Email of the damned

I woke at three. By 3:15, I was composing an email in my head to Elder Son, aka the ‘alternate executor’ of both K’s and my estates.

“Rent a storage pod / Put all bedroom bookcases and books in it / Put half the chairs on the first floor in it / Empty basement as best you can.”

“The house’ll show better. Then later, hire a truck to ship stuff you want out west.”

Basement? OMG. Unfinished work is a topic that often keeps me awake, even absent a pandemic. One quilt, in particular, sprang to mind.

It was the less cheery of a pair, both constructed in the unhappy aftermath of Younger Son breaking his arm twice. The second skateboard fall required surgery and meant he started high school with a heavy, itchy cast — not an auspicious beginning in the least.

The Cheery Quilt (finished, below) was made almost as an antidote to the other, with sunflowers in the sky and a bright red house made of flannel plaid with associations to a happier time (Christmas pj’s made for him in elementary school).

The Dark Quilt quilt (above) used a lot of the same fabrics but bleached to represent the joyless aftermath of trauma. This time the house is constructed of deep indigo/ghost white prints to represent X-rays.

Where was it? At 3:45, I trotted down to the basement, determined and curious.

Link to process post about Ghost Xray quilt here. Post about bleaching fabrics and cheerier quilt composition here. Dated 2012 and 2011, respectively (ahem).

The Ghost quilt was in the dresser where I thought it would be. Exultation! But, oh my — how many unfinished projects I had to paw through to find it! I laid piece after piece down on the floor like a colorful cloth sidewalk to nowhere. Or maybe like a path leading straight into a big cloth, working along with Ragmates and Jude?

The Ghost Xray quilt stinks, of course, all the cloth down there does now — so it’s out on the Yew. The Impossibly Large Yew. I flapped the quilt out next to a red blanket that spent the last ten days soaking up rain and freezing in the cold. It had reeked of dog even post-wash. I was afraid it might’ve gone from dog-stink to mildew-stink given the time lapse, but no! It smells like spring. Delicious.

By 4 am, I had careened from concerns about children emptying this stuffed house to my central creative dilemma — finishing work. I don’t want advice or sympathy right now, but it helps to admit this (again) and witness it, maybe with a more balanced lens.

My impulses are good — both the creative and the personal. It feels important to acknowledge this as I beat myself up. There’s a deep river of generosity here. I am passionate about things. I care.

But the daunting business of completing work? Ugh, it really gets me down.

Elder Son’s blanket has, of course, stalled as I pump out masks. I’ve promised about 20 to friends (arg!)

Today, I have to stick to my routine of doing two crossword puzzles — if for no other reason that to let my psyche know that it’s Sunday! Then, maybe I’ll amp up the mask-making a little, to get it behind me.

Then, I need my almost-daily ritual of yard work. MAYBE there won’t be any fucking leaf blowers today, it being Sunday. Yesterday four (FOUR!) crews buzzed and whined their way through very-near-lots, two blowers each. At one point, I put on my ear buds. Next thing you know I’ll be embarrassing myself dancing to ‘Watermelon Sugar’ or ‘Old Town Road’ in full view of the neighbors.

Would that be such a bad thing?

 

24 thoughts on “Email of the damned

  1. Joanne

    My executor- not the elder child- has asked me to self empty the house of things which is why the living room now holds only two couches and not much else.

    I have a pile of collected depression era quilts ( I love them) but no one else seems to anymore so I have to find homes for them as I refuse to take them to goodwill.

    I have been getting rid of things I don’t use for about two years now and its going well. I set things aside for a few weeks or month to decide and then let it go ( or not) my closets are roomy now

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I admire what you’ve been doing with your living space. We, too. Have cleared the house of many items —
      Unworn clothing. Books. The garage and basement are real challenges though.

      Reply
  2. Liz A

    Middle of the night … ugh … mine was spent tracking down wills and health care proxies (which are in our safe deposit box, but I want copies front and center in our home, just in case)

    lucky you to have such memory-laden components to go into a beyond-big cloth … may you be well and enjoy them for many many years to come

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Yes all those documents need to be where we and our survivors can find them. Here is Mass. estate lawyers don’t recommend keeping Will in a safe deposit box because the executor might not have access and the original Will is needed to file with the court to get the executor appointed.

      Reply
      1. Joanne

        Yes, our things are here in the house for the same reason- and copies are held by the law offices. But we must have “no heroic measures” statements attached to ourselves if the ambulance comes.

        Reply
      2. Liz A

        Yeah, daughter/executor has always had access to our safe deposit box, but we moved … and then opened a new safe deposit box in early February … need I say more?

        Reply
  3. RainSluice

    I’m enjoying (?) unearthing all kinds of saved treasures and the perpetual collection of “would be good in an assemblage” flotsam. Even though we moved 3 years ago and jettison tons of stuff, I feel overwhelmed again. There are 3 boxes I can’t face. One is a very long file box chock full of papers. I should burn it. today. Wait! Our will has not been updated in 10 years and it might be in that box. Lord-y, I wonder if that attorney is still alive – he was old then. I am old now.
    My 93 year old mother-in-law said yesterday, “If it weren’t for my eyes, my ears and my teeth I would have no complaints at all”. We all laughed. We sat with her on her patio and chatted, at an 8ft distance, after installing 3 of my little bronze bird sculptures (c.1985) in her garden. Then she said, “No real birds visit my yard, and now I’ll have birds to look at all year long. This is wonderful”. She’s a treasure.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I have one of those lovely bronze birds that you made. It
      Never occurred to me to put it outside! Your MIL’s humor is rich!

      Reply
  4. Deborah Lacativa

    Glad to see you thinking about putting all those false starts in a place where you can see both the provenance and the path to their future, be it ragbag or utility. We have been so without lawncare noise here. Dogs from the next street tell each other off. Someone has a bloodhound. The songbirds are running riot. Yesterday I say outside on the back deck and had a long conversation with a troop of owls that live behind the house. As to instructing the sons regarding the house and contents. None of it will be my problem. I expect them to open the doors and put a post on Craigslist. “FREE. Come and get it. Bring a truck.”

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Gosh I envy the quiet. The bird song — especially the owls. How cool is that? But bloodhounds really have a deep baying bark, don’t they? I like your approach to the household. If I run out of time, it’ll be craigslist ahoy for my boys, too.

      Reply
  5. snicklefritzin43

    I have thoroughly enjoyed three readings of this wonderful post. The many pieces of my personal journey you touched time and again. How being on home confinement has given many folk the eyes to see and energy and time to sort through and remove what isn’t necessary, to take new looks at partially completed projects, spend some outside time and write, write, write. There will definitely be no lack of historical documentation of this pandemics impact on our lives.
    Thanks be for words from Dee.🤗🤗💖💖👏

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Hi Kristan. Always nice to hear from you. Somewhere I read the general advice for people to “keep a journal” because we’ll want to know, later, how this time was. I wonder how it’s impacted your poetry.

      For me, seeing unfinished work is a rather regular part of my life, I’m afraid, and not so much a function of this time.

      Reply
  6. Anneliese

    Roughly seen we have all the same nightmares – sometimes more – sometimes less. Basement, things stored, workingroom, and there are two garages. Dh says why do we have children and grandchildren – then for some time I am calm again.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I like DH’s response. And Deb’s. We, too, have a lot of storage: a garage, a basement, two attics and a shed.

      Reply
  7. Marti

    Go and dance and do so as if no one is looking and even if they are, the joy of movement may just encourage them to join in, 6 ft away. I can just imagine a conga line, everyone keeping their distance, dancing around the block. I have danced a lot in my backyard and once or twice out front lately…one of those times, a car drove by and honked the horn, don’t know if it was in joyful acknowledgment or wondering who the crazy lady was; doesn’t matter because I will keep on dancing…

    No sewing machine and somewhat “stitching” impaired here, nonetheless, I have made myself a mask. Saw a tutorial on how to make a mask without stitching so I took my green bandana, did a couple of folds, and turned it into a serviceable mask with hair ties and a bit of wonky stitching. I wore it this morning on my walk and realized that I haven’t left my home since March 16th. We are not using grocery delivery here as my stubborn husband likes to get out and shop every two weeks during Senior hours…staying put is much harder on him than on me. I asked him if he wanted me to turn his bandana into a mask but he said he prefers to wear it “bandit ” style!

    As far as home content, when we sold our home and left CA in 2002, we had our daughters and some dear friends choose everything they wanted. Since then, we have been renters and with each move, 6 in total, our “stuff” has been pared down so that now, it is just down to what we deem our essentials and with the exception of some of our books and some of my cloths, our family has no need for the rest of our stuff so it will be donated. We do, however, have, a large mover’s box of my Mom’s service for 12, 1940’s egg shell china with silver trim, that one of my daughters loves but has no place to keep it for now. She lives in San Francisco in a small apartment. She thought about getting a storage facility but this would be the only thing that would go into it so it doesn’t make sense. So we are keeping it for her until the time comes for her to retrieve it.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I’ve probably seen the same video about using a bandana. People are quite ingenious and resourceful.

      They say that “three moves equals a fire” in terms of personal possessions. That’s a bit of an overstatement but there’s a lot of truth to it. I envy your spare existence.

      I should’ve known you’d tell me to dance like no one’s looking!

      Reply
  8. Nancy

    We are one in our awakness in the wee hours! I watch mindless ‘house’ shows until I’m drowsy and fall asleep on the couch. But. This last bout with awake, I was able to finish a weaving. Glad about that. It’s funny, the ‘dark’ one is just lovely to me, not dark at all. Paperwork and projects, Oy. Be well my friend.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Maybe when I got up at three thirty, you were awake at 12:30? Sometimes I lie there and rest and even fall back asleep but today I was driven to find that quilt. Had a bowl of cereal. Read a bit of a novel.

      Reply
  9. Tina

    I’m sorry you’re not sleeping better .. all the what if’s are growing day by day. My biggest thing is do I want to be put on a ventilator?? I feel like I need my family to know. I have DNR in my health records but but but .. I would appreciate any thoughts on this subject.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      My sister, when she was failing last year, was adamant about not being intubated, in part because she’d spent eight weeks on a ventilator in 2010 in a medically induced coma. That’s when I learned the term DNI. When we did our proxies last fall, both Ken and I said we didn’t want heroic measures if there was no reasonable expectation of recovery and that includes specifically being on a respirator. I guess it would be a judgment call if we were to arrive at death’s door to an ER. I might want to insert language that I would want to be on a ventilator if it looked like I would recover. But would I want to be ventilated if it meant that a much younger person was not? Hmmmmm

      Reply
  10. Acey

    My sewing machine died before I could make masks for the household to have on hand. Am planning to hand-sew them as a separate abundance of care meditation. Probably won’t feel nearly as grounding or resourceful as I’m picturing it in my head. J. has resurrected it many times in the past but in these times it’s far more important that he keep his attention on enlarging our garden.

    interesting timing, too in relation to wandering among evidence of personal incompletion and the disquietude it evokes. Around two this morning I ordered a quilt batting from Keepsake where I haven’t shopped in years. Am very driven to layer and baste the quilt top I completed somewhere near the beginning of all of this. Instead of rolling it up and stowing it in small space I wanted the tap-root of committing to completion. Of something. I had planned to retire from making things and doing only gardening/sketchbook painting when I was 72. That’s what my end-game completion target has always been, providence willing. Now I just want to pick the most personally meaningful things and methodically work though them in a spirit of calm rather than frenzy. We’ll see how that goes.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      You have so much going on with your plantings and flower essence work, it’s hard to imagine adding production sewing! It never occurred to me to have an end date to certain kinds of making. I guess I assumed that arthritis and failing eyesight might determine when I stop. You’ve given me a lot to think about, as usual.

      Reply
  11. Michelle Slater

    My Medical Orders are done and in the hands of my doctor and my two Health care Proxy friends. Meanwhile, the contents of this apartment lived in for the past fifty (?) years will be selectively picked over by a list of six (who have keys) and then…who cares. The Pandemic has brought to the foreground the facts of life in a most decisive way. Anything can happen and at any time. Death is the only absolute promise. Therefore, LIFE matters. Love you Dee and all who visit here.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      “Death is the only absolute promise.” Seems like a contender for an embroidery. Love back. To you and all of New York.

      Reply

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