The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Pouring In January 12, 2016

IMG_1481

On our kitchen wall, just next to the front door hangs a glass weather barometer. It used to hang above a rusted drip tray on the kitchen wall at Martha’s. Elihu had mused over it once, as all children had through the years, and we’d explained how it worked. Mom recalls that Martha had said he could have it if he liked. I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of yet another piece of stuff in our tiny house, but the idea grew on me… When the green-tinted water rises to the top of the spout – and sometimes drips over and stains the wall – we know that rain is coming. I wish there were such an indicator for incoming emotional storms… “When it rains….” as the expression goes…

An old family friend had kept the tradition through the years of calling Martha on every solstice. This year, on the occasion in December, the fellow called mom as a stand-in for Martha. His call was welcomed, as he too was an old family friend. But his news was not good; he had been diagnosed with lung cancer and didn’t have much time left. Sadly mom was out the first two times he called, and by the time she found him in, several days later, he was quite weak. Only two weeks later he died, and on Saturday we attended his funeral. All about her my mother sees her contemporaries leaving this world, and must be a strange and sad place in which to live. There comes a time in life when every time you turn around people seem to be getting married. Then life takes over for a stretch of time with an assortment of twists and turns, until… All the people around you now seem to be dying. Old friends take their place in line one by one, and then, all of a sudden, they’re gone. Just like that.

Yesterday I received another jolt in the form of an angry email from Martha’s niece. In the message she called me a thief, and told me that she knew I’d been in the house since Martha had died, and that the only possible reason for such a visit would have been to steal something. She wanted an end to it all here and now. She demanded the thin, sterling silver bangle that Martha had always worn be returned to her at once, as well as the rest of the things I’d stolen. Seriously? Ok, come to think of it, I do have Martha’s dusty copy of “Yankee Expressions”, yes, I did take that. I was reading it while sitting with Martha one afternoon, and threw it into my bag. It’s still on my bedside table. I peruse it from time to time, very likely in the same sort of way that Martha once did. Regular readers may even recall how puzzled and concerned I was when Martha’s niece announced that items had gone missing from the house after Martha’s death (the items had since been found; they had simply been moved). After posting some lovely interior tableaus from Martha’s house on the blog, her niece had asked me to please remove them to ensure the safety of the house and its contents. I promptly removed all the images, and apologized as best as I was able. There seems to be nothing I can do to ensure a positive outcome with this person. Ugh.

This morning, as Elihu ate his breakfast, I’m afraid the poor dear got an earful from me. I recounted to him the whole thing – after which a look of deep sadness passed over his face. “But I want to keep the barometer” he said quietly. “Sweetie, we’ll buy the barometer from her. She just wants the monetary value of it. Don’t worry, we’ll make a fair deal with her”. I stewed a bit more in silence, until my beautiful son looked up and quoted a saying that he heard Martha use often: “Everything always works out”. I smiled, and wondered it perhaps Martha herself hadn’t nudged that little piece of calming wisdom into my son’s head. Howsoever the little nugget came to him, it was nice to reminded again.

What a strange and heartbreaking week this has been, and it’s only Tuesday! Lest I waste any more precious work time battling folks who ultimately do not care what I have to say – or believe me – I will paste the response I penned to her last night below, and call it a day.


 

XXX, I have no idea where all this has come from. I could have easily taken things all the while over months, years even – objects that I’d known and loved since I was a child. And I did not. The bracelet is the ONLY thing I have to remember Martha by, and I shall not return that which was given to me!! We were all together as I asked you if I might have it, as it meant a lot to me. You were kind and assured me Martha would have liked me to have it. I have no recollection of anything else. I also recall it was a low-key, friendly meeting. I had no idea you were giving this trinket to me under duress. Plus this tiny bracelet is not even worth much! I wear it daily, keep it by my bedside nightly. It is my link to a woman I consider to be my second mother. It is a cherished keepsake. 

 

As mom recalls, Martha told Elihu if he was interested in the barometer he could have it. I wasn’t particularly interested in it – but he was, so we left the rusty drip tray on the wall and took the glass home. 
And yes, I did come back to the farm once or twice after Martha left. Just to sit and be in the space, to remember. To take in that certain way the kitchen smelled, the views from those windows…  It was a living link to my oldest memories. I was savoring that which was soon to disappear forever.
So sorry you feel this way. It is a shock to my very core. Perhaps you and mom can remain friends – I don’t suppose we were friends to begin with, but that will certainly be a challenge going forward. I hope one day you feel differently about me. I’m not a thief, and Lord knows, there were many things – the red bench I mentioned several times – that I would have loved to have in my life as a reminder of the Farm, and for which I gladly would have paid. I would even have loved, bought and used the school bell at the Studio to ring in kids from lunch break at camp. But I dared not even ask – that’s how respectful I was about Martha’s/your stuff. There was also a Harry Belafonte LP I liked and would have paid for – and would actually have listened to – but I didn’t ask about that either, cuz I didn’t want to add stress.
The barometer is a lovely way to share Martha’s story with all the children who come to my home, but if you feel strongly that we came to it by unsavory means, I’ll box it up and leave it at the Farm asap. It would be disappointing to Elihu, and I know he’d like to buy it with his own money if you’d allow him that option. I really hope you’ll consider it.
It seems that distrust and hate are motivating you here. It’s hurtful to be the recipient of such anger – and especially after all this time has passed – not to mention bizarre, as you sound so unlike the person I’d thought you to be. Never, ever would I have seen anything like this coming. I am very sorry that you’re feeling so taken advantage of. I didn’t know you well, but I’ve always liked you. All of this truly breaks my heart. 
Maybe a robust sale will help you to feel more secure about things. I hope it all goes well.

IMG_1473A rainbow appeared as Elihu and I took down the Christmas tree on Sunday. I didn’t even see this second rainbow until just now when I uploaded the photograph! One for me, one for lil man. Maybe Martha really was right when she said that everything always works out.

 
 

Comfort December 31, 2013

Yesterday was a false start. Or a false ending, rather, as dad didn’t make it to the crematorium. Like any other business, it too has its busy days, and I guess, as the old joke goes, yesterday, folks were ‘just dying to get in’. So I took the opportunity to arrange for the obituaries, making sure his name was correct, the date of death as we wanted (and not as it must legally be forever recorded), and of course, making sure everything was paid for. Amazing the costs involved. A small fortune just to run the obits. “This is a long piece” one woman at a paper warned me. Yeah, and dad had a long, full life. Can’t skimp now. Gotta share as much as I can. With the papers taken care of and other tiny distractions we made it through our day, but the phone call never came. That last call from the undertaker, the siren of that final trip, it never came. So I find myself here, on the morning of New Year’s Eve, my brother’s birthday, and the final day of the year, awaiting the news. It’s still something I dread, and if I think too much about it find my heart beginning to beat faster and harder. Still his beautiful hands lie folded on his chest, still he looks as he did. By tonight, by the time I’m on the train platform welcoming my young son back into my arms, my father’s body will have been transformed…

This blog feels to be getting a bit tedious by now; just how much pondering of one subject, no matter how important to me personally, is too much? It kinda feels like I’m pushing things here. But since I mean to document my adventure through life accurately, and since I am still living through this event, I’ll continue, in hopes that it doesn’t put people off. And if it does, skip it. I’m writing more for my own healing than for anyone’s amusement at this point. But if you’ll stay with me for one more paragraph, you may be uplifted to read what follows shortly….

As I was checking the stats this morning, I saw that an old post – a writing that even predates this blog – had been read. I remember that night, that journal entry. I remember Elihu singing to Mr. Roosevelt, his giant red rooster, downstairs in the office. He’d been trying to draw him, and was coaxing him to relax, to stay put, to allow Elihu a moment of stillness. Luckily, I’d had pen and paper and was able to scribble down what Elihu had been saying to his bird. My son often speaks like this. He is a thoughtful, loving and reverential boy. But it’s not often that I’m equipped to take down his wisdom as I was that evening. I feel lucky. And, in reading my young son’s words (he was six when he spoke them) I take comfort from them. His words speak to me, to my father, to the feeling of love and peace that must await us in that next world… Somehow, it almost feels as if my father has gently directed me to re-discover these innocent, healing words.

Elihu, age six, speaking to his rooster…

I come in peace, I come in peace, you can relax, I am coming to be with you in peace

To know your soul, I’m coming in peace. I come to warm your soul and to warm the soul of the earth

I come to warm the face of planet earth, I come in peace, sit and relax and do not worry

I come in peace, I mean no harm. I really don’t. Sit and relax by my side.

As soon as I’d entered the last line above, the phone rang. The funeral director told me that dad had left, and was now on his was to Bennington. And at noon, he said, we should be ready with that glass of wine… Here we go. Here goes dad, and here comes the conclusion to one part of the journey. And hopefully with it, comfort and peace.