Last year for mom’s birthday I got her three bags of her favorite coffee. I didn’t know until too late, but she decided to finish her huge warehouse-store sized can of nasty coffee before opening mine.

She didn’t live that long. I just opened the first bag of mom’s coffee, to prepare the coffee maker for the morning. It smells wonderful. Wish mom were here to share it with me. Might as well have some; it’s not like I’ll be sleeping now.

Life is too short to drink lousy coffee.


I had a dream last night which has stuck with me all day. It was a horrific way to wake up.

I dreamed my mother was still alive and healthy. We were all working on her house, and at some point she and dad brought me to the airport. Mom would be following on a later flight–terrible travel planning on her part, which was pretty normal. Dad would be staying behind. We said goodbye as I got onto a shuttle, and I thought “That’s the last time I’ll ever see them together.”

Then I woke up.

For a moment, I didn’t know where I was or why I’d just said goodbye to my parents. Then I remembered. It was like going through it all, all over again.

It’s going to be a very bad Christmas.

Here’s a clue for companies that use direct mail: when someone calls and tells you “My mother has died, please stop sending her mail and please do not sell, rent, or give her name and address to anyone else,” I know that’s pretty unclear, and we might seem to be a little wishy-washy on it, but what we really mean is “SHE’S DEAD, STOP IT!”

When I called AARP for the first time, I had a vague hope that the tons of mail, including credit card applications, would stop. Yeah, that was dumb. I’ve called again, I’ve written at least twice, today was the third phone call… really, mom doesn’t want AARP membership, any of the AARP credit cards, AARP insurance, AARP travel, AARP financial services, AARP discounts, AARP local services, official AARP dumbbells, AARP jewelry, AARP electronics, AARP swampland in Florida, AARP “Rolex” watches, cash transfers from the AARP ambassador to Nigeria, or the AARP kitchen sink. Honest. I wouldn’t lie to you. She doesn’t want them. She can’t. She’s dead. Still. Even after all these months. That’s not going to change.

I know, I’m ranting. It’s not a problem to toss this stuff into the shredder–when I actually get my hands on it. But mail has been coming to my house and going to mom’s old house, and until recently, no one was there to get the mail. The change of address forms I filed didn’t make a difference. Mail was still delivered regularly and sat in that mailbox for weeks. Anyone who has dealt with identity theft will tell you what a bad idea that is.

And it’s not just AARP, though they are one of the most stubborn offenders. Whenever dad went to pick up the mail there would be four or five different credit card applications there, and he’d nag me about each one. “Maybe you should call AARP and ask them to stop.”

What, AGAIN? I’ve called or mailed them monthly for the last five months!

So here’s a clue, direct mailers. When someone says “My family member is dead, stop sending them mail,” we mean “We’re already hurting, it’s been a very bad year, and if you persist in selling the name of a dead person you are going to generate a lot of resentment here and you’re going to give yourself a very bad name. Our loved one’s name is worth pennies on your list, remove the name from all your lists and LEAVE US IN PEACE.”

A long time ago, when a person died, they left behind children, memories, photographs, a gravestone, sometimes tangible things that they built that might last 50 or 100 years. These days, when you die, you leave behind your name on thousands of mailing lists. You’re remembered not as the teacher who cared deeply about her students, but as account number 1415926535, who had an interest in travel, automobiles, and gold jewelry. And as long as your name can be sold for a few pennies now and then, you will live forever.


My grandfather has moved into my mother’s house.

My grandfather is 95, and in ill health. His house is typical old New England architecture: small rooms and doorways, stairs everywhere, half a dozen stairs just to get into the house, no full bathroom on the first floor. He’s just been released from hospital and nursing home after nearly five full months, and it’s simply not practical to have him return to his house. If mom’s house weren’t empty I’m not sure where he would have gone.

Of course, if mom were here and healthy, she would be helping and she might have had some ideas of her own.

Mom’s house, while not exactly handicapped-friendly, is much easier to use than my grandfather’s house. There are only two short steps into the house. Everything is on one floor. One bathroom has a tub, one has a shower stall, so while I suspect he’ll be using the tub and a transfer bench, there are options. The rooms are larger, though the doorways are still narrow–too narrow for a standard wheelchair or walker.

A tiny bit of good has come of the horror of the past two years.

It doesn’t help.

Just after lunchtime, but before I had a chance to stop and eat anything, I found myself near mom’s favorite restaurant. What the hell; I went in.

Mom’s tastes were a bit expensive. Mine are too, but she could afford it. I can’t. I looked over the menu and realized that the only thing I could possibly afford was the clam chowder. This was mom’s favorite soup. I’m sure they make it with heavy cream. It’s a heart attack in a bowl, and even when I’d stop to get it for her, I’d only allow myself a taste. When she was doing chemotherapy, there were days when this soup was all she could eat.

Since it was all I could eat, I ordered it. The familiar taste and rich, comfort food texture brought me right back to those days. I was back in the kitchen, ladling soup out of a cardboard container. It was the worst best soup I’ve had in a long time.

I realized at two in the morning that today is July 22nd. Mom’s birthday.

All month I’ve been fighting off thoughts of “I’ve got to go get mom a gift… wait, no, I don’t,” but I’ve been avoiding looking at the calendar. This morning snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking. It was not a good night.

I called the pharmacy today to refill one of my prescriptions, and their computer linked my phone number with mom’s prescriptions. The pharmacy tech greeted me with her name. I asked again that they correct their records. They’ll ignore me again, I’m sure.

Now I know why dad sounded like crap on the phone yesterday.

Fucking cigarettes.

Four in the morning, just starting to fall asleep. A dream with a very vivid image of mom in her coffin jolted me awake.

The hell with it. Sleep is for mortals.