six pounds in the box
Tuesday, November 29 2011
location: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York
After my father died on November 2nd, it had initially seemed that my mother wanted to mourn in privacy (that is, not in the presence of people more rational than my older, autistic/bipolar/possibly-schizophrenic brother). But I thought perhaps she didn't know what she wanted and that it would be good for me to go down. So the other day I told her I was thinking of coming down. Somewhat surprisingly, she indicated that would be okay. So today I made that long 458 mile drive, starting at about 10:30am in the Civic Hybrid.
It wasn't the best day for driving; I was heading into the teeth of a complicated weather system. In the late morning passed into a bad downpour near the Harriman exit on the Thruway, and then I hit an even worse patch somewhere along I-78 in New Jersey and then again in the Appalachians east of Harrisburg. But the clouds cleared from the sky about 30 miles from the Mason Dixon line, and it was easy driving from there. I stopped at the Burger King near Woodstock because I knew I could get a reliably vegan meal there. It was about five o'clock and the only other patrons there were an elderly couple who probably would have liked for there to have been an early bird special.
When I rolled up at the Creekside doublewide, my brother was sitting out on the front stoop. "Good to see you, little brother," he said. And then he mentioned something about how I wasn't getting as fat as he is getting.
Over at the house across the street, it wasn't quite the disaster it had once been. It had helped that my father's hospital bed had displaced 70 or 80 square feet of dusty piles, and though the bed was now gone, the boxes had yet to fill the space back in. There was ample room now for a plastic lawn chair where Caliche (the beautiful grey cat) can go to escape the over-rambunctiousness of Maple the dog. My mother (Hoagie) seemed as bubbly and cheerful as ever, though of course my father and his recent death kept coming up. His desk was as cluttered as ever with papers he hadn't looked at in years. The only new thing was a black plastic box the size of a gallon of paint thinner. It was the least dusty object in the house. I asked what it was and Hoagie said that it was Dad's ashes. So I picked up the box and was impressed by its weight (six pounds being the average for men according to Wikipedia, although my father had osteoporosis so it might have been a bit less).
Since my father's decline and death, conversations at my childhood home (or over at Creekside, where, to escape the musty air, I quickly returned) have rarely been much to write about. My mother likes to keep secrets and doesn't like to tell stories that reflect badly on herself, so mostly what she talks about are occasions when she managed to save money. She wouldn't stop talking about financial matters tonight, starting with the various pensions she was surprised to find herself inheriting. She also mentioned several times that the cremation had cost $3000. And, oh yeah, "I think Maple really likes you."
After I had Creekside to myself, I climbed into bed and watched the 1997 version of Lolita on my little netbook. I didn't know anything about the story and had never read the book, but the production seemed a bit too modern for the time it was trying to portray.
Hoagie tonight at Creekside.
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