Wednesday, July 21, 2010


On Monday -- still with no word from the Coast Guard -- Liz and I set out on a tour of local yarn and bead shops. She bought yarn. I bought a bracelet (on sale) and some beads to put on another bracelet. (I realize as I write this that in my earlier entries, I left out at least one shopping trip, to REI.)

On Monday night, Liz took us out for a fabulous thank-you meal at one of our favorite Thai restaurants. Then we had dessert at a bar specializing in chocolate. We all ate too much.

As a result, I overslept on Tuesday, and didn't wake up until 8:30. Liz and Gary and I went back to a craft store Liz and I had visited, where Liz got some new knitting needles and Gary and I got a wooden coffee table, on serious sale, for the deck. We went to a movie, a foreign film called "I am Love." Gary loved it. Liz liked it. I hated it.

At some point on Tuesday, we finally heard from the Coast Guard. I got e-mail from a publications officer who said the chaplain had asked her to send me photos of the burial at sea of John Doe (not his real name). There were twelve lovely photos, including snapshots of the box containing John Doe's ashes, surrounded by the red carnations I'd requested for Dad.

I kind of lost it. I shot back an e-mail saying that I didn't know John Doe. I was Alan Palwick's daughter. Did the publications officer know anything about Alan Palwick?

She sent me a contrite apology: yes, there'd been two burials at sea that day, and the photos had gotten mixed up, but both Guests of Honor had been treated with all due reverence and respect, and all of the John Doe photos also applied to the other guest, except of course for the photos of the box with John Doe's name on it.

By now completely rattled, I wrote back and asked her to confirm that the second guest of honor was indeed Alan Palwick, and not someone else. She answered that yes, that was correct, and the chaplain was getting on in years and the weather had been a bit rough, so I had to excuse any confusion.

So here's a red carnation floating in the water behind some ashes. It's a lovely shot. I wish I knew if it had anything to do with Dad: is this Dad's carnation, or John Doe's? I know it doesn't matter, except it feels like it does.

I was absolutely delighted, though, by this shot of pelicans. Dad and Liz and I always enjoyed the pelicans in Mississippi, so I'm happier than I can express that he was scattered in a place that also has them. (And these aren't even covered in oil, thank God.)

Here's a nice shot of someone playing taps while someone else, presumably the chaplain, salutes. It's a lovely picture. I'm sad that the service couldn't happen on a sailboat, but I know the weather was rough, and a motorboat's safer. Dad would understand that. The important thing is that he's in the ocean, with the pelicans and the red carnations.

I know that. I really do. And John Doe's family has my deepest condolences. I just wish I had a photo of the box holding Dad's ashes.

I really do have to call the chaplain, but I'm going to wait until I feel less numb.

Meanwhile, sometime on Monday or Tuesday -- I don't even remember when -- Liz helped me unpack the boxes she'd sent me of Mom's things. I now have some of her parents' artwork, several of Mom's own needlepoint pieces, some family furniture, and the collection of cat gargoyles I gave her over the years. Emotionally, this was very heavy lifting. The piece that hit me the hardest was the framed sampler embroidered by Mom's mother Della. I never met Della; she was killed in a car accident when Mom was twelve. They'd had a fight that morning before Mom left for school. I can't remember a time when Della's sampler hasn't hung over Mom's bed.

Now it's hanging over the sofa in my study.

My grandmother's hands shaped each stitch. We never got to meet each other, but I own something she made. This makes me happy, but it also tears me apart.

This morning I dropped Liz off at the airport. She'd woken up at 1 a.m. with a migraine and felt wretched, although she e-mailed me later to say she had landed safely and felt much better. Then I came back home, reassembled my study, got a bit of fall prep done, swam, retrieved the sunhat I'd left in the movie theater yesterday, and picked up the coffee table we hadn't been able to fit into the car while Liz was with us.

I'm really glad everyone was here. I loved seeing my sister and nephew. But I'm also looking forward to getting back to normal. And I'm looking forward to our new fridge, which arrives next week.

This afternoon, though, metallic screams started emerging from the dryer.

Be very afraid.


  1. You have come through an extremely emotional time over the past two weeks. The arrangements for your party, the arrangements for your Dads scattering; things may not have gone completely as planned but they are now done and over with. I got a bit of a chuckle with how you finished things off in a purely female manner with a little "retail therapy". Why is it that shopping always makes us feel better? It is wonderful also, that you now have some family mementos to keep in your home. Family heirlooms give one such a sense of connection and roots. They are very comforting. Now (in my opinion) you need to take a little "me" time for some pampering to build up your emotional and physical strength. Is there a cruise on the horizon?

  2. Anonymous10:43 AM

    Dear Susan,

    You have so much going on these days - it's no wonder you had a meltdown when something so unexpected happened around a service that meant so much to you. I hope talking to the chaplain will help when you are ready to make the call.

    And, on a more mundane level, I hope the fridge is fabulous and the old dryer gets itself back together.

    In the middle of everything else, I hope you will find the time to take good care of yourself, whatever that means for you,


  3. Anonymous7:16 PM

    ps - days later, on a totally unrelated note to my message above, but a separate reaction to something you mentioned at the beginning of your post - thought it might amuse you to know that I just went to see "I Am Love" this week-end with a friend - she loved it, I hated it - clearly a film that provokes extremely strong reactions among folks who otherwise get along quite well! she really, really liked it, while I can't think of any other recent film that has perturbed me quite so much ...


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