April 16, 2012

Limbo, Laughter and Loss

It's been a weird weekend.  I know, I know--things involving me are usually weird.  This is different.  This is the kind of weird when time sort of stops, hanging in limbo for a few hours, a few days.  This kind started Saturday morning, when my brother called to tell me that our mother had passed away at 5 am that morning.  As I mentioned a couple of days ago, she had Parkinson's with dementia, and had recently stopped eating.  So it wasn't a complete surprise.  Still, that's always hard news to hear.

And so began the many hours of arrangements across several states.  My brother took care of the funeral arrangements where he lives, since my mom's nursing home was near him, and we chatted on the phone several times to work out scheduling and so forth.  Once I heard back from him later in the afternoon about service times, I spent most of the evening working out travel for myself and for the girlie.  I used to think that the "bereavement fares" offered by airlines were basically a 50% discount off of the ticket, provided you could prove an immediate family member had died.  Perhaps it was that large a discount at one point, but if it was, it is no longer.  Delta didn't do too badly by me, considering I was only getting a one-way fare to Indy for the service because I'll be driving to the interment with my brother.  So Wednesday I'll spend 8 hours in a car, go to the interment, then spend another 8 or so hours in the car driving back home with the hubs, who will meet us at the cemetery.  Funereal road-tripping at its best, right?

The girlie's ticket was a bit more challenging since there are NO airlines which fly directly from her college to Indianapolis.  Many, many hours later, after I'd finally sorted her ticket and schedule out, I discovered that I would quite possibly have gotten her ticket cheaper had I just purchased it online at regular prices.  Because of timing, she ended up on United, which offers only a whopping 5% discount for "compassion fares."  It almost covered the taxes on the flight, which doesn't strike me as particularly "compassionate."

Meanwhile, during the course of the day, I managed to consume only the following:

a cup of tea
2 slices of toast, buttered 
2-3 slices of American cheese
1 bag of Doritos, snack size
2 pouches of gummy Alvin and the Chipmunk snacks
1-2 bottles of water, enhanced by Crystal Light packets

My healthy diet Saturday was staggering, right?  Needless to say, by the time I'd fielded multiple phone calls and Facebook condolences and spent hours making travel arrangements, I was famished and starting to get more than a little cranky.  When the last "i" was dotted and the last "t" crossed, I demanded that the hubs take me out for dinner, because it was already 9 pm or later and I wasn't about to make anything.  I wanted a big, freakin' slab of meat, and I wanted it NOW.

We drove to Outback, where we were waited on by a young man clearly trying to be extra-friendly-for-future-tipping purposes.  When a Beatles' tune came over the sound system, he made a point of sucking up by commenting on how popular the Beatles were, for like "four whole generations!"  He then suggested that we "looked like" we would be Beatles' fans.  I'm sure he intended it as a compliment, but we both sat there thinking "Dude...exactly how old do you think we are???  Do we look like we're refugees from that fourth generation?  Were you really wanting that tip, dude?  Stop.talking.NOW.  But of course he didn't.  He made a couple of other awkward overtures, using his patented announcer voice the entire time.  Seriously--I have no idea what the kid is studying or just finished studying, but if it's not Radio/TV/Film, he's wasting his life.  He totally sounded like a game show announcer.

Still, Outback ponied up the goods; my steak was perfectly cooked and super-succulent, and at a time when I really needed it to be correct.  We stuffed our faces, administered some chocolate medication, then headed home, my anemia and attitude problem suitably assuaged.

This morning I felt a little less raggedy about everything, though ultimately I chose to play hookey from church.  I just didn't feel much in the mood to watch people be sympathetic, if that makes any sense.  I actually preferred the Facebook method--multiple people have very kindly offered condolences and assistance, but Facebook gives me the luxury of reading them, accepting them, appreciating them gratefully, and moving on.  On Facebook, you don't have to see all the well-meaning but pitying faces that go with the condolences.  Don't get me wrong; I really AM grateful for everyone's love and concern, and it DOES helps significantly. Still, there's really only so much anyone can do, particularly with services that are out of state, so sometimes all the pity and knowing looks get a bit overwhelming.

So instead I chose to spend my morning in the relative anonymity of Panera's, having my favorite breakfast sandwich and appreciating everyone's love and concern from a safe distance.  Afterwards, I went to run a couple errands before returning home to complete the new day's slew of calls to make and appointments to schedule or reschedule.  After attempting to return something to a store which inconveniently chose to be closed till 1 pm, I returned to my car and started to back out.  Normally, I'm a bit paranoid about backing and so double-check repeatedly that the way is clear.  As I was pulling out, I noticed that the van behind me looked like it might be moving, so I hesitated.  Sure enough, backup lights flew on and the person hit the gas.  I started honking my horn wildly while trying to shift back into forward and pull up enough to avoid collision.  Sadly, I didn't move far enough fast enough and the other driver smacked my back end (that's for you, Dr. Dave).  We got out, asked if everyone was okay, and I went to assess the damage.  I commented that I guess the other driver, a woman, hadn't heard my horn.  She immediately informed me that she hadn't because her radio was on.  Riiiiight.  Even if her radio were on, it would have had to have been cranked enough to make the entire vehicle vibrate, which it clearly wasn't.  Whatever.  She also informed me emphatically that she had insurance, as though having insurance were somehow optional.

Fortunately for the lady (and me), the bumper did not appear to be damaged beyond some dirt and a little scuffing.  Given that I have far more important things this week about which to worry, I was inclined to blow the whole thing off (I'm generous like that), because I just wasn't in the mood to deal with it for something as minor as a few more scuffs on an already-scuffed bumper.  Once the lady realized she was going to be let off the hook, she started talking about how she was looking in front of her for the horn that she heard.  Mmmmmhmmmm.  As one friend put it, "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"  Whatever, lady.  And I'm standing there thinking, "Really?  REALLY???  Do I look that stupid?"  Obviously you are getting off the hook, so why bother to lie?  And if you're gonna lie, at least have the decency to be consistent about it.  I mean seriously--have a little pride.  If you're gonna pretend to get one over on me, at least have the courtesy to tell plausible whoppers, Lady.  I could use the entertainment value.  But this?  This is just plain embarrassing--my dog lies better than you.

Anyway, after all that I went and got groceries, drove home, then waited till the hubs had unloaded the bags before telling him blandly that I got rear-ended.  "WHAT?!??!?"  He was trying to figure out how that could have possibly happened when he didn't see any damage on the car.  To be fair, he's not the most observant of people, but still--totally worth milking it to see his over-reaction.

I spent the rest of my afternoon finding pictures of Mom to send my brother for the obituary, printing off my boarding pass, packing, and trying to remember all those last-minute people I needed to contact.  I told people about service arrangements, only to have to correct said arrangements when my brother accidentally suffered a time zone fail.  Hardly surprising, given everything going on at the moment.

Now it's 2:30 in the morning, and I have a friend coming in 6 1/2 hours to give me a ride to the airport.  I've finally decompressed enough that I'm ready for bed.  I'm perhaps less ready for the upcoming long three days, but that's how it goes.  Who really enjoys these things, after all?

Meanwhile, I had a friend earlier comment that I was "amazing" because I was still able to laugh during it all.  How can you not, really?  Even at times like these, humor keeps us sane.  Humor is a balm to our spirits and helps us to focus on the happy moments instead of the sad.  Humor doesn't pretend that bad never happens, it merely enjoys the odd or silly moments during the bad that help us to remember that we ourselves are still alive.  Besides, while ironic, I'm sure it can be no coincidence that I wrote and posted my last silly entry just 9 hours before my mother died.  Even from beyond the grave, she's still taking the opportunity to smack me upside the head for being a smart-ass.  Not that I probably didn't have it coming, mind you, but still.  What can I say?  Humor has always been my stalwart support and defense through all things.  And I'm not the only one:

“Laughter is the sun that drives winter from the human face.” ~Victor Hugo

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” ~Mark Twain

“Laughter is higher than all pain.” ~Elbert Hubbard

"God gives me laughter so that I can rise above pain to remember my mother in joy." ~Ginger LaRue


While this post itself may not be particularly humorous, but I still have humor in my heart and the love and support of many, many friends who have taken the time to check on me and to offer their sympathy.  I am grateful for them and for their concern, I am grateful for humor and laughter, and I am grateful to have had my mother in my life.

Lorraine LaRue, 1932-2012

Rest in peace, Mom.  I love you.  And remember to tell Dad I said hi.

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