My sister had not yet been gone a year when her blue glass baking pan shattered. Like a grenade going off, it sent big and little shards of glass all over the stove top and floor. What a perfect way for her to appear, I thought. During food prep, of course, with violence, of course, and narrowly missing injuring me. So much for the sentimentality of a delicious roasted chicken prepared in an inherited pan — Pyrex, by the way.
Then there was that time in LA when one of her large paintings came loose and dropped like a guillotine to the couch below. Both boys were there, my brother, me — the entire surviving William Mallon bloodline. Dramatic, scary, and inescapably about her. A signature move, in other words. Nobody was hurt.
But she was an excellent cook, gave generously at Christmas even when she had no money, and she was a wizard with plants. Her windowsills were always lush with them. She knew when to pinch and cut them and when to leave them alone. She knew how to propagate new plants with cuttings. Even when she was actively dying and couldn’t care for them, her windowsill plants thrived.
With geraniums, I never had any luck overwintering them, even after doing research and putting them in the basement with bags over the pots.
The geraniums inherited from Noreen, on the other hand, I put in a cold east-facing window for the winter and pretty much forgot about them. They sprawled. They bloomed. They transitioned to the outdoors beautifully. All summer, they graced deck corners and patio edges.
This geranium above is the same one you see below.
My point is we are not one thing only and neither are our relationships. It is a testament to how difficult my sister was that it took three years for the sweeter memories to start percolating up, but they are, and I’m grateful.
The sea was wild, sassy. Tide high. Moon full. We took my sister’s ashes to Loblolly Cove where the rocks offered an initial perch, the sea a final wash.
We watched and waited for the wave that would offer the last rinse. They teased us, the waves, licking one side of the rock where her ashes lay, then the other. After a while, medium-sized wave crashed and it looked like it had taken all the ashes at first. But it hadn’t.
We watched and waited some more. Finally, I approached with a plastic bin to scoop water onto the rock. And wouldn’t you know, wasn’t it just perfect, that the biggest wave of the day arrived as I stood there, drenching me head to toe and washing the last of my sister away in a dramatic rush of foam.
Of course it was her. I laughed. “Hello, Noreen!”
As we walked back to the car, I noticed how much of the sediment in the rocks looked like human cremation remains.
K: “We all come from the same stuff.”
Finn discovered how tasty crab shells left behind by gulls were and made the return slower than it might have been otherwise.
And as always, I grabbed a token.
Now the token sits where her ashes used to be, in front of one of her favorite totems.
Today, the WordPress platform resists uploads, spins its refusal in ways I’ve never seen, forcing me to insert, and then insert again, all while wondering what the f@*k is going on.
To that I also say, “Hello, sister!”
May she be at peace. May I be at peace. May we all be at peace.
Watching Deadline Whitehouse, making chicken stock and dinner — I must be home. The sky is leaden, rain imminent — I must be home.
Trip to see younger son in Colorado was a little disorienting because we had no room to furnish or apartment to find or supplies to buy. Didn’t drop several hundred dollars at Target, so we went out to eat instead!
Best meal in Denver was not either of the three-dollar-sign dinners, but rather a reasonably priced lunch at Rotary Eats, one of the stalls in a place called Avanti. Avanti : like a food court, only good!
Exterior of Avanti, above, and interior, below.
My selections were roasted chicken thighs, roasted cauliflower with tahini sauce and golden raisins, and the best homemade potato chips I’ve ever had.
Our first special dinner was at The Black Cat in Boulder. The place gets great reviews and takes seriously the farm to table model of dining, but I didn’t like all the pickled vegetables or the flavor of the sauce served with my artisanal pork, so I was a little disappointed. I’m prepared to admit that the fault lay with my palette and not the food preparation. Salad was outstanding — greens picked that morning! — as was the service.
Brunch at “duo” in Denver proved disappointing, too, probably because I’ve had southern biscuits and the biscuits in my breakfast were grainy and muffin-like. K loved his meal, shown next to mine below.
(Biscuits and gravy with two eggs).
Sharing the meal with Denver friends we see about once a year, Marc and Kim, was great though. Marc and I went to law school together.
The other restaurant in the “duo” is located in Vermont.
We had another special dinner in Denver at a place called Vesta. I had braised lamb shank on a hot pepper infused polenta. Delicious! The meat fell off the bone, as it should! Those yellow chips are deep fried garlic slivers — insanely good.
The place is known for its sauces, so we started with a selection. The most popular was the hot pepper, horseradish a strong second.
I’ll leave you with “crack bacon.” I misread the menu at the breakfast joint “Syrup” and thought the dish was “cracked bacon” (as in crispy). Oh no. The strips were sautéed in brown sugar. Caramelized. They meant “crack” as in instantly addictive!
The phone is ringing and it’s not my sister. If you’re tired of her and my relationship, consider this post done!
My sister got very anxious whenever I left town — amped up worry informed mostly by abandonment issues and imagined travel mishaps. She never could keep straight the dates, so for weeks ahead of time, I would have to keep reiterating the plan. It got annoying. It didn’t help to write it on her calendar because usually her calendars went missing.
My sister magnanimously deemed my time away as vacation from her, partly because she knew I needed a little separation and partly because she kept forgetting about cell phones. Even so, to her utter amazement and gratitude, I’d generally check in at least once while away.
Obviously, this trip there was none of that. And no quick call immediately upon arrival home to quell her anxious misery. I missed that a little because her intense relief at my being back was a form of welcome.
On the other hand, there’s the relief: no need to scramble and rush up to the North Shore for a visit during the very same days when I need to settle back into being home. The car engine smelled like burning rubber or oil today while out for groceries. Instead of irritation I felt only gratitude — it wasn’t happening en route to Salem! I wasn’t gonna have to juggle car repair and a trip to Salem! I was headed home, where I would stay for the rest of the day!
It’s been two months and a week since she died — a fact I find amazing.
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.
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!”