Everything I am, I owe to My Mother
Ain't got no cash, ain't got no style
Ain't got no gal to make you smile
Don't worry, be happy
'Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
Don't worry, be happy
By Randall Grantham
My mother died last month. It wasn't totally unexpected but it is still shaking my world. Dad died in 2009 and we thought she was unstoppable. But she was more than ready to go. The last few months of her life she was saying goodbye to everyone that visited her and in the last month, after she fell in the ALF and hit her head, causing a brain bleed, it was clear that she was clearing out.
She wanted to go “home” and be with Dad again and I hope they are together in the after life and happy together again.
Meanwhile, our lives must go on. My brother, sister and I are trying to deal with the grief and the details. I don't know if it's because she was my mother or it's because she was the last parent to go, but it seems much more difficult this time than it was in '09. We're orphans now.
I was given the option to buy my siblings' interest in the house on Lake Hobbs after our parent's deaths and I am exercising it. This, after all, is the lake I grew up on. Not being born in the house, it was the lake I was brought home from the hospital to. I swam in its waters before I could walk, skied, skim-boarded and bare-footed it and I know every nook, cranny and dredge hole in it. I have no choice, and would have no other choice, but to come home.
It's a gradual process, making the move to my parents' house. Because we didn't sell one house to buy another, and there is 30 years worth of stuff to move out of here, it has to be. It's also an emotional and historical event.
Emotional, in that I think we've put off fully accepting Dad's death and avoided cleaning out his tools, spare parts and odds and ends from the house and we’ve left it “as is” since Mom had to move out a year ago. We just stuck our heads in the sand hoping it would go away. “Going ostrich,” as my brother calls it. But this doesn't go away. This event requires recognition and acceptance.
And historical in the sense that we keep finding treasures that Dad stashed away and things that Mom thought sentimental - her journals of their travels, property records and photographs and his commemorative coins and mint sets – many passed down my from my grandfather. (Word of advice: Do not buy stamps, coins or commemorative issues unless that's what you really love. In the vast majority of cases, you cannot even get face value for the stamps, except when used for postage, and the coins are often worth no more than face value despite their commemorative or mint value and packaging.)
Living here like this is an experience similar to an archaeological dig. You don't throw away anything. The stupid bird painting on the wall could be worth thousands for all you know and the other mementos are priceless to the family. You carefully sweep away the dust from decades or more of artifacts and keepsakes passed down through the generations.
Never knowing what may be revealed behind the books or envelopes or clutter, you examine every detail of every scrap that is uncovered – many causing a tear or two and a smile to cross your face.
We found a note that Mom had written to us a couple of years ago. It was her saying goodbye, expressing her love for us and her fatigue and desire to be with Dad again. It urged us kids to stick together and to support each other in every way we could - to not let material things split us up.
It's times like these that make me wish I had children to pass this stuff down to. Then I come back to my senses.
Death is a part of life, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with. Funerals are for the living and Mom's service was cathartic. Life goes on and so must we all. But memories are all we will have of everything eventually. I'm grateful for all the great memories my parents gave me. I hope each of you can be so fortunate.
As Mom said in her note, don't be sad, be happy.
(Randall C. Grantham is a fifth generation Floridian and lifelong resident who practices law from his offices on Dale Mabry Highway in Lutz . He can be reached at LutzLaw@aol.com. Copyright 2015 RCG)