to bed," BB grunts, shaking his head. "You guys are in mom and dad's room."

HLS gives me A Look, and I'm reminded that I promised I wouldn't be hard on my brother. I can't help it. I'm forced to admit a hard truth: I don't want to be here. But as co-executors of the estate, BB and I have to sort through my parents' accumulated possessions and try to come to some kind of value. We also need to start figuring out what gets saved, what goes to Goodwill, and what gets pitched. Before any of that can happen, we need to haul years of accumulated crap out of assorted sheds and crawlspaces.

"And I just know I'm going to end up doing most of it," I tell HLS as we get into bed. "When Mom and Dad first bought this place, BB and I were supposed to spend our mornings working here, tearing the place out for the remodel. But most mornings, it was just me. BB would show up around 5, just a little before Dad would get home, so it looked like he helped. Pissed me off."

"Well, that was 20 years ago. And this is different," HLS says. "He's going to help."

But in the morning, BB is gone, leaving me to start humping boxes out of the attic. And leaving HLS (and the baby) to start wading through two feet of mail.

It's going to be a long four days.


This definitely doesn't sound like the most fun trip ever. However, I'm confident in your ability to Get Things Done.

It does strike me as slightly amusing that you would end up being in charge of getting rid of someone else's CRAP, though.
So...were there?
There could be....

How many cats did your Mom have at her maximum? Was it.... 18????

Didn't you say they had almost all died off?

Are there recent departeds in the freezer after all??????
MM, 1st. take a deep breath, it is going to be a long week. 2nd, remember you have HLS, Thomas, 1 Brownie & an Eclair to fill/ease your days. BB has himself & a very empty house. I know you BOTH suffered an unthinkable loss, but he looks at everything left behind every day. What I'm saying is sometimes people get stuck when faced with large emotions & if avoidance is already an art form....kid gloves my friend. You are way more 'en smart enough to get your point across without being a "little shit" by Gorry! I wish you all well with a tough task.
I've got to tell you - I just LOOOOOVE the fact that I can cruise pon over here and find something new just about every day. I am in love with your longer pieces, but knowing there'll be something here is good enough for me.
Been there, done that. Is no fun at all. I hope in the midst of all the junk you find a treasure or two.
Been there myself. MOst recently I did nearly all the work cleaning out an aunt's apartment after she went to a nursing home. She's severely disabled, but not dying and her brain's just fine. So I had to put up with lots of opinions and wishes, some of which were impossible.

I still have no idea why she kept a huge paper bag full of crushed eggshells.

My impression was that when the Hairball Express was written(about 6 years ago?) they had two cats-Tuffy and Moxie("an old biting cat, as Thomas called her). Is that right, and are they still living?
You know your brother, you know you are going to end up with the preponderance of work. You have a better capacity to handle it, you have your own family and life, removed from your parents. You have already accepted and processed the reality.

BB has not. Going through the mail, sorting through belongings, will be much easier for you than him. He will avoid it, at all costs.

To deal with it makes it real, makes it final.

Paying the bills every month for my Mom, because she is not ready to do it for herself, is nothing but another crushing reminder of everything that my Daddy used to do. It's a wrenching reminder of what I most want to pretend isn't real, and just how inadequate I am at filling his shoes.

Be patient and understanding with your Brother. His reality has changed a great deal more than yours.

You are the Big Brother right now.
Sharfa has said it best. The only thing I can add is you have a lot of people thinking of you at this time.
I so feel for you. My BB and I had to do the same stuff after my Dad died. It's a drag, for sure. We had an estate sale and that helped. It was nice to see people walking out all happy with their new stuff.
God, I am so glad that you're writing again. Really. I have missed this.
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