grief: an evolving process

Over breakfast, I read the first chapter of a book about what it’s like to be a person who works on dictionaries. “This is interesting,” I thought to myself, and bought the whole book. And then I had the sad thought that if she was still alive, this was totally a book I’d have recommended to my mother – I grew up in a house full of books, with one ever-growing section dedicated to books about the odd corners of the English language.

I shrugged, and sent her email anyway. It felt like the right thing to do, even as I was caught by a brief wave of utter misery and loss. I haven’t felt that for a while but it’s still there.

She showed up in my dreams last night, too. She was driving. We were on a highway through the middle of nothingness, going up and down its hills and overpasses, and navigating snow and slush with an aplomb I find rather absurd in a woman who lived almost her whole life in New Orleans. There wasn’t much conversation that I remember. Just the drive.

Bureaucracy

I'm sitting here sorting through the pile of mail that's accumulated over the past few months while I was too busy grieving to deal with it. Now I know why there was constantly a huge pile of mail on the table when I was twelve; Marie-Jeanne must have been swamped with a similar pile of Stuff Demanding Her Attention after Russell died, plus the extra fun of trying to raise a kid who was falling into his own pit of grief, and of scrambling to figure out how she could get some kind of Day Job to keep things together. I know Elmina (Russel's mother) passed us some major chunks of the money Clayton (Russell's father) had managed to get by some lucky investments. Which I am still mostly living on, to be honest.

And I'm just contemplating all these bureaucracies spinning away, generating all these little notifications. Banks and insurance companies sending me a new letter every so often with an update on my or my mothers' accounts. A retirement fund that I guess doesn't know Mom's died yet asking her to vote on the now-passed board election. A note from her doctor reminding her that it's time for her yearly appointment, the month after she died. A few lingering debts that I missed dealing with when she died that are still sending collection notices. Eventually I'll get all of this covered, and my mailbox will go back to its usual slow rhythm of credit card offers and the very occasional note from a human.

I'm sorting through all of these because I'm plucking out all the tax stuff to send off to my mom's accountant. Along with my tax stuff because I just can't deal with it right now. If ever to be honest, I should just start paying someone to do the dirty work of sorting through all the forms and entering the numbers for me. Think I'm gonna finally go talk to the bank about setting up a business credit card, too, so I can quickly and easily say “I lost this much on my business this year” and get tax deductions for that.

Anyway. Vast bureaucratic machines, running at the slow time of snailmail. They'll wait patiently for me to bother dealing with them.

Untitled

Dear Marie-Jeanne:

Thank you for raising me to be the kind of person who can see a trailer for a video game about bird attorneys, constructed from collages engravings, and casually think “Oh wow, it's Une Semaine de Bonté, the video game.

love, Peggy.

blaaahhh

One of those nights where I think about how much I'd like to call my mom and chat about nothing much important but I can't any more and then I end up lying in bed in the dark cuddling a plush raccoon and crying.

I mean it's not like I'd tell her anything major about my life. I've been drawing an album cover for an imaginary band instead of working on my next graphic novels. I've been playing video games. I upgraded to the latest version of Illustrator and it seems to be stable, unlike the last one I was stuck with for about six months. I've read some books. And she wouldn't have anything earth-shaking to say either. She'd tell me about books she'd read, or having to get the car fixed, or how she worries about her friend who lost her husband a few years ago, or whet Jason and Jennie's kids were up to. It would always be a pretty mundane conversation that we'd have pretty much every week, usually somewhere around the weekend.

I kinda stopped thinking about that regular conversation a month or so after she died. But tonight I'm thinking about it and missing her.

Fuck death.

the dream of most of the people in my life whose death affected me in any way

Wow. Lots of dead people in my dreams last night. Kara, Marie-Jeanne, and Ricky.

Ricky revealed to me that he had faked his death, and was hanging around being mysterious and working on an indy video game and going slightly crazy from solitude. Though the huge scars on his wrists suggested to me that no, he really hadn't faked it at all.

I don't remember what the hell Kara or Marie-Jeanne were doing in my dreams. Something about a song and traveling with Kara?

If Russell had shown up, that would have been pretty much everyone whose death really affected me. What the heck.

the dream of my mother’s six-car fetch quest

I dreamed I was in New Orleans. My mother had apparently left me five or six cars, parked around the city. I needed to go acquire them. My father was helping me get them – never mind that he's been dead a lot longer than she has, he was around in this dream. I was using my phone to help navigate to the first one. Eventually we got there.

There was a gap, and I was walking. A sports car in transit livery pulled up, and I got in. Apparently New Orleans was experimenting with high speed transit, as this car then drove off at high speed with me and the previous two passengers, all in the back seat. I realized I'd just gotten in the first bus that pulled up, and took out my phone to figure out if I was on the right one. It took a while to type in its route number properly (25), but I got it eventually. It was a weird one that went a long way across the city, well outside the eastern and western bounds of New Orleans proper, careening through the Quarter at high speeds, sometimes on the sidewalk – it was not obeying normal traffic laws, that's for sure.

It's worth noting that this is possibly the first time I have gotten any use out of my phone in a dream. It used to show up as blocks of wood carved into the shape of a phone, or 1970s approximations of a smartphone or something.

Then I was faced with trying to figure out where the other cars were, so I could decide if I was on the right route. And I could not figure out how to do that on my dream phone. Especially while also trying to figure out the logistics of my father being the one who drove, and me being the one who could navigate to the car.

The woman sitting next to me asked if I was alright and I kind of unloaded on her about just having gotten off an airplane the other night, and my mother being dead. She looked at me with her weirdly huge golden eyes, which had immensely dilated pupils. “She must be rolling,” I thought to myself. She got off the sports-car bus at a corner where there were multiple people with similar eyes, and even a couple dogs with similar eyes, so maybe not.

As we drove through the corner gas station lot full of these golden-eyed people staring at me, the other person in the sports-bus – an old guy who had seemed to be with the woman – took out his phone and started fiddling with it. Every time he touched a key it made a loud click like an old mechanical keyboard, with occasional noises like a dot-matrix printer spitting out a line that I knew were him hitting return. It was pretty annoying.

And then I woke up.

Some dreams of my mother

In this dream, I was with my mother. We had a trip planned to Qatar. I have no idea why we were going all the way around the world, but we were. The flight was going to leave around noon, and we weren't properly packed; instead she had me moving stuff around the house (the one I grew up in, which she moved out of not long after I left for animation school), then we were driving around the city while I stressed out about our schedule. Which I couldn't pull up on my phone because my phone just never works right in dreams. She wanted to see how high the river was before we left for the airport, apparently.

I guess this was better than last night, when I found myself dreaming about weeping because she's dead. I woke up and was sad for a while because of that one.

the dream of my mother’s note

I dreamt that I was wandering around the back yard of the place I grew up in. It was a bit unkempt and messy, with a lot more stuff in it than there was when I was growing up.

On the door to the shed was a note from my mother, responding ever so politely to a note from a neighbor who was offended by her posting a comic critical of Bush’s policies on there. Why this was the place for such a discourse I wasn’t sure but there it was – ineffably polite but unyielding in her disagreement. It was nicely typeset.

another year gone by

The first thing through my head in the morning is “I should deal with those life insurance policies on Mom except wait I still haven’t gotten the death certificates what’s up with that”. This is going to be a long forty-fourth birthday.

Then I check my email. Every computer wishing me a happy birthday via email is like a little knife in the gut because it reminds me there won’t be a phone call from her.

Yeah. This is crap. I’m going back to sleep. Maybe I’ll feel better when I wake up again.

 

Later. I looked at those life insurance policies. Another year or two of runway for getting this whole ‘comics’ thing off the ground as a viable career. Maybe more, I didn’t try to untangle their descriptions too deeply. I’d rather have another decade of her around to see it.