Saturday, March 27, 2010

Almost One Month

Tomorrow will make it a month since Mom left us. I'm still not sure how to deal with it all but I am surviving and sleeping okay. Obsessive thoughts occasionally wake me up or keep me up but I've done pretty well without Benadryl.

Two of my favorite cousins were able to come in for the funeral and it was good for Dad to have most of his brothers and sisters here. My Aunt Sue just wasn't in any condition to come and Shell's husband had to be gone so she couldn't bring her.

Dad also has a lot of good friends in his hometown and nearby who were only too willing to help. My friends were also wonderful. Dad, however, sadly learned who was here for much more selfish reasons -- soliciting attention for themselves and their current life challenges -- none of which even begin to compare to the death of an immediate family member such as a spouse or a parent. Mom had mentioned this person doing this over the years since she and Dad had met their parents and how even they were tired of it. But I had to keep Dad's situation foremost in mind and he didn't want to hurt his person's feelings despite his needing to not have to worry about anyone but himself. My parents are just too nice and I hate to see people take advantage - especially at such a critical time when we were all just beginning to grieve and barely surviving minute by minute while trying to hold ourselves together. And to have someone so clueless constantly in the way certainly didn't help. But we survived it and it's another of life's lessons learned about people's willingness to take advantage of someone else's tragedy.

I went back home to sleep in my own bed each night and did quite a bit to help Dad plan to funeral -including picking the readings and suggesting Ave Maria - one of Mom's favorite songs. I've kept track of who sent flowers, food, and cards. Dad even mentioned one evening that if I wasn't doing it, it wouldn't get done. I've started the thank-you notes but do not want to send any of them until I have finished with all of them so I don't leave anyone out or write two to the same person. My brother helps when Dad tells him to do something and Dad did reinforce my minimal requests during the funeral week. When he was going right by one place to get to another Dad was sending him, he could certainly stop to drop off pictures for the obituary. You would have thought it was the end of the world but, in the end, he didn't have a choice.

I stayed over the Thursday night of the funeral so that Dad wasn't all by himself all of the sudden on Friday and it also gave me a chance to start sorting through some of Mom's things. I'm starting with the most visible signs of Mom - their shared bathroom counter, their shared double walk-in closet, and the laundry room immediately inside the back door. The drawers has not been sorted in decades and much of what was there were Mom's "copies" of things Dad keeps somewhere else such as putty knives and key holders, etc. He wants to keep the microwave from the late 1970s (it's huge and heavy) since it reminds him of her so the unused trash compactor will stay there to support it. But there is a floor in there and the brooms are in the closet.

Other times, it's simply too hard emotionally to keep going through everything. But I do my best. I have headed back over each Wednesday and spent the night and worked in the house in between various appointments on Wednesday and Thursday. The last time Mom and Dad went out together was to the club and I knew Dad would have a hard time the first time he went back. I knew I would be the designated driver and I was. And it's good for me to see the family friends each week.

We knew she had been working on taxes and I knew it was in Dad's best interest not do an extension since we wanted to get it off his plate and off his mind. I thought I had looked everywhere. We were quite frustrated because we only found a few pieces of tax-related paperwork that came in after she went into the hospital. We knew she had it gathered up somewhere. I found her 2008 envelope of prep materials still on her desk so at least I had something to model from as I found records. And all her 2009 bills were in a folder in her desk. Dad was already in the process of moving files he needed downstairs. The hardest thing about her office is how her various genealogical stacks -all of which mean something- overtake everything else in there.

When we thought we had looked everywhere, I went back to a chair I didn't think she used often in her bedroom because there was another one that was surrounded by her stuff - and found a manilla folder with all her stuff. So we were able to reschedule the meeting with her accountant the next week. Ultimately, I decided to switch to this accountant since we would be spending so much time with him as we put Mom's estate plan into action over the next few months. I like my accountant but they sold out to a bigger firm in another town a few years ago and it just hasn't been the same. Last year, it was a panic to get my tax returns back to me to sign and mail because I was leaving town - something I had clearly stated during our initial meeting. Now that won't be a problem anymore.

There's still a lot to do at the house and lot to help Dad with but I will go back to teaching on Monday. And I'll see if I can focus enough to start grading my online classes. I put notices up when this family emergency occurred and then again after the funeral that grading would take precedence over other course-related tasks. Most emails before this tragedy were asking questions already answered in the course materials they did not want to review again and I imagine most of them now are asking about grades that I don't know anything about since the material hasn't been graded yet. All I can say is I'm doing my best.

There are also some big changes on campus but since I never had much control over them in the first place, there is no reason to let it consume the little time I feel I can concentrate adequately on grading so that I can get some work back to students before they turn in their final assignments. That's my goal at least. This is a semester when I'm glad I am not the primary on-site person for student teachers. They do a lot of online written work and reflection for me - more than they do for most if not all of the other student teacher content supervisors - anyway. And it's also a situation in which I have to see all or none of them and with so many out this semester, it just makes sense to rely on their online work for their Pass or Fail grade. Were it a real letter grade, it might be a different story. But soon they will start giving back classes and it's hard enough to get to all of them even when they are all teaching a full schedule. I had tried to go see a few of them before I left for Newark but they weren't teaching hours I could go see them yet. That actually turned out to be a good thing.

I do feel like I have joined a secret club no one told me about and I am finding out there are a lot of members - many of whom are quite willing to help. What frustrates me most is that this is a process and is something that will never truly be over. I will always miss my Mom.

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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Patricia L. Woestman, 1938-2010

 Patricia L. Woestman, 1938-2010


Losing Mom

They did take Mom off the respirator but it became apparent all too quickly that she would never be able to breathe on her own. Her heart recovered but her lungs never would. They were already quite weak before the heart attack and the eight days on her back with a ventilator didn't help. She was ready to go. We just weren't ready to let her go.

I found this one of the most helpful sites on grief.

And a friend who recently lost her mother sent me a copy of Motherless Daughters.

Family and friends were wonderful. But now the hard part begins - moving forward without her here with us.


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