It’s been a few days since I’ve posted – I’ve just been laying low as far as the blogging goes, taking some time.

I miss Jan. She was a lovely person – so kind – and, as I said at her service yesterday, one of the least judgemental people I’d ever met.

Yesterday Jan was buried, we had a service at the cemetery which was lovely, then a few of us went out to lunch. I have a few second and third cousins rattling around on my family tree, and it was very good to see them again.

When my parents lost their house my Aunt Wanda stored a few of my mom’s things for her, her dishes, some furniture, and smaller things. I found the dishes, which was a beautiful thing to see, and packed them up snugly in two bins.

I also have acquired Jan’s rings – she loved jewelry – to pass on to Hannah. In the box was my grandmother’s wedding ring, which I had never seen. It fits me perfectly, and I’ve been wearing it since yesterday. It’s lovely, I never new it existed.

I have so few things – nothing really – from my family due to our constant moving and clearing off, passing along, storing things in other homes, etc. I don’t mind – I’m not a collector – but it feels very good to have this ring on my hand.

After the funeral and lunch and some time working in the house yesterday, I went for a bike ride along some backroads and felt much more at peace. I needed the release, and I was able to rest and relax much easier last evening.

One of the things I did at the house yesterday was to pry another few storm windows off and get some more fresh air in the house, we’re pretty certain these windows haven’t been opened in 12 years, and with 8 dogs in the house (left alone for long hours) the air is bad.

I know the open windows mean the house may be host to a few flying pests, but there’s no help for it, the air in the house is unbreathable. Toxic, even, and none of the windows have screens (they were never open!)

Jan had dogs (!), and she was a Collector. Put those things together, multiply it times 50, and you have a recipe for an incredibly cluttered house that may be unsalvegable.

We think there’s black mold in the basement (we’re wearing masks when we’re in the house) and I can’t help but feel the poisons in the house didn’t do Jan’s cancer any good. Or maybe it did the cancer too much good, and no good for Jan.

No one in the family was able to cajole, wheedle, strong arm, argue Jan into taking care of the house that Aunt Wanda left her (the last rebellion of a child against a strong mother?) and now there’s precious little of the beautiful house left. So we sort through the stuff, trying to put together the piles of things that were ‘left’ to various friends, and it’s a hard, smelly, evil job.

The dogs all found homes, thank heaven. Unfortunately, two of them were in such bad shape after being virtually neglected in the house for weeks that they had to be put down (they were older dogs and the separation from Jan was very traumatic)

I feel shame that I wasn’t able to intervene with Jan in some way. I was her younger cousin, 8 years separated us, and I just didn’t have the authority to make her listen to me. My mom might have had some sway, but she loved Jan so much that it was hard to be firm with her. It’s a cautionary tale – how much toughness and how much love is enough?

It’s finished now, and all that’s left is the very large mess to clean up. I’m afraid to go down into the basement – the basement that used to be my “room” on my frequent visits to Aunt Wanda’s. There are mice, and worse, and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m scared to run into them.

One of the things that I’ve been left is Jan’s entire Coca Cola Collectibles jumble. Many of them are still in the boxes, but there are a god-awful lot of tchakes with “Coke!” blazoned over them, all dusty and filthy. I just don’t know if I have the patience – or energy – to pack them up, clean them, and try to sell them on ebay or some place.

Whatever I do, I’m only allowing myself to be in the house for 15 minutes at a stretch, then with a 15-20 minute break outside. Maybe I’ll move all of the coke stuff out onto the carport and clean it there.

Folks, when it’s your time to go, make sure your stash is clean and clearly labeled as to who gets what – this sorting out is one of the hardest things (emotionally and physically) that I’ve done in years.

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