Arrived USA July 22nd. Departing October 16th. A long time to be away. On the other hand, a short time, in which a great deal has been accomplished. I could look at it that way. If I choose. I suppose.
I have taken this journey as far as I can take it, for the moment.
I have de-Pegged and de-Odded the house.
Their personal effects have all found good, appreciative and welcoming homes.
Their ashes have been interred in Minnesota, under the rhododendrons in Becket along with collies too numerous to mention, plus a bit of a suicide victim named Peter Kip. A small amount of Peg is in Seattle, to be interred, at her direction, with a loving fan and his wife when it is "their" time. A small Florentine gilt box of her and my father are in my hand luggage, awaiting scattering in England.
Anything important to Peg's stupendous career has been preserved in perpetuity at the University of Oregon Libraries, not counting her portrait, currently still in the living room but which will be shipped there. And anything sent to UO has been scanned or photographed and two digital copies made of her entire archive.
Anything of interest and worth preserving of a family nature has been shipped to The Dodge County Historical Society in Mantorville, MN.
The house has been emptied of All Things Uninteresting or Saleable, the majority of saleable items now up in Williamstown and, under the care and professional guidance of Louise, going on eBay, with Peg's provenance, even as I write.
The house has been cleaned, top to bottom; windows, including hard-to-get-at storms and screens, shine. Inside and out. Carpets up, floors sparkle. Nail holes filled, no small feat, Peg O'the Hammer having been hard at work for 45 years moving picture frames every 20 minutes. Walls are painted. Woodwork painted. Outside trim painted, both stories. Garden cleared. Trees cut, limbed, hauled off. Fridges and freezers emptied. Ovens cleaned. The furnace has a new motor. The septic and leach tanks being pumped. Ancient TV antennas down and slates replaced on roof.
I am done. With the house. It is on the market.
A few issues remain, as yet unresolved. Travelers insurance is threatening to stop providing Home-owners because I don't live there full time and because the house is on the market. I may get a buyer, I may not. I may take it off the market and do holiday lets. I may not. Amazing Ken is in residence to act as caretaker. Free of charge. He will pay 1/3 to 1/2 of utility bills. For as long as he lasts there. Ken is capable and good at what he does. And likes living in the country. And keeping the heat at 50. Thank fucking Christ.
Outside Bob will work two more days, making me new outside bilco doors to the basement. He will then remain only "on call", should he be needed.
Dominick, for whom I wrote a letter of recommendation, has found employment in the health care line. He found that he enjoyed it (believe it or not).
Terri, who held both my parents as they died, is taking some time off to move into a new apartment.
Bonnie's hours have been reduced to two short days a week for the moment. She will stay in charge of all matters financial and cleaning, and get a jump on sorting out this year's taxes. With Ken, she will prepare the house for viewings (if we get any). She is hoping to find more permanent work at a legal firm in town.
I have had help from both friends and strangers. I will be eternally grateful to both. It is sometimes rather surprising who shows up at your door in times of crisis, and who doesn't; those you were sure would be there for you in a heartbeat, you don't hear dick from, and those you never expected to see in a million years are suddenly rolling up their sleeves. It's been revealing, this whole thing. About friends and about myself.
Story. One which I cannot recall if I've told already but too bad:
Last March when I was here and Peg was in the hospital, I happened upon some sparkly beads in the dining room, looped round the bronze head of a Greek reproduction statue of Peg's. "Boy On A Dolphin". I ignored it, rolling my eyes, assuming it was yet more peculiar Peg "decor".
After she died, I again came upon it, and, now in Shoveling Mode, said "What the fuck is this anyway??"
I held up the long string of crystal beads to show Bonnie and Terri. Both looked up from lunch, surprised.
"Why, they're--yours. It's a necklace. Your mother made it for you. Didn't you know?"
Peg? Made me a string of beads? A necklace? Made me anything besides maybe pot roast?
"You're kidding. Really? Why?"
"She had us all sitting here at the butcher block stringing and stringing--oh, for days. She had a pattern she liked and we had to follow it, then she changed her mind and wanted a new pattern, then we ran of out the pink ones and--she never gave it to you?"
"She said she wanted to replace the one you lost."
I looked blank.
"When you were a little girl. The one she had made out of your tears, she said."
And suddenly I--went to pieces. Utterly. It all came down on me in that one moment. All the months and months of "giving up" my life at home to be with my parents, to look after them, their deaths, their ashes. Everything.
When I was a little girl, and I was upset over something, or had hurt myself, Peg always managed to make me stop crying.
"Wait--wait--" she said, sounding excited, as the tears rolled down my cheeks. "Let me get it, let me get it--oh! That was a big one! Here, give me another one--I need another big one now--" and so on until I was so fascinated by someone putting tears in a pocket or wallet or dish or whatever was handy--that I stopped wailing.
"I'm going to make them into a necklace for you," Peg explained. This also fascinated me. One day she returned off the train from New York and handed me a box, and in the box was a string of little clear irridescent beads. My necklace of tears.
Which, not surprisingly, I mislaid at some point in my life.
And now my mother has made me another one.
Terri took it away so her crafts friend Amy could put a clasp on it, whereupon Amy promptly mislaid it and it remained lost, much to all our distress, until yesterday. As I was loading my pile of suitcases in the car to head to the airport, Bonnie drove in the drive, excitedly waving it out the window.
Thank you, Mama.
And of course Daddy. Who probably paid for it.
So. That's it. After over two years of WAITING FOR GOD KNOWS, I'm done.
Although I am, of course, still waiting. But at least with my tears around my neck now, instead of running down it.