My mother's boyfriend, Dick, succumbed to ALS on September 2. I'm pretty sure he finally let go because Tim made a surprise visit for Labor Day weekend. All summer I'd come alone with the kids. Dick was such a gentleman; he waited until there was a man in the house to allow himself to die. Mom referred to my kids as "little ghouls" for the remainder of the visit. They kept asking if they could go up and see Dick's lifeless body on the bedroom floor. We relegated them to the back porch when the hearse came, but Steel and Jack Peter perched on the edge of the railing craning their necks around the hibiscus plant to watch.
Dick adored yellow. Every year at Christmas I would give him yellow boxers, a yellow hoodie or yellow track pants. I was always surprised to see them in the laundry when I was folding. He wore all of them. Six of the "Best Dressed Stars at the Emmy's" wore yellow this year. I thought it was a nice tribute. Fashion people were calling it "French's Mustard" yellow. It was clearly "Unabsorbed Vitamin Pill in Urine" yellow. I hate it when my pee is that crazy yellow because I know I've endured vile, vitamin-pill burps for nothing, but that color in the toilet is such a thrill.
I want to get a job naming paint colors. I did a craft show the weekend after Dick's death. It was an outdoor show. My booth looked great; the natural light and the steel shelves made the pottery look amazing. On Saturday a couple came in. They had a massive, pure white, well-manicured standard poodle. As the woman talked to me about the work, the man was aggressively scratching behind the ears of the dog. At a lull in our conversation, I looked down to see that the white poodle, dominating the center of my booth, had an enormous pink erection. The threesome stayed for over 10 minutes. Was it the ear cuddles or the fabulous pottery? I'll never forget that shade of pink. Who wouldn't want a "Horny Poodle Pink" bathroom?
Steel was beading the other day and wanted some shiny silver string. I said I didn't know where we'd find shiny silver string. She looked at me with that teenager-esque, eye-rolling, impatient look. "MOM!!!!!, just go to "SHINY STRING DOT COM!!" I'm just picturing an interior decorator trying to decide between two metallics: "shiny string dot com" or the more rustic, "upside down tin foil"
I've been doing a lot of backstroke lately in the pool. Backstroke is my "ignorance is bliss" way of dealing with flotsam. It gets pretty dirty with YMCA campers in there all summer long. When I have the goggles on for breast stroke I see bandaids, entire clumps of hair, fake fingernails, etc, and the pool seems hazier. I call that color "chlorinated stupor" It'd be great for a 1950's kitchen. While we're in the kitchen, I want to put something out there. I don't know if any of you likes the country kitsch appeal of baking something in a black, cast-iron fry pan. I've done pot pies and corn bread. It looks cute in a Martha Stewart way. Without fail, I take it out of the oven with a pot holder but later grab the handle while it's still 325 degrees. My friend, Jen, just blistered her entire hand in that exact same scenario, so I'm using this blog as a petite public health forum. I'll call that almost-black, satin trim color "Fuck! that's hot!"
Digressing for one more kitchen story, I spent 10 minutes in the kitchen of Tim's most recent project talking about microwave placement with Jana. The microwave was up high, and she didn't like it.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because the kids can't get to it."
Her kids, my niece and nephews, microwave their own food.
"OK OK Now they do, but wasn't it a nightmare when they were little???"
"No. Why would it have been a nightmare?"
Ummmmm....my kids have played a game since Jack Peter was 3 called "I RELISH RELISH!" They open the microwave door; scream that at the tops of their lungs, and then slam the door shut. Toby has put multiple things into the microwave and turned it on. Annie, Toby's beloved doll went in there with a tiny Dora metal lunchbox. That sunset purple color in the strip of paint samples will be called called, "Annie on fire"
(I now know that my niece and nephews are not normal, and my kids are. Miles, Toby's playdate, just turned the empty microwave on the chicken defrost setting AS I WAS WRITING THIS!)
So we all wore yellow to the Chapel on the day we had Dick's memorial service. It was a beautiful fall day in Massachusetts. As we waited for everyone to arrive, the girls picked flowers in the cemetery for Dick's bereft middle daughter. My mom created a beautiful service. We sang, there were thought-provoking readings and, Laura, my brother, and I spoke. My aunt played the piano for all of the hymns. The only thing missing was the brass band and Louis Armstrong for the recessional, "Oh When the Saints." Laura shook visibly as she read a heart-wrenching poem to her father. She was the only one in black. I'd never noticed that her eyes are the most extraordinary peridot/emerald green color which I will name "the grief in Laura's eyes"
After Laura, my brother admitted to being an engineer who needs to quantify things. He quantified Dick's devotion to my mother in hours and miles quipping that EZ pass had to cancel the Christmas party this year due to an unexplained dip in revenues.
I, too, spoke of Dick's devotion to my mom. The night before Dick died, I arrived at 1030 pm. I'd driven Tim's Mini Cooper up ON MY OWN. Tim had taken the kids in the mini van the night before. I have this weird vignette in my head about my, unbelievably-cautious-behind-the-wheel father getting a traffic ticket because he's driven too fast while listening to the powder milk biscuit song on "A Prairie Home Companion" That could have been me listening to my Saturday NPR alone. After I arrived, I went up to give Dick a little massage and to settle him in bed. He asked about my trip, and I admitted that I'd enjoyed every kidless minute. Dick drove from Binghamton NY to Manchester MA every weekend for 15 years to see my mom. (and to complete the MASSIVE 'to do' list she'd compiled in his absence) The rumor was that he was going to retire at 70 and move in permanently. He did, but he'd been diagnosed with ALS. I hated thinking that he'd lived that horrid existence for 15 years and then died right when things were going to get good. As I massaged him and told him about my joy ride, he said, "I loved the drive" What???? "Dick, would you have retired had you not gotten sick?" I asked. "NAH!" he snorted. It made his death the following morning a little easier knowing that he wasn't the subject of an Alanis Morissette song or Harry Chapin's "The cat's in the cradle."
For some reason I wore my only high heels to the service, and we went to mom's and Dick's cool, hippy yacht club for food afterwards. I was in the bathroom for 20 minutes listening to Toby sing on the toilet while she procrastinated pooping because she was getting some quality mom time. Steel came in with a friend of mom's. The woman said she'd found Steel alone and distraught. Steel's response to, "Who is your mommy? What is she wearing?" was "HIGH HEELS!"
We took Dick's ashes out in a boat to throw them into the bay. The kids repeatedly and unabashedly plunged their hands into the urn for more of the ashes. It was fun because as the ashes descended, they sparkled in the sun. The particles trailed down in uniform, iridescent tubes. They looked like something sprouting from the bottom and ascending to the top rather than something descending to the bottom. I'll call that color, "ascending to the depths"
Incidentally Tim and I had a recent date night that ended in disaster. I only think of it because I'd worn my heels. The night ended with Tim's shouting at me (with good reason) on the southwest corner of Washington Square. I blame the dinner. We went to Talulah's garden. I thought my meal plan was complete genius. We got all of the veggie side dishes. I was sure everything was going to be picked-at-perfection-perfect. The food was, but it was served on beige pottery. Apparently "Tupperware top taupe" puts me in a bad mood. I was regaling Johnny with the details of the fight, and he interrupted to say, "Pottery? is that what you guys talk about on date night?" All I know is that warm brown color that people use in entrance ways and halls will be called, "huarache heels worn in vain."