The Drama of Dad’s Wheels

My father’s car has been sitting, mostly, for two months. I’ve driven it a few times. It isn’t needed by anyone. My mother is legally blind, so she has never driven. So it should go. Simple enough; we sell the car.

It’s a 2007 Saturn that my parents bought a few years ago. They traded in the little pickup truck that my father loved, because it wasn’t very practical for two older people, and it was horrible in icy or snowy conditions. This all seems very sensible.

However, they took a loan. And now the loan still must be paid on this car that no one needs and no one drives. And whatever my mom can get for the car if it’s less than what she owes, she still has to pay the difference. So, my mom might have to pay to get rid of this stupid car. This stupid car that seems like it was a better idea, but is somehow the worst idea.

And isn’t this just what it’s really all about. A hundred and one little things, little decisions that were made, little things that have to be dealt with, and everyone more complicated than it ought to be. Gotta sell the car that the bank has the title on, so we have to find a buyer and then arrange to meet at the bank, so they can actually give the money to the bank, and pay the difference so that we can stop making payments, and then we can also stop paying the insurance. And since my mom isn’t the greatest at the internet, I am the one who has been posting ads, trying to find a buyer, answering questions, and trying to set up appointments, all from California, for a car that’s in Washington.

We tried to start all of this before Dad passed, but then we couldn’t because my father’s name was on the title along with Mom’s. That’s when I learned about a power of attorney. (More on that later.)

Every step of the way, through all this, so many speed bumps and roadblocks, and so many lessons I’ve learned. It’s maddening.

So, can I interest you in a 2007 Saturn Ion with 106,000 miles on it?

Endings

My life is a shitshow, so what better time to restart this habit.

My father had a stroke at the beginning of February.  About a month ago he passed away. And because life knows how to pile it on, in that time my relationship of the last almost three years fell apart, so I’m single again.

Backing up, for a second, because this wasn’t supposed to be that year. I just started a new job in January, two weeks before my dad’s stroke.  Two endings and a beginning.

The other day, someone asked me if I’d gone back to work yet. And I was flabbergasted. Whose life did this person think I was living? That is not how it works in my reality. I haven’t taken a single day off since my father passed. In all the time since the stroke, I’ve only taken two days, the week it first happened. It never occurred to me to not go to work. I have to work. Is this a thing that people do? Just stop everything when someone dies? I get the requisite bereavement leave my company offers in this case, five days. I am saving those to help my mom move out of her house later this month, because that’s our reality. While my father was alive, they had a decent income, but they were paycheck-to-paycheck like most of America. They didn’t have any savings. Just steady pension and retirement checks. And the second that he passed, most of the income went with him. My mom is boned, and there isn’t any time for either of us to fall apart.

It sounds luxurious, to be honest. So decadent, to stop working because my father died. To fall apart for even a moment feels like something reserved for the upper-crust of socioeconomic strata. How elegant. Does the fainting couch come standard with that plan? And the on-call doctor with a bottle of valium.

So I power through, like I’ve always done. I go to work. I’ve flown back and forth to my mom’s house every two to three weeks, slowly slipping into debt that hopefully, someday I can get out from under. And if I’m honest, I’ve drunk more than is probably necessary. I haven’t even remotely begun to grieve. First things first, and someone has to keep it together.

I hope I keep writing. I have a lot of material right now, honestly. This I have to say about how hard it is to find out information about services and housing available to an elderly, low-income parent. That there should be a number like 1-800-MYPARENTSAREOLD. There’s all the lessons my parents have taught me of the “what not to do” variety. About the importance of a durable power of attorney, and the fact that you’re never too young to make sure you have one for your parents.  About wills, lawyers, real estate, estate liquidators, medicaid, medicare, hospice, and the VA. Maybe I’ll write about some of that, or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll write about being single again, suddenly, and what it’s like to be a single woman in her 40s in the age of Tinder, or maybe I’ll go nowhere near that crap. Hopefully I’ll find whatever humor there may be in this situation.

I’ve been through so much. I’ll get through this. Want to come along for the ride?

Coping.

One of the hardest things about going through the grieving process, for me, is coping with other people’s reactions to my grief.   Everywhere I turn, it seems, there are people trying to hand me their own grief and issues.  Or just expecting me to get on with getting on.

I can’t carry that for you.   Not right now.   Probably not ever.

I can’t take on what you need right now.   I can’t be what you need me to be in this situation.  I’m struggling just to keep afloat myself.   Getting out of bed is herculean.   My legs feel as if they are 100 pounds each, and walking is a chore.   My brain keeps crashing, or rebooting without warning.   Answering questions is excruciating, in particular any questions about anything having to do with making a decision or planning anything.  I will do my best to be as invisible as possible, and to not speak up, and not volunteer.   And I’m lazy and avoiding the hell out of everything right now.  I’m struggling with trying to have patience.   Crowds are weird.   Corners are lovely.   Mostly, simple video games are addictive, soothing, and consuming.

And Catholic churches are the best place to cry.

The thing I learned this week, though, is that all those people who are trying to hand me their “stuff” and wanting me to carry it for them.  All those people that want to somehow make all of this about them, the people who seem to not understand that I need time, that I need space, that I need a little help; all that has nothing to do with me.  I can’t take it personally.   Anyone who has expectations of me that seem too high or who seems to be oblivious to what I’m going through and what it means, that’s just their “stuff”.   It’s not even any of my business.

I just have to do what I have to do to get through this, and people will get along without my help, if I can’t give it.  They’ll carry their own grief or fear of grief or whatever it is, and we’ll all get on in our own time.

I really do miss her, and I wish she were still here with us.  The world is less fun, less magic without her.