Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Keeper of the Photos

SodaBoy dropped Cousin R (CR) off at the airport this morning and then returned Little Brother (LB) to the parents this afternoon. LB has been staying here the last two nights; CR arrived Friday. Tonight our household is back to normal for the first time since Thursday. Elijah is pleased as punch. Despite his storied past adventures, including aggressively adopting us once upon a time, our cat has grown soft and timid of unknown humans. He is thrilled to be lying on the rug, free from the oppression of strangers possibly looking at him.

Sadly, the pathetic cat and I have more in common than I’d like to admit. While I love the opportunity to see far flung family and friends, I am not psychologically equipped for long term house guests. Being “on” all the time is mentally exhausting for me like nothing else. I feel so relaxed tonight that I almost feel guilty. I’ll never be able to catch up on all the blogger activity I missed in five days, but at least I have the freedom to try... or to zone out on the couch should that choice win out. Oh, sweet freedom!

The guilt is because CR is a sweetheart, smart and creative and bubbly, fun to be around. We share the same kooky family, obviously, but she lives far away, and we don’t see each other nearly enough. We had a great time gabbing, talking books and family and travel and all sorts of random things. I am glad she stayed with me over her other lodging options, and would certainly welcome her back in the future. She hasn’t visited Hometown in four or five years, and I kept wishing it was a happier occasion, that she was here for a fun visit. CR wasn’t the only family in town this weekend: they convened from four other states, starting last week.

Saturday was the Memorial Service for my beloved Grandmother, who died in January of the late-stage dementia that has kept her in the nursing home for the last few years. While the exact timing of her death was a surprise, everyone knew it was coming. For the most part we managed to honor her wishes and make the service a celebration instead of a mourning. Funny Uncle was too choked up to read the reflections he’d written, and eventually had to be helped along, but his emotion was raw and I found it terribly moving. My Mother organized and led the service, and she did a fantastic job of shepherding the good memories, of which there were far too many to recount.

As of today, all the cousins and an Aunt have returned to their distant homes. Being new at my job, I don’t have much vacation yet, and have been at work both days this week. Mom, the Uncles and assorted spouses remain, toiling away at my Grandmother’s house, trying to get it ready to sell. The work is draining, physically and mentally, and I have a lot of sympathy for them in their work.

Grammy was a hoarder, through and through. Part of it was Depression-era frugality. Living without for so long made her hold on to most everything. She also loved garage sales, and bought innumerable items, thinking that one of us might need them someday. The cleaning I did when she was first hospitalized was barely the tip of the iceberg: I never even ventured into the cellar. The basement was filled to the rafters, with ever narrowing tunnels to the washer and distant corners. None of her children live in state any more, and they’ve been working like mad, a frenzy of sorting and tossing.

I actually went to work yesterday thinking it would be relaxing compared to the emotional strain of the weekend, between Saturday’s memorial and Sunday’s cleaning. However, I was so exhausted that even the simplest task seemed insurmountable. Part of my exhaustion was simply having no alone time to recharge, and part a lack of sleep. [There was the late night discovery of the engorged deer tick on Elijah's neck after we'd gone to bed Sunday night, and the late night guffaws from SodaBoy and LB waking me from my slumber last night: they had stayed up late watching TV downstairs.] But I am confident I will feel better tomorrow on both counts.

There will be at least one more family dinner, and I will likely acquire more boxes of photos. I sure hope so, anyway. Last night I was back at Grammy’s house, and the trunk of my car is full now with stuff I was too tired to haul in upon returning home. I think I made myself the official keeper of the photos with my shrieked admonition not to throw them out.

I do have an established record of trustworthiness with family photos, demonstrated through my scan project. I know my Mom, at least, finds comfort in the thought that I will not only enjoy them, but scan and share them as well. There was a box under my late Grandpa’s bed that is the height and width of a shoe box, but at least five feet long. It took two of us to carry it to the car. Another tempting option for my evening of me-time...


Aliki2006 said...

I'm sorry the weekend was so stressful and exhausting...it's hard to rebound from weekends like that--even at work.

Nicole said...

I am in awe of your family. But, I am like you and the cat. I need time to recharge and can't take company for more than a day or so before I need to recharge. It's so very draining. No guilt allowed for feeling relaxed now though!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Boy, I am with you all the way. I love my family, but I desperately need alone time too! It definitely is draining to be with anyone too long. Even when you love them. Phew. Exhausting!

"Family Fun!"