Wandering in the forest of grief

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One of the most difficult things to do as a child when you’ve lost a parent is to sift through their possessions and decide what parts you’re going to keep and what you’re going to give away or throw out.

Now when you’re suddenly orphaned at age 60+?

It’s not just the things that represent their life–it’s the house, too. So not only have you lost that last parent, you’ve lost the home that was them, and that center of celebrations and reunions.

When a door closes, a window may very well open. In my case (lots of siblings, for sure, and we’ve all drawn closer) it’s a huge window.

But the dimensions of that window will never match the size of Mom’s forever-closed-to-me door.

Every so often a light goes on….

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And man, even in the state of California, once in a while, someone opens a barricaded door.

So there’s no surprise that Common Core demands children have a set percentage of non-fiction text exposure in kindergarten and I’ve been thoroughly annoyed with the stipulation that 40% of what we read (independently and aloud) be non-fiction.

In the latest ELA/ELD draft from the state, they quoted Neil Gaiman. O.O

“Fiction plays a central role. Author Neil Gaiman (2013), who writes for children and adults, promotes fiction as a gateway to reading:

‘The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end…that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts to keep going, [and t]o discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything.’

He also argues that fiction builds empathy:

‘Prose fiction is something you build up from 26 letters and a handful of punctuation marks, and you, and you alone, using your imagination, create a world and people it and look out through other eyes…Empathy is a tool for building people into groups, for allowing us to function as more than self-obsessed individuals.’”

I would just like to say THANK GOD. And D’OH.

Now whether this quote will remain in the final draft? Ha. We’ll see. I also don’t expect it to do much in terms of reducing the amount of non-fiction to be read.

*mumbles something not very nice about the writers of Common Core*

Distractions

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Those work well, and keep my mind off everything else.

The photo albums I brought home? A gold mine of mysteries. Some have names on the back, which is helpful, I suppose when I find time to do the family research. But mostly? Total mystery. Like this one with the information on the back.

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I haven’t decided if he’s a curiosity that whoever began the album couldn’t give up or somehow related to the family. Banister and West Circus operated during Victorian England and toured Scotland mostly. That’s all I’ve found so far.

I’ve tinkered with a short story, thinking I will send it to Charlie when the F&SF window opens. I can’t quite bring myself to work on the novel, as much as I want. I’m pretty distracted and it’s easier to hold my attention with research. And work around the house. Heaven knows that needs doing.

My kids’ dogs are keeping us on our toes, too. I walked Shasta first this morning (because the two little monsters together tie themselves up) and she was so worried about Baxter not being with us that she slipped out of her collar as I bent to scoop her present for me, and I had to chase her home.

It’s really annoying when the fur baby stops to make sure you’re still following and then takes off again when you’ve made it within arms’ reach.

I’m still having trouble when people who haven’t heard ask how Mom is, and I don’t know if I’ll get over that any time soon.

Seasons of Love on repeat in my head

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How do you measure a lifetime?

Mom had her own weight in photographs. Every time we open a drawer or a box, we find more. I brought a full trunk home with me to sort through, but they’re my father’s mother’s, and some of them date to mid-1800′s or so based on the daguerreotypes and clothing. Some have names. Most don’t. I should have written or taped everything Mom ever told me about Grandma Mac’s side.

None of the Allenbys are actually related to me. My paternal grandfather was adopted into the family, and the albums and bible were passed down through him. You can’t throw these things away, but I’m wondering what we’re going to do. Store them for yet another generation?

Mom seems to have kept almost every card she was given. My grandmother was worse in that she kept letters, too. It was pretty astonishing finding two notes written by my dad in second and third grade to his grandmother. None of it is organized. Heck, it’s not even in the same boxes. Grandma’s stuff is with my other Grandma’s stuff is mingled with Mom and Dad’s stuff and all our kids. Even the boxes that pretend to be organized aren’t. And if I find any more unidentified locks of hair… (Two today. Please, no more. Maybe if you know the person. But if it’s 50-year old hair? Not so much.)

We cleaned out Mom’s closet yesterday. Considering that Mom only left the house for doctor appointments and hospital stays this last year, she had more clothing than I have. We happened on some vintage pieces (40′s, I think) of my grandmother’s, both the coat and the top with lovely cuts and trimmed in fur. Real fur. Those we’re saving for the estate sale along with the nicer pieces Mom had. We cleaned out Mom’s bathroom, too.

And all this cleaning and sorting has convinced me that I can’t leave anything like this for my kids. I’m cleaning out the bathroom tomorrow, and I’m adding my closet to the list.

I’m pretty sure I’m focused on the ‘stuff’ of a lifetime so I don’t have to contemplate the hole in the center of me.