Wednesday, January 6, 2016

A dispatch from the other side of the looking glass

How quickly life can change.

The period between Thanksgiving and New Years is my favorite time of year and it always has been, but this year a huge dark cloud was cast over the celebrations because the day before the holiday we had to bury my husband's first cousin and my last real friend from childhood. She was a random victim of a spree killer who killed another woman and shot into a running city bus and an occupied residence before he killed her. She was in Jackson, Mississippi for a Job Corps convention. It is still fucking with my head that she died alone, hundreds of miles from home and the people who loved her.

The Wednesday after Thanksgiving we buried my father-in-law. The ceremony was a bit tense because my husband and his Backwoods Barbie sister have been estranged from one another for twenty years.

The day after the funeral, I returned to work, and while I was outside with the 4th and 5th graders at recess I got a text message from my attorney in Bethany had just called him and told him there was money in accounts at two different banks. We had no idea how much it was, or anything like that.

We made a trip up to Bethany to go to the bank, and you could have knocked me over with a feather. We don't have enough that we can do nothing, but we do have enough that we can do the things we want to do and not worry about paying the bills if we're smart about managing what was left after Tom bought me the house of my dreams in the historic Coleman Highlands neighborhood for a birthday present.

We sold our shirtwaist over ten years ago, because we were convinced it was too much house, and we lived for two years in a hobbit-hole apartment that was dark and quiet all the time -- the ideal apartment for a night-shifter like me who needed to sleep during the day. When I no longer worked nights and that apartment depressed the hell out of me, we moved to the apartment we lived in for almost eight years. Not only were we wrong to think the adult children would stay gone. Of the eight years we lived there, it was just the two of us for three months. We were thinking that clearly we had fucked up selling the shirtwaist. I never want my children to feel they don't have a place with me, so we made do, whether we had one extra person or four, in 1,032 square feet.

After we went to the bank, we went house hunting and put an offer in on the 100+ year old house of my dreams in a section of town I never thought I would be fortunate enough to live in.

Zoe's dad has the 3rd floor, and on the 2nd floor, the grandsons (almost 3 and almost 4) have a room at Nana's house...or any kid that happens to be under my roof for any length of time will have a proper kids room, just as adult guests will have a proper guest room. We have the largest bedroom, and Zoe has the smallest, but she has a suite. She has two rooms, a bedroom and a sunroom/study.

Downstairs we have a wood-burning fireplace in the living room, a sitting room off to the side that Zoe and I have squared off over...she wants it for video games and I want it for yoga. There is a half-bath that is also the laundry room. We bought a front-loading washer and dryer that can be stacked later when we put a badass steam-shower cabinet where the washer is now.

Since I have a formal dining room, I bought a table that will seat eight comfortably when the leaves are attached, and the matching buffet/sideboard. The table we had is in the kitchen, and at the end of the kitchen, overlooking the back yard, the deck and the awesome houses in my neighborhood, I put a pub-height solid wood Bistro set. I was delighted to discover that a Cardinal is a frequent visitor to the tree in my back yard.

Charlie told me once when we were struggling that it wouldn't always be this hard, and he guaranteed it. I thought I knew what he meant when we moved to the apartment and changed a lot of the things in my life so I could write and be a pioneer where social media and journalism intersect. We had all the things we needed and most of what we wanted.

Then my brain tried to kill me. Twice. It wiped us out. I literally had to borrow money to get to his funeral.  A couple of days later, I knew what he really meant when he said he would guarantee it would be easier.

I had a great father in law who loved us all very much -- including his redheaded-bitch daughter-in-law -- and he was always there to catch us when we fell. He planned his exit carefully, and made sure that if we fall again, we have a soft place to land.

Postscript: It just hit me what I missed the most the years I lived in the Greystone...When you do laundry and when you run the dishwasher, your house smells wonderful. Forevermore, when I smell that smell, the smell of Cascade, Tide and Downy, I will know that Charlie is with us in this family compound.

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