Blue Cross and endings

These mosaics aren’t about my sister, per se — more about clearing out her apartment. The first four pictures show how she lived. The second four, the clean up.

As of this morning, it’s done. Keys handed over. Inspection performed. Cancellation of lease signed.

There were a lot of people at the housing office. Bundled against the cold. Stacking and restacking all the papers they’d brought. Proof of this. Proof of that.

It wasn’t lost on me that to each and every one of them, my sister’s death represented a boon — a chance to move up a slot on the waiting list. My sister was on that list for eight years. Waiting. Wondering. Whenever she’d trot out her conspiracy theories, I’d push back, “Nah — we’re just waiting for someone to die.”

I’m thinking the blue cross in my new quilt piece (more of a doodle than anything) might represent aid coming from unexpected places (a blue cross being a less recognizable symbol of aid than a Red Cross). The bird and flying insects represent freedom. The underlying thought is that it’s too bad my sister had to die for me to be free. It wasn’t the route I would have chosen. And my problems didn’t set it up that way.

In other fiber news, I added an external pocket to my denim travel bag for my phone. Yeah! Also, the pennant I contributed to Mo‘s project, “I dream of a world where love is the answer” has flown home, along with tokens. In particular, I love the little white star. Thank you, Mo!

And lastly, the woman who taught the Indigo workshop I attended in 2014 down in South Carolina, Donna Hardy, posted this on Instagram this week.

I am shipping off a heavy weight cotton rectangle with a simple resist that came from Africa. It’s an honor to be part of this project, too.

PS my eyes feel 90% better already!

Looking back and forward

Tomorrow, Salem apartment inspection and key hand over. A finality, there.

The house and garage at this end are stuffed in spite of vigorous give aways and throw outs. But it can all wait ’til I get back.

This windowsill photo was taken roughly one year before my sister died just before the movers came. Who knew how little time she had left.

Aside from an eye hemorrhaged enough to warrant an urgent care visit yesterday, everything continues apace. The crocus are up, Euros obtained, tickets to the Villa Borghesi purchased, and a keyboard for tablet ordered (my old lap top is heavy!)

Also: filled the freezer with chicken pot pies, single serve pizzas, and meatballs. Otherwise, in my absence K might subsist on rice cakes and peanut butter (funny. Not funny).

It looks like I’ll be needing a raincoat in Italy and guess what? I DON’T CARE.

Count me please

Off I go. To one of 325 protests. Read a great Rebecca Solnit article this week entitled, “When the Hero is the Problem.” She says, “Our largest problems won’t be solved by heroes. They’ll be solved, if they are, by movements, coalitions, civil society.

Apt words after all this waiting for the sainted Mueller. There are no heroes. There is only us.

It was windy. A little cold. The coordinator read Adam Schiff’s remarks from last week and we all chanted “it’s not okay,” like a Greek chorus.

The new ordinary

I felt more space in my chest. Time had an elasticity to it that was a little liberating. Relaxed choices being made. No minutes metered by aggrieved worry while hustling at 80 up 128.

Handsome dog walker took Finn. I got to spend those hours on myself.

Went into the town center and sat and wrote for a while, as people do. Listened to other peoples’ conversations. Watched with amusement as a man in a full length coat swaggered out the door and flung up his hood while crossing the street. A modern Gandalf. Listened with dismay as a young female scientist pumped a senior male scientist for advice about all manner of things, including work/life balance. It was all I could do not to lean over and say, “Who else are you consulting?”

Then off to City Hall to renew dog license. Then down Beacon Street to return dishes to a friend who made us salmon with a maple glaze a couple of weeks ago.

What? It’s not yet noon?

I had time to call to my mother’s younger sister — the aunt people always say I look like. It had been years since we’d spoken, I don’t know why. The call had time to meander. Helpful things revealed. Surprising. Not surprising.

Then it’s still Finn-away time so I tend to the perennial beds, the sun warming my back.

Came in. Almost finished a book called “The Ravenmaster,” enjoying the antics of those wickedly smart birds. It’s the book my sister gave C for Christmas, so I’m staying with that, but out of curiosity more than grief, though a little grief, too.

Still early. Quilting. Laundry. Time feels like a friend. My ribs expand. Finished prime’s so-so thriller, Absentia. Dinner would be good, so I heat leftovers. Ice cream. Man!

It’s not that I don’t miss her — I do — but all those binding constraints? No and no.

A most ordinary, extraordinary Tuesday.

Signs

The penultimate text from the hospice social worker said, “I hope (if you believe in this), she will send you signs.”

I’ve been looking. Waiting. Would my sister send a sign? There have been three now.

Friday was my first trip up to Salem alone in a while and for some reason I was filled with dread.

I needn’t have been, for my sister made her presence felt right away when a solar powered lantern went on. Poof. Just like that! My sister got it for herself at Christmas and even though it’s been plainly visible for three months, not once have I seen it lit. Hi, Noreen.

The second sign came in the form of four turkeys: two strutting by themselves, one squished dead on the side of the road, and the fourth roosting in a tree up the street in the gloaming.

The first turkey showed up during Finn’s and my morning walk. Nothing unusual, though I was a little surprised that it was alone.

But then, a second bird in Peabody — also alone. I’ve never seen one on the North Shore.

My tingly-sense was activated.

Almost an hour later as I neared home, I saw the dead one. It was crumpled up against the guardrails dividing Route Nine, feet sticking straight up in the air. The glorious feathers in a heap. I gasped.

I’ve seen dead geese, squirrels, rabbits, cats, blue jays and skunks, but not once have I ever come across a dead turkey. It was heart breaking.

But later, just before full dark, I took Finn around the block and spied the fourth turkey — way up in the branches of a maple tree. On my street. I was stunned. I’ve only seen roosting birds one other time and it was an entire flock.

The thing was part shadow, part creature, its presence both spooky and majestic. Hallowed. Sent.

Lastly, today I came across a stack of box lids — the last things in my sister’s hall closet. I planned on keeping them because they make wonderful sorting trays for paper, which is why I was a little surprised that these were empty. Oh, but wait.

In the stack, folded up, was a map of Italy! Can you believe it? This last piece of ephemera came as a gratifying benediction, one week after reserving plane tickets to Rome.

Even though my travels over the years stirred up my sister’s anxieties, I know that she’d be thrilled on my behalf about this trip.

I have the map to prove it.

Spring temps at last

The clouds slid slowly to the west. Blackbirds darted from treetop to treetop while fat jays swooped down onto sodden, yellow lawns. I wore gloves but it was in the 40’s. Finally! We passed the husky — Sasha? — who stares (and then stares some more). Finn did just fine. “See the doggie?” Treat. Treat. “See the doggie?” Treat. Move on.

I listened with one earbud to a Pod Save America episode entitled “Peak Stupid.” You can guess what it was about. I might be all out of outrage for the moment.

Once home, I lifted myself out of the chair to check caller ID. The ACLU again — for what? — the fiftieth time in a month? Instead of annoyance, there was a twinge of recognition that it will never again be my sister calling. My intrusive, demanding, unreasonable sister.

Maybe it’s time, at last, to ditch the landline. Do any of you still have one?

Today, a charity comes to Saint Peter Street in Salem to look at my sister’s furniture. I hope they take a piece or two.

Now, at least, I am waking at my more usual time of 6:30. Since March 13, I’ve been waking at the approximate time of my sister’s death: 5:30. Lying awake in the dark.

Is she “gone”? How does one gauge these things? There hasn’t really been a moment when I felt her spirit near or when I felt a notably fresh absence.

Does that make me dense, somehow ill equipped to feel these things? Or should I take my sister at her word?

Not that long ago, I might have jokingly asserted that I hoped she wasn’t going to be a pain in the ass from the other side. She retorted, “Shit! I’ll have better things to do than haunt you!”

She could be funny. So could I.