The Final Mom Trip

We’re back from what I think of as “the final Mom trip”, even though Mom wasn’t there (she passed away earlier this month), and even though there will be a memorial service for her later this spring. But this was the last trip to her last home.

Debbi was kind enough to come with me to help out with whatever she could help out with. We took the usual red-eye flight to Boston and stayed with my father. The timing was not bad, as after Boston’s record-setting snow total we could have arrived just before one of the city’s huge blizzards. Instead it was cold, but still mid-20s at the coldest, and the foot-and-a-half of snow still on the ground was slowly melting.

We landed Thursday morning, and in the afternoon drove over to The Falls at Cordingly Dam, the assisted living facility where Mom’s lived for the last two and a half years, since her knee replacement surgery. Mom had moved to a new apartment in January when she was declining more rapidly, and my sister Katy went up then to dispose of most of her stuff (since she had way, way more clothes and books and tchotchkes than she needed – or even wanted by that point). This was my first visit to this room, which was small but had a terrific view overlooking the falls for which the facility is named.

The room felt very much like her, with many familiar things. The most unsettling thing for me was seeing her glasses and shoes sitting there, as if she’d just stepped away for a minute and could soon return for another normal visit with us.

My sister drove up for the trip too, and met us at The Falls in the afternoon, as we started going through her things. The main things to deal with were her collection of pictures, and her furniture. Katy and I divided up the pictures, and Katy decided to ship a few pieces of furniture back to her home. And we kept a few books, and a handful of other keepsakes. But that was about it.

Friday Katy, Dad and I went to Mount Auburn Cemetery, where we plan to bury Mom’s ashes so we could check out their available spots. Katy had said that she’d gone with Mom to a funeral for one of Mom’s friends several years ago and that it was very pretty and Mom seemed very taken with it. Plus, it’s in Cambridge, which Mom has always felt attached to, ever since she went to college there. So it seemed appropriate. Even with all the snow I could see how pretty the cemetery would be at other times of year, and after talking to one of the representatives and going out to see some spots, we decided on a spot to bury her, one I think she would have loved.

Saturday was another day of going through Mom’s things, and then Katy left Sunday morning. This was one more milestone, as I said goodbye to Mom’s cat, Maggie. We think Maggie is about 12, and she’s had a rough time of it, switching homes twice these last few years. And I don’t think Mom was really able to interact with her near the end – The Falls staff took care of her. I guess she sat quietly with Mom for most of the last couple of weeks, and the morning Mom died she apparently meowed to get peoples’ attention. Debbi says she thinks being there at the end gave Maggie some closure.

When we visited this week, Maggie was always lying behind the couch, although she would let us reach down and pet her. The director of the floor said Maggie had been coming out for attention when she went in to feed her, so at least she was getting a little love. We’d been unable to find another home for Maggie, so Katy took her back home with her and was going to try to integrate her into her household, which has two 1-year-old cats already. Maggie deserves a happy ending, so hopefully it will work out.

From there Debbi and I drove down to visit her family and take a day off, hanging out with her sisters and their pets, and eventually the kids. It wasn’t exactly a quiet day, but it was a fun one. In the evening it started snowing, which led to Boston breaking its previous record for snowfall in a season. I got to brush snow off of Dad’s car, something I don’t think I’ve had to do for a car since I moved to California. But the drive home was not bad, as once we got on the main roads they were pretty clear.

Monday we went back to Mom’s apartment and picked up the last few things I wanted, and also met the shippers who collected the items Katy and I were each keeping. This was also the last goodbye for me to The Falls and to my Mom’s “space”. I hope she feels that we did all right by her and the things she felt were important.

Tuesday’s main event was meeting with some attorneys to get moving on executing Mom’s will, of which I will be the executor (I guess the modern terminology is “personal representative” for her estate). I’d really had no idea where to begin, but I got a referral from the lawyer I’d used to draw up her power of attorney in 2012, and the folks we met with were very helpful, so we’ve hired them to work on the legal end of the process. It sounds like it ought to be all something I can handle remotely, which is good because those cross-country flights get pretty wearing. And it doesn’t sound like there are likely to be any glitches along the way. So that was a big weight off my shoulders.

And Wednesday we hung out for the morning, then took the T to the airport and flew home.

It was a draining trip, but I got everything done that I wanted to, and it all turned out pretty well, I think. I guess I’m still a bit numb from it all, but on the other hand it’s not like Mom’s passing was a big surprise, so I’ve been gradually getting used to the idea for a couple of years now.

There’s a certain glum finality to the process of going through stuff and closing things down, which will continue for a while as her estate gets handled. But it’s not a sudden thing, it’s a series of events and a bunch of work. I guess that’s something I’d never thought about before.