Friday, June 26, 2009

Unpacking My Grandmother

We are back home now after nearly a month of visiting my parents. This trip has probably been the most relaxed, most amiable. It has been wonderful to wake up every morning to the smell of bacon and coffee. I have been very spoiled, and I have to say I am not thrilled to once again be responsible for feeding my children breakfast.

On Wednesday, my dad dragged me into his closet. Before coffee. Before my lenses were in (and most anyone who wears contact lenses knows the difference between the sleepy-glasses feeling and the awake contact lens moment). He was stressed to hand off my grandmother. She has been tucked in his closet since that awful memorial, and he did not want me to forget the urn or her ashes.

I was not prepared for this. I needed to have a moment or ten to brace myself to get my mental facilities in order. No dice. He handed me the empty urn. Thankfully, the ashes had already been divided, but his unceremoniously handing over of a plastic bag with her name Sharpied across the front left me breathless and slightly ill.

I made sure I packed the urn and ashes in two separate bags. I know there are those who would argue that I should have stashed her in my carry-on. I did have the permit from the funeral home, but with two kids constantly rifling through our bags I did not want to risk any kind of What's this? scenario.

Sure enough, the bag with the urn was opened by TSA. The zip tie was cut off, and the bastards did not leave a slip saying it had been opened. Illegal, I believe. Thankfully, the suitcase with her ashes had not.

My father's first phone call to me once I'd landed did not begin with hello or how was your flight, but Did my mother make it? I didn't have the heart to tell him I hadn't unpacked her, yet.

That task was left to yesterday morning. I didn't really want to look all that closely, but you know that is simply impossible. It is hard to reconcile that those dusty ashes are all that remain of her. Her laugh, her cigarette smoke, the smell of her Dove soap all resonate in my head. One is A, one is B, and I just cannot bring myself to believe that the two together equal C. The urn was purchased on impulse and as a security measure. Through my actions, my father was able to secure his own, in that manner completely cutting my uncle out of the equation.

Now that we have accomplished our goal, I am left at an impasse. I don't quite know what to do. I know my grandmother would have hated the idea of sitting on someone's bookcase but packing her away in a closet doesn't seem right, either. Eventually, I will have her ashes interred at the same military cemetery where my grandfather is buried. We don't have the finances to do it right now, which means she'll be hanging with us for a while. So now what?

I think I will pour her a cup of coffee.


Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Wow, hon. That's pretty danged heavy. Mom shoved Dad and Uncle C behind her bedroom door for four months until we buried their ashes. What were some of her favorite activities? Did she like to cook? Put her in a kitchen cabinet. Did she love TV? Shoot, then let her hang in the living room. That way, she's there and you're OK with it and that's a temporary fix until she's placed in her final resting place.

Wish I could give you a big hug.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this is a rough one . . .

Somewhere out in the open for all to see . . . somewhere subtle and non-eye-catching . . . somewhere quiet and secluded?

What would she have wanted you to do with the ashes seems like a silly question: no one every really shares how they want to be displayed after they pass. But to consider what she liked doing . . . that makes sense.

Do you believe she's watching you? Caring about what you do? Then that might make all the difference . . .

flutter said...

totally off topic, but I've not mentioned to you that you have the best header ever, have I?

Not Afraid to Use It said...

@CMGD: I wouldn't mind leaving a pack of cigarettes for her, but I don't want to have to explain that to the kids, either.

@cheekofgod: I don't know if silly is the right word. I think a lot of people do express where they want to be buried/displayed, and most definitely give a sense of what they don't want. I can safely say that she sure as shit didn't want to be potted in a plant in my uncle's house. LOL

@Flutter: No, you haven't, but thank you!! It may be offensive to some, but I am very proud of it.

Lindsay said...

A bit strange, isn't it?

I'm feeling like maybe I already shared this, but my mom just sent my urn of my stepdad's ashes to me. I thought I had it here in a chest, but apparently not. She sent him Fedex ground. Yes, seriously.

I'm not sure what to do with him, either.. right now he's sitting on my bookshelf.

Gypsy said...

I agree with CMDG, that is pretty danged heavy. Maybe it will be nice to have her "around" for a little while.

As an aside, I once went to that famous church in Sedona, the one with all the glass? Well, at the bottom of the outcropping of red rock the church perched upon were all these whitish-gray patches. I wondered aloud what they were, and a passing guard told me they were ashes. It's illegal, but apparently people often go up to the top and toss off their loved one's ashes. Interesting, I thought.

A Free Man said...

Wow, tough stuff NATUI. Not one I've ever had to deal with. I can't imagine being trusted with someone's earthly remains.

But, I can say that the TSA are dicks.

Rassles said...

If I were an urn of ashes, I would want to be labeled and in the bathroom. Just to freak people out.

But your grandmother is not me, so you're lucky.

Blues said...

Wow, this is difficult. You hang on to her tight and she'll find her resting place soon.