Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Good Daughter

I thought when my parent's died I said goodbye.

I was there....I kissed them....through a river of tears I said goodbye.

But it is 9 months later....and I am still saying goodbye.

Goodbye to mom's red leather boots, to dad's tools, to mom's coats, to a hundred cardboard boxes dad stored just in case he needed one, to old pens, to a tattered towel, a crumpled Kleenex in a suit pocket....on and on it goes.

In a few hours, I'll sign papers to set in motion the big their house where they lived for 40 years. In this real estate market the house probably isn't going to change hands quickly, but the signature on the paper starts the tear that will break the matter how long it takes.

The house looks good. The kitchen/family room...actually beautiful.

Yesterday, another person told me I should have just sold the house "as is".....but I wonder if I needed to fix and repair this house to erase the guilt I felt.

My parents were so sick and they died so quickly....they were each in hospice only days before the end....and I as their only child....inherited everything... their money, their possessions ...their house.

Perhaps in some way....I needed to work on this house....I needed to clean and repair and break down at the end of the 14 hour workd day in exhaustion to be able to accept what they left to me.

People take care of aging parents for years and I intensely took care of my parents for three months.

Since I couldn't show them how hard I would have worked for them...or how dedicated I would have been to them no matter how long they both lived after dad's stroke....I poured my energy and my heart into what was left of them....their house...and though their possessions are dispersed....the house remains.....the garage door is painted....the house numbers are new...the new wood floor shines...the cracks are fixed, the shed is painted.

What I couldn't do for them....I did for the house....something they loved and cherished.

People will go through this house and nod at the cleanliness....the tidiness....the modernization. They will nod mentally to the former owners who kept the house in such good shape. They will nod to my parents for their good taste even though they don't know them.

And tomorrow I will nod I head home....I have made the home they loved beautiful again....and maybe the work won't pay off in dollars...but it will pay off a debt I owe to them.

I wanted to be the good daughter. Now I am.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Moses calling.....

"Is this Gina?"


"This is Moses. I have your wood."


"Moses from the Floor Store."

"Oh, thank heavens!"

And just like that I was freed....and without a single plague.

The only thing keeping me here in Chicago.....was the floor.

Thanks to Moses....I've got wood ....and tomorrow morning the installation team arrives to set it in place.

Then I'm free....I sign the contract to sell my parent's house on Wednesday....I pack my belongings ...and head home.

Of course I'm not entirely free....I'll visit Chicago every month to check the house till its sold.....there's clothes to donate and sort through.....but for the most part....the house is finished.

This evening I visited a friend....and the first thing she asked me was "What are you going to do now with your life?"

"I...I...I..." I didn't know what to say.

I know there's a mountain of boxes at home to unpack.....receipts to go to scan....but there is also the unfamiliar.....the idea that I won't have to spend every day and most of my waking hours on my parent's affairs..... I can actually think about me.

It's's been 9 months since dad had his stroke...the same length of time as an average carried me for 9 months.....and now I've returned the favor and carried them to the end of their life over the same length of time.

Exodus....Me and Ozzie the Wonder Dog in 48 hours.

"This is an easy threats....just 600 square feet of Brazilian Cherry."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Queen of Caulk

I can caulk anything.
Really....when you are repairing/renovating an old house....caulk is your friend....your white lifeline.
Hole? Separation? Unsightly gap?
A tiny cord or perhaps even a big ol' dollop of caulk can solve the problem....okay.... maybe not solve the problem completely but make it look a hell of a lot better.
And trust me....there's a skill in squeezing out a clean brilliant white some ways it's like good sex.... you need a firm grasp and a wet finger to get it just right.
Not all caulk is the same and what you apply it with shows your skill level.
Tube of caulk....that's for amateurs and the hesitant....when you're confident and skilled... you go for the gun....a nice metal gun which loads a tube of gooey forgiveness.
And how interesting all this helpfulness can be washed away with water....after all the chemicals I've been using in the last few months to remove or clean's wonderful to stick a dirty hand or finger under the faucet and find my fingers and hand intact.
I'm down to the kitchen....the house has been painted.....the hardwood floors exposed...the carpets cleaned....and the backyard is tidy......a little caulking ....a little painting....and THE FLOOR...and the queen of caulk gets to hang up her crown and head on home.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good bye Diva Kitty

She looked scared.

My mom's diva kitty.....princess of the known universe.....dominatrix over other cats....looked small and confused in the volunteer's arms.

Despite many attempts to find someone to adopt her, I couldn't find anyone to take her. So I brought her to the Humane Society today. She was terrorizing my old cat so much Old Kitty became anorexic and is now on anti-depressants and she was chasing my mom's other cat we adopted. Our hallways reverberated with hissing and cat songs all day long.

So I brought her back to Chicago in hopes they could find her a good home. She had, of course, been angelic the last two days. 15 minutes into the trip to Chicago, she figured out how to pull the zipper back on the cat carrier and was loose in the car. She rode shotgun for the next 9 hours....occasionally jumping over the passenger seat to sit next to Ozzie the Wonder Dog in the backseat. Once we arrived at my parent's house, she followed me around....and with no one to chase ....she was charming. But she can't stay here.....and she can't be at our I felt backed up against the wall.

I was already in tears when I reached the front door. A policeman...about 6'4" and about as wide....held open the door with one hand and cradled a tiny orange and white tabby kitten in the other.

"They're good people here," he said...obviously seeing my tears.

"There's even hope for this one." The little squinty-eye kitty cried pathetically.

The "Intake" volunteer was kind and assured me Diva Kitty was very adoptable. Declawed, cute and healthy looking.....she had the air of a cat who had been loved and taken care of......rather than a stray.

They asked for a 30.00 donation and I added more to the check in memory of my parents.

"Do you want me to send an acknowledgement to them?"

"No, they are...........gone."

Floodgate open.

I cried into my hand while waiting for the last paper to sign.

Sometimes when I give away their things....I like going through their death the cat away....watching some of their beloved belongings leave the house and get stuffed into a stranger's van......or even receiving some of their junk mail. "Peter you're almost running out of time to renew your subscriptions."

Running out of time. Peter already ran out of time as did Irene.

Despite a long to-do list.....when I came back to the house....I reopened the sofa bed....climbed in and put all the covers on top of me and cocooned.

The dark and warm was soothing again the bite of lonliness that gnawed on me.

Eventually Ozzie the Wonder Dog poked his nose at the blankets and when I didn't stir...he pawed the blanket.

I reached my hand out and his soft wet nose shot into my palm. He pumped my hand for scratchies. He was probably hungry.

I tossed the blankets off.....made Ozzie dinner, peed, and peered into the refridge to see what I could make for dinner.

Sometimes all you can keep moving. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, October 12, 2009

Prayer to the House Gods

Dear House Gods...
I'll be back in Chicago tomorrow and I need your help.
I've got to finish all the repairs/remodeling in the next two weeks so I can get the house up for sale by the end of October.
It will be the last shot of the season and the first-time home owner's credit will expire soon.
I know I've been angry at you.......for all the work...all the discoveries of things that needed to be done.....but I guess it's not your's mine.... or maybe we should blame the Home and Garden Channel....where whole houses and fantastic projects are completed in no time with plenty of smiles and little cash.
All I wanted to do was some repairs and renovations to make the house look move-in ready in today's market.....the house would stand above the crowd and sell quicker.
Looking back, maybe I should have taken that first ultra low ball offer and sold it "as is".....but .....I kept fixing and modernizing because I needed to honor my parents....I needed to show them for the last time that I loved them......and respected them...and that I would do the best with what they left me.
I know....I am a horrible business woman....I should have taken the money...handed the house over and said "Amen."
But I didn't.......and you know this isn't the first time in my life...that I have stuck my neck out for my heart and what I felt in I need you to smile down upon my efforts and place a nice family or couple in this home. People who would cherish it like my parents cherished it.....they were so proud of their house...and they loved it so much....they illogically choose to stay in it....even though they were getting too frail to take care of it.
And yes...I have "ulterior" motives.....I want to go home....I want to go back to my my kitchen and garden gods....and I want to restart my life after this long pause in order to help my parents leave their lives.
So House me find the hardwood flooring on sale Wednesday....let it be in stock and shipped within the week...send decent painting guys who will fix the walls and paint the bedrooms so I am proud instead of exasperated by their work. Help me find the strange little knob that makes the screen door work....and most of all help me with those fucking kitchen cabinet doors. Let my paint brush somehow magically erase the uneven base I created through my experimentation....may we have the right cabinet latches so I don't have to go out and buy 68 different ones....let the kitchen drawers match so someone doesn't stand there and say "What the fuck?" and let it stop raining so I can spread a little mulch on the flowerbeds.
To assist you, I will bury a statue of St. Joseph upside down and facing the house.
But please..... do not tell my new congregation that I am reverting to old Eastern Euro religious customs for luck.
Work with me House me pass this shelter.....clean and tidy and functional another family who will grow to love you and bring you much delight.
Oh and just a little reminder....please help me get there nodding off in Missouri....I appreciated those noisey little bumps but geez...they scared the shit out of me and Ozzie the Wonder Dog.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I don't want to be a cat in the bathtub

I placed my cat in the middle of the bathtub.

I had already filled the tub with soft towels and turned a little bathroom light on for a gentle glow in the room.

My cat is in seclusion and on antidepressants.

I guess if someone was going to break down in the family, I am grateful it was her instead of me....although the last two weeks in Chicago were so stressful....I'm surprised I didn't end up in a rubber room or rubber bathtub.

My cat has never liked change and my constant arrivals and departures plus the addition of my mom's cat to our household.....tipped her fragile mental status.

She lost half her body weight....lots of fur.....and when I returned home on Monday she stopped eating and drinking.

The vet shook his head over her skeletal appearance and sighed a lot. "Her lab work is normal," he patted my hand and looked sad, " I'm afraid it's psychological." And just like a human patient, we discussed options for care. The end result: seclusion, rest and drugs. My master bath would become a mini psych ward.

For a moment or two....I wanted to join her in therapy.

But that's not in the cards right now.

And so she is sequestered and comfortable and drugged into a sleepy happiness.

Her appetite improved 1000% in just one day. She purred...just a little bit...but it's a sound I haven't heard in months.

Taking care of old cat.....made me rethink my plans for the week too....sure I could plough through a mile long to-do list ....but I'm not.

My whole psyche is drained and I've got to stop to refill.

I pared down my to-do list.

I made up a new list with things like: attending the Art Speigelman lecture at a local university....(a Pulitzer prize winning comic artist) and I've got tickets to see Robin Williams and David Sedaris in two separate concerts this weekend.

I turned my phone off for 24 hours on Wednesday and also had a 24 hour ban on checking email.

Today I went decadent...and had a facial and a massage. The masseuse must have thought I dozed off and didn't realize the session was over......because he returned to the room and reminded me I could leave...something my bones and muscles were boycotting.

In a few minutes I'm going to pour myself a nice glass of red wine...prop my feet up and watch "The Daily Show".....and then I'm going to bed....before novel thing for a night owl.

Sometimes you've got to take care of yourself......or else you'll end up like a cat in the middle of the bathtub.

Geez....too bad I didn't encourage Old Cat to watch Dr. Phil....

Sunday, October 04, 2009


I was busy moving stuff around the house when I heard a strange noise from the kitchen. I turned around and it was Ozzie the Wonder Dog on his belly....scraping the tile with his paws to move towards me.

In a few seconds, I realized what was happening.....Ozzie started seizing....I dropped to my knees and held him gentle. "Good boy...Good boy" I whispered over and over again...watching his eyes lose focus....watching his body twitch....wiping the saliva dripping from mouth.

It passed..... but afterwards he was shaking and didn't want to be alone. I wrapped him in a blanket to keep him warm and held him for a long time. He didn't move and I didn't either.

A bond is a bond and even small bonds can be sacred.