Borrowing Trouble Blog
Neither a lender nor a borrower be--from Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Anniversary of the Fire
Two months ago, I worked through the Tuesday after President's Day fairly satisfied with myself. My husband Tim had spent the better part of the previous week helping me sift through the hoarder's nest of Steve's house, and I'd driven down to our beach house to join him with a carload of international soccer memorabilia, caps, and jerseys for his friend's son. Tim and I walked the nearly-deserted boardwalk on Monday morning and shared breakfast at the Decatur Diner--his first experience there and a positive one. That's the key--it was a positive week from that previous Tuesday when I was mired in doubt about my ability to manage Steve's unwieldy estate.
I spoke to Tim at 2 p.m. I know this exactly from phone records. I was sitting at my department chair's desk for a bit of privacy. We talked about how excited everyone was about the soccer stuff. We talked about his good day. About plans to go back to work at Assateague National. About good health and plans for the following weekend.
I hosted creative writing until four with my handful of faithful wordsmiths. I met my daughter for an early dinner at our favorite place.
And then waiting at the light on Eastern Avenue and Eastern Boulevard, I got a call from my neighbor Mary Lou. My house was on fire. We hung up. I moved the car through the green light and she called again. It was bad. My house was really on fire.
I couldn't shift the car. I couldn't find the gears. I lost the ability to drive a car I know by rote. I pulled off into a clear spot and let the clutch stall the engine. I tried Tim. It rang and rang. Message. Nothing. The last location on his phone was the house at 4 p.m. I called my son and asked him to call the police.
Sunday, January 15th was my mother's first day back to Mass after a month-long journey through a virus that turned into pneumonia. At eight-nine, COVID hit her hard in September after an adventure to San Francisco with Uncle Vince. Then a sneaky virus stole her energy and all her reserves in late November. Fast forward to emergency absence days, doctor's visits that took two of us to manage her mobility (thank you Ashley), and some drastic weight loss, mom was rallying. She was grouchy and wanted to get out.
The phone was ringing as we returned from church. It was Vince. The police had come knocking on the door of his "getaway" house in Essex and informed him that his nephew Steven was dead. And that there was an investigation underway. And that drugs were involved. And that he was next of kin.
Steve was only 58, yes a loner, but we all thought he was okay. Not perfect, but in our family, we tolerate eccentricity. We actually revel in the fact of our eccentricities. No one thought it would go that far. Not death. And yet, it was only the beginning.
Later I would look up at the evening sky dotted with bright stars and planets winking back and say to myself, "Yesterday, he was alive, and I wasn't in the middle of this mess." I became the executor of Steve's estate by virtue of energy and a simple okay. What a quagmire I jumped into that day.
After Loss--Uncovering the Missing
J Drescher Cooper
Writer and Reviewer