Friday, June 14, 2013

Location, location, location

Recently, I was working on finding some real estate, but not the usual kind.  It's just the latest turn in the journey toward the New Normal ( sometimes I worry that I'll end up in the old "Normal", and I think that's in Oklahoma... How confusing would that be? ... sorry, blonde font on...).

It's June 14th, and we're just under a month away from the 1-year-anniversary of Andre's death, and the kids and I are still digging out around here. Here are a few updates since the previous blog posting:

The "toy car" (a 1981 Porsche 928 that needed constant tinkering) has been sold and moved out of the garage, along with the majority of the spare parts that Andre had stockpiled.  Some techy kid in Oregon now gets to figure out "what's that new noise?"  and I have space in the garage for my minivan.

I'm deep into my master's degree program studies (and loving it, even though I'm struggling to keep up with the paper-writing load. But it's writing about psychology, so, really, how hard can that be for an enthusiastic armchair shrink and would-be journalist anyway? ).

The kids have finished school for the summer.

There's a delightful, thoughtful, funny,smart, music-loving man who seems to like hanging out with me these days and we see each other just about every weekend, and talk on the phone nearly every day.

On the day after tomorrow, I'll do my big run in the San Francisco Half Marathon (if you haven't yet donated to the American Brain Tumor Association, the organization whose work I'm supporting with my attempt at a run, here's the link:

In early May, I had the unexpected... well, I won't call it "pleasure"... of emergency gallbladder removal, and a six week NO-training recovery period, which made all of the above a little bit more complicated than I might have liked, but thanks to the generous efforts of friends and neighbors, my kids survived my sudden hospitalization unscathed and I'm on the mend now.  I'm seriously anxious about being the very last straggler across the finish line in Sunday's race, but surely that is pretty much a first-world problem.

And so, with all that running in the background, my latest project is getting my head and heart around the upcoming 1-year mark, figuring out how the kids and I will get ourselves through that tough anniversary, and working on what to do with Andre's cremated remains.  In the immediate aftermath of his death, I knew I'd be dealing with this question, but at the time, it felt like too much to handle, and that is, I guess, the advantage of cremation: there's no rush on dealing with the remains.  So, the large, heavy (seriously, who knew it would be that heavy?) wooden box, the size of a shoebox, with a brass plate engraved with the name, Andre Hedrick has been sitting inside a suitcase inside the back of my closet since last August, when the funeral home turned over his ashes to me.

...except that I'm feeling like it's TIME.  And soon.  So, I made a call to my pastor, and got the name of a local cemetery that has niches for ashes... and got, after an ugly bit of refusing to play "what do you want to spend?", a "bottom-line" price quote of $4,000 !!!   I try very hard these days not to be rude to people, but I was so shocked that my usually empathetic, polite-to-others outlook dropped right to the floor along with my jaw and I said, "that's freakin' ridiculous!"  The poor salesperson then scrambled around to give me a quote for " a place to scatter the ashes" for roughly half that price.  (Um... if I wanted to just scatter them, I could do that for free, lady.)

She seemed puzzled when I told her that was equally ridiculous.

I unplugged my cell phone earpiece, pulled out of the parking lot, and began driving my errands, complaining in my head to God, the universe and anyone else who would listen about what a horrible racket the funeral industry is, preying on people in a vulnerable state.  But it wasn't until I got myself out of my pity party mode and began to spend some time with my heart in Andre's better spaces, as much as I can access them, that I began to get an inkling of what to do.

As I rounded a corner and made the turn into the hardware store, the answer came to me.   Andre talked often about how much he hated the Bay Area, and longed to move someplace out in the country and telecommute. Seemingly, out of the blue, I remembered a cowboy town, about two hours away, on Highway 120 in the Central Valley, a place where the Hedrick family always stopped on the way home from camp in the Sierra, to shop for Andre's favorite Wrangler jeans (by the numbers, MWZ13, 38x30 ) at Tractor Supply Company.  It always felt like Andre's demons didn't reach him there, for that short space of time in a place that felt like a slice of Tennessee dropped into California.

With a call to the cemetery in that little cowboy town, I got a quote for a very affordable price, for a burial spot, with a headstone.  The dear lady on the phone said, "You just give me 48 hours notice before you come, and I can be sure that you also have some chairs and a shade canopy for your burial, hon."   I cain't help it (yes, that's "cain't", in that soft Southern/rural twang that always makes my shoulders drop), I just instinctively like people who call me 'hon'.  A second call to my pastor got her enthusiastic response to the idea, along with her willingness to drive all that way and pretty much eat up her whole day, along with some logistical brainstorming on picking the exact date and time for the burial.  She even helped me come up with a plan to take the children camping near Yosemite, so as to be "outta Dodge" on the anniversary itself.  (Oh, and houseburglars, I just got the alarm re-connected, the video system working again, and the neighbors will be on-alert, so don't try anything stupid.)

With a change of location:  from "where it's convenient" to "where it's right" and from self-pity to a last bit of tender remembering the man that Andre used to be, the marking of this horrible anniversary is feeling manageable.  I know it won't be easy.  Nothing so far has been easy, really.  But somehow, I think we'll get through it with a minimum of horror and maybe some new memories of our first visit to Yosemite to soften the harder memories of mid-July 2012.

Last year, in the days immediately following Andre's death, a very dear friend made me a "mourning music" CD that contained this piece, among many others that spoke comfort to me.  As we come up on the anniversary, the lyrics of this one are speaking to me again:  (If you click the lyrics, you'll go to a YouTube video where you can hear the piece.)

"For He shall give his angels charge over thee, and their hands shall hold and guide thee.  They shall uphold thee in all the ways thou goest. They shall protect thee. "

Tonight, I'm very aware of all those angelic hands that have brought me and the kids this far.  And I'm so grateful.