Will I ever not be tired?

Okay, enough whining. Besides, look at my Grandma’s ring! I touch it and I think of her – I’m not a jewelry nut, but this is very affecting, very special to me.

Today was a symphony of moving, packing, sorting, cleaning, with assorted mumbles and frustrated pleas to Jan, “What were you THINKING?”

In a way, it’s a blessing to have this work. It seems to increase that ’emotional anesthesia’ that kicks in when a dear one is gone. And, as awful as it is on some levels, it forces Joyce and I to honestly and fully come to terms with the end of an era.

The Era of Wanda
Aunt Wanda bought her house in the early 60’s – I’m not exactly sure what year – it was a lovely ranch style home built as the parsonage to the Stout Memorial Methodist Church on Broad Street.

The church didn’t want it, Aunt Wanda did, so for the entire time she owned the home every now and then someone would come knocking at her door asking for the minister. Various hilarious answers were always ready.

My own family was in a bit of an upheaval in the 70’s. My dad was very sick, his business had failed, we lost our home in a sheriff’s auction and moved from rented house to rented house (eventually to smaller and smaller apartments) for the next several years.

During that rough time, Aunt Wanda was there for us. She always had some cash for mom to help us through a rough time, extra clothes, whatever we needed. That’s when I began considering her as a second mom. The fact that Jan and I were as close as two peas in a pod helped that along.

I would spend weeks each summer at Aunt Wanda’s, staying in ‘my room’ in the basement, enjoying my time with my favorite relatives in the world. This was the point in time when Wanda stored many of my mom’s things for her, it was just so hard to move them every few months.

When I went off to college I grew even closer to Aunt Wanda and Jan – Denison is just a few hours away from Parkersburg. I’d visit weekends, coming home. Wanda was persnickity about her house, she wanted everything perfect (maybe too perfect) but even so it was a wonderful place to be.

She had been a ‘beauty operator’ – a hair dresser – and owned her own salon. She worked SO hard all of her life, on her feet, and eventually moved her salon into her home when she semi-retired and only ‘did’ her most loyal customers. Every time my mom visited, she got a color rinse of “Frivolous Fawn” and a permanent wave.

Jan painted a very artistic sign with the name of the salon, Vanity Case in calligraphy. I made the mistake of telling her – honestly – that I thought it said, “Sanity Case.” The ‘V’ was very scroll-y. Oops.

Wanda never gave me a haircut that I liked (it was the 70’s, I don’t think there could have been a haircut that I would have liked…) but she still loved me. She recognized our similarities, our persnickitiness.

Aunt Wanda’s diagnosis of Parkinsons Disease was incredibly rough for her. The shaking, the drug-induced paralysis – it was a very difficult time. She fought all the way, but finally the disease got the better of her just a few weeks before Hannah was born. I still regret that I was unable to attend her funeral, but I was past my delivery date as it was.

The Era of Jan
On her own, Jan began to let things slide in the house. The angle of the decline increased dramatically as she acquired more and more dogs (which she loved, but which she just wasn’t able to handle.) Perhaps she was rebelling against Aunt Wanda’s rules & perfection?

As those who loved her best sort through the mess that became her home, we try to comprehend exactly what was at the bottom of her inability to face her situation. None of us have any answers.

Sometimes I wonder if, like myself, she would have benefitted from an anti depressant regime (the prozac I currently take has enriched my life, allowing myself to consider taking it was one of the best decisions I ever made)

At any rate, it’s history now. All that remains is the cleanup. And the lessons.

Aunt Wanda’s lovely, beautiful furniture is mostly destroyed – only fit for goodwill. But there are some pieces that remain beautiful. We’re trying to find an estate-sale agent to sell them. There are boxes and boxes of stuff that was purchased from QVC – never opened. Stacks and stacks of clothes (scrubs), soaps, dog toys, dvds, anything you could think of.

I’m trying to convince Joyce, who has inherited the house, that our best route is to take the things out of the home that fulfill Jan’s will, arrange to get them to their various new owners, take out what we’d like to have to remember Jan and Wanda with, then leave what’s left for a professional cleaning or estate managing company. I may be wearing her down. If I don’t, I think the house certainly will.

But, as Joyce says – and she’s right – before we can ask someone to sell it, we have to make sure it’s CLEAN. A hard job.

Sitting on the carport today (I can’t be in the house for more than 15 minutes or so at a time, my breathing suffers), wiping off literally hundreds of coca-cola collectibles (my own portion of the inheritence. I have decided I hate coke) I have a chance to reflect on the house that has been the constant in my life.

Jan and Aunt Wanda both loved wind chimes, there are many lining the edge of the car port. I sat all day and listened to them. I’d have cried if I hadn’t been afraid I wouldn’t be able to stop.

Instead I kept up a stream of dopey, foolish jokes to make Joyce laugh, and took her out for dinner tonight to cheer us both up. The magic of Catfish.

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