In search of story

April 2.19


I’ve been in California. Did I have fun? Was it a good time? Well, it’s complicated.

Both my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren stood with me at my brother’s grave near a sun-crazed bloom of osteospermum. It was a beautiful day. As I walked away from the grave, I impulsively turned and said, “Bye, LB.” (He was LB and I was BS.) I felt awful. (Full disclosure: my brother and I spent our childhoods trying to kill each other. I do not wish to give the impression of lifetime sibling bliss.)

Then to his house so I could see it one last time. To our astonishment, the insides were being ripped out; it seemed the new owner had been granted permission to start renovations before closing was official. I think we scared the daylights out of her, a bunch of strangers led by my 6’5″ second-born. But then came explanations and introductions and a heady dose of her infectious excitement. Lots of hugs.

She invited us to go through, but I declined. I didn’t resent the changes but I wanted to remember his home in all its beigeness the way it had been. Everyone else explored the gutted insides. I visited his stalwart rose, that would live, no matter what he didn’t do.

The new owner commented on the sense of peace she felt in the place. The grave was still with me, but now also a happy sense of renewal. Complicated.


Then legal and financial complications. All confusing to me, but, fortunately, not to my younger son. I leaned on him heavily. And on my new cane. I did not feel young! In the midst of it all, he took me to two art museums. My brain, entangled in the mesh of practicalities, struggled valiantly to adjust to the abstract and erudite. Complicated.

LA traffic was worse than ever. I’ve never been a city person, and the way of the city is but dirty mayhem and claustrophobia to me. It wears me down and depresses me. I felt mechanized.

My son’s friends invited me to dinner. A group of 40-somethings on a rooftop in the hills overlooking Los Angeles with — yes! — Emmy! I got to meet Emmy! I could see that the future is in good hands — and what wonderful calm amid the treetops away from the city!

Late in the week, as we sought the Santa Monica Post Office, I spied the Pig Jig. It hit my funnybone in a most unexpected way. As a usual thing, I am not particularly drawn to pigs, let alone when they’re dancing, but these three seemed to insist that they had a place in my week.


Life goes on? No, I don’t think so. We search for words to band-aid the loss, but the loss remains. Each of us feels it and fears it in his or her own way. It’s human. And there’s nothing more complicated than being human.

Our homecoming was marked by a bracing faceful of snowy air. Ah, spring in Indiana! What a finale!

If you have read to this last, dear reader, you have my thanks. This is by far the longest post I’ve ever written. In part, I wanted to explain my absence. But, as you well understand, I also turn to words to help me.


With thanks to photographer Patrick Mesterharm for the photo of me in the Kusama sculpture at the Marciano.

And thanks also to photographer Kelley Wilson Mesterharm for the official photo of the stalwart rose.


10 thoughts on “April 2.19

  1. What a nice account of your trip! I’m very sorry for your loss, Maureen. Nice your sons and grandchildren were there with you.

  2. I read to the end as you knew I would. 🙂 Glad you are back safe and sound. It sounds like you had just the right amount of support from your family to work through a difficult loss. Pats on the back to those strong sons of yours for taking such good care of you. I know what you mean about touring the house. I go by the house my grandparents lived in, and it looks nothing like it use to. Sad. But, I’m certainly not sad that you’re on line again. Love the header shot and the beautiful yellow rose. 🙂

  3. Thank you! Isn’t that white iris a wonder? I am always taken by white in a garden, and the iris is one of my all-time favorites, so these white iris about knocked me over!

    As to support, oh, yes. Both my sons have been wonderful, but then they always are.

    I’d find it hard to go past a grandparents’ home that had changed; such change shouldn’t be allowed! You must feel a sense of loss every time you go by; I think I would.

  4. The dancing pigs look rather unpig-like – perhaps that’s down to the dancing. I might have thought bear or rabbit had I not looked closely at the feet.

    I’m glad to hear the details of your trip, which sounds as good as it gets in the circumstances, with the exception of the traffic and the house being torn apart so quickly, even by a nice lady. I read recently that when a person dies, they make straight for the people who love them and live on there. There’s an element of truth in that, however we view the world. I am so sorry for your loss and understand your need to note how you have not always seen eye to eye – siblings are made to be sparred with, aren’t they? I vividly remember my sister walking all the way across the room to poke me in mine (eye, that is).

    • Indeed. I thought their legs looked suspiciously like drumsticks. But then, on closer look, I could see hamhocks. (You can tell the influence of my mother’s North Carolina roots.)

      Thanks for your thoughts. I am, of course, drawn to the notion that at death, in one way or another, we move on to the people who love us. I agree there is some kind of truth in that. You will understand how it was that I laughed out loud when I read that your sister walked all the way across the room to poke you in the eye. Yes, siblings are made to be sparred with; they toughen us up for later life, I think. My conscience would have berated me endlessly had I given the impression my brother and I had any kind of peaceful coexistence in childhood.

      • I am not optimistic that I have mastered the streaky bacon / bacon / ham / gammon translations.

        Watching a litter of baby animals is probably instructive. There must have been plenty of dozing quietly in a pile moments, but they don’t have enough excitement factor to stay fresh in our minds decades later.

  5. There is truth in that: we are indeed more likely to remember the times that got our adrenaline going. I’m trying to picture my brother and me dozing quietly in a pile, but I can feel him poking me.

  6. Life is so messy, isn’t it? But as long as there is family (and flowers), I’ll still have hope. Glad that your sons and grandchildren were with you — going back can be very hard. You’ve been in my thoughts during your online absence. Guess I know why now.

    • Messy for sure! I have reached the point where any appearance of tidiness to life makes me suspicious. You are so right that family and flowers can give hope — I am so very grateful for my sons! Thanks for your thoughts while I was gone; we know that in some mysterious way they helped.

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