Tangled Tales: Ashes

“I want my ashes scattered in San Francisco Bay,” said my sister Roxanne.

“Do you know how many bodies are dumped in San Francisco Bay every year? You’ll be down there with Laci Peterson’s head,” said Phil.

Jeremy looked shocked. “What?” I don’t know why Jeremy looks shocked at anything Phil says anymore.

“You’re disgusting Phil,” I said. “Why do you even say shit like that?”

Phil didn’t answer. He never did when I called him out about his inappropriate comments.

We kept hiking along the winding path towards the beach, a gray haired foursome of two men and two women. My brothers Phil and Jeremy, and my sister Roxanne and I were finally going to scatter our parent’s ashes.

For years Mom had kept Dad’s ashes in a box in the back of her closet, along with the ashes of our two family dogs Weimar and Clyde. Mom had been gone for two years so it was time.

At 62 I was the youngest. Jeremy was the eldest at 70, with Phil and Roxanne being somewhere in between. We’d spent a lifetime hiking with our parents, each other, then spouses, siblings, children, and grandchildren.

Our family wasn’t one for milestones. Nobody was buried in the ground. Ashes were kept closets or scattered bits at a time on vacations over shots of bourbon. Memorial services were casual. Weddings and major holidays were also hit or mis. The only thing nobody missed were graduations. We were big on education. The one thing we did manage to do was our twice a year all-four-siblings trips to the beach house, which now belonged to me.

As a child we’d camped, but then rented the same beach house year after year. It was in a wooded area with a short path to the beach with a mix of pine and cypress trees. My husband and I purchased the house right after we got married. Our children grew up going there, and we let everyone in the family have time on the calendar.

It was down past the estuary, along the dunes, past the tide pools, and a climb down to the isolated beach that was my parent’s favorite spot.

As we saw our parent’s favorite beach from the trail Phil made one of his uncalled for announcements. “This is where Jeremy was conceived. That is why he was always mom’s favorite. When we were kids they’d come here at night to be alone and fuck like rabbits.”

“Jesus Christ,” said Jeremy.

“Jesus isn’t here Jeremy,” said Phil. “I don’t know what the big deal was about this place. It is cold and hard to get to and it smells like seagull shit. It is like Trump hotel. It touts luxury and uniqueness but it is no better than a best western at quadruple the price with room service that taste like generic freezer burned frozen entrees at best.”

“Shut up Phil,” I said.

“I told you we should have never brought him along,” said Roxanna. “Phil always ruins everything.”

“I ruin everything? Oh Roxy, you are so full of shit. Who was having a boob job when our mother died??”

“It was breast reconstruction surgery after my cancer asshole. Don’t twist things around. I didn’t know Mom was going to die. None of us knew. I was in surgery when we got the call.” Roxanna said. She stood looking like a silver haired goddess ready to strike Phil dead with lightning bolts out of her eyes.

Phil stepped closer to our sister. “You’re so vain. Maybe that song was written about you Roxy. Did you ever think about that? Or were you afraid Chet would leave you for someone else if you didn’t have a full rack?”

Roxanna jumped at Phil with her fist balled up going towards his face. He grabbed her by the wrist and forced her onto one knee. She swung around and hit him in the head with her backpack.

Then it happened. Her pack exploded. Dad’s ashes covered Phil. He looked like he’d just crawled out of a volcano.

Jeremy and I stood in shock. Roxanna sat on the sand, face in her hands and started to cry.

Phil gave a whooping war cry and laughed. “I always told you that Dad had me covered,” he yelled. Then he ran into the surf and dove out into the crashing waves.

After about a half an hour I hiked back up to the beach house and called the police for a rescue crew to help find Phil. Jeremy and Roxanna stayed at the beach.

Phil’s body was never found. He was sixty three. His wife Jenny didn’t seem surprised when we told her what had happened. She said she had expected him to die years ago. Jenny was Phil’s 5th wife. He didn’t have any children, thank goodness. A few weeks later Jenny said she was moving back in with there ex-husband and Jeremy took Phil’s old golden retriever Shasta. Despite Phil being such an asshole Shasta was a remarkably sweet and well behaved dog.

The day after Phil presumably drowned we put Mom’s ashes, and the ashes of her dogs into the water. As we watched the sun set over the Pacific Ocean we sang Amazing Grace together.

Later this summer, when maybe the social distancing isn’t so much of an issue, Jeremy, Roxanna, and I will meet again at the beach house with our spouses and our children who are able to make it. We haven’t decided if we are going to tell our kids what happened on the beach.

We didn’t have a memorial service for Phil, blaming it on social distancing. In a normal year I doubt if we would have done anything for him. Maybe his asshole friends or one of his ex-wives might do something. I’ll skip it.

Despite all of the crap Phil always put us through part of me still loves him. Not much. I didn’t say it was a big part. I just remember when we were kids all running down the path to the beach laughing together. Phil was always saying funny things. Only later I realized that he didn’t always mean to be funny. He just didn’t have any filters. Or maybe he was just born a mean spirited jerk. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

I decided it was time to remodel the cabin. I took down the old paintings and stuff Mom had picked out. New furniture was due for delivery. The lumpy old mattresses and hard pillows were thrown into a dumpster with the worn out rugs and pitted yellow kitchen cabinets. I wanted everything to be clean and fresh.

On the bookshelf I arranged a display of family photos going back to our parent’s honeymoon on the beach to last year after Roxanne’s daughter Elizabeth had gotten married in the small beach house backyard. I picked up a photo of Phil, taken when he was younger, just out of graduate school. He stood on the beach looking happy with his long brown hair blowing in the wind. I took the image out of the frame, lit a match and burned it in the fireplace. That would be my memorial to Phil, and the final resting place of his ashes.

“So long Phil,” I whispered. “Rest in peace, and may your spirit stay the hell away from here.”

 

~ end

 

Tangled Tales

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

©June 2020 Juliette Kings / Marla Todd

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Care of Our Elders: The Very Old and Fragile … Love, Life and Ashes

Taking Care of Our Elders Marathon

Today I am posting about taking care of, and loving the elders in my life. Sometimes it is magical, sometimes it is rewarding, sometimes it is frustrating, sometimes it is funny, sometimes it is a learning experience, sometimes it just is what it is. Maybe you can relate.

From February 2013

The very old and fragile…love, life and ashes

Around midnight I got a call and a bad feeling.

The whispery voice on the other end said “Come now. Come now. We need you now.”

It was the elders Vampires Tellias and Eleora . The very old and fragile ones who live alone on their old farm by the river. Their judgment is sometimes off in the modern world. Confusion and fear set in at times so I must be available to help. I gathered up my family (13 year old Clara, 16 year old Garrett and my husband Teddy) and we headed out not knowing what to expect.

Tellias met us at the door, his face looking gaunt, his pale hair hanging around his shoulders.  He wore a black smoking jacket and black tuxedo pants. Flip flops were on his feet. He could pass for 19 but he is much much older than any of us.

“I can’t get her out,” he said to us. He voice was a dry and raspy whisper.

Teddy put his arm around Tellias “Where is Eleora?”

Tellias led us to the basement. We went down the stairs and found her trapped behind a large fallen shelf.

“I couldn’t get her out. The shelf is metal. I couldn’t cut it.”

Her eyes were closed, her skin cold. A small whimper came out of her when I touched her hand and said her name. Then she was quiet.

Teddy, Garrett and I lifted the shelving off of the small form. Teddy lifted her, as if she weighed nothing, and brought her upstairs. He laid her limp body on the couch in the main parlor.

“When did this happen?” I looked at Tellias hoping for a straight answer.

“I don’t remember.”

“Try to remember.”

“ Is it Thursday?”

“Today is Sunday.”

“Tuesday.”

She’d been trapped for almost a week.

I took him by both hands, “how did it happen?”

“She was looking for rats. She thought she heard some. She hates rats. You know she hates rats. She went into the basement to kill them all, every one of them and climbed the shelf to get to the rafters where the rats live.  You need to kill the rats Juliette. You need to kill them for Eleora. Those rats…those rats are really bad rats.” He trailed off sounding frail, confused and ancient.

Tellias leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. A tear came down across this lovely face. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what has happened to us. You know we haven’t always been like this.”

I remembered when they were vibrant and strong. The house was new and the farm was thriving. They’d throw lavish parties and people would come for miles around. She’d wear silk dresses with huge bustles, her hair piled high on her head. They ruled the world with style and grace.  Now they were isolated, lonely but too proud to reach out or ask for help.

“You should have called someone.” I heard myself lecturing but I couldn’t help it.  “You should have called John next door.”

“I was afraid to tell John.”

“Why?”

“He would have been angry.”

“John has never had an angry day in his life. He loves you two like his own grandparents.” I just wanted to scream but kept it to myself.

Nobody said anything for a long time. Garrett and I tried to comfort Eleora. Teddy sat silently with Tellias.

It was an hour before sunrise when Clara came in with the neighbor, our old friend John.

“I saw Clara out crying by the car and asked her what happened,” said John.  “I don’t know why Tellias never asked for help. How bad is it?”

John, now 62, had grown up next to the elders. His family had a long history with his Vampire neighbors. He knew us and who we were. I knew his family going back to the 1860’s. There were photos of me as a child in his family albums.

After explaining and discussing the situation with John he went over to Eleora.

“I can help her. Just give us some time alone.” He looked grimm as death itself.

“ We can’t ask that of you,” I said. We’ve helped John’s family for generations and his family has been close to ours but I’d never ask for what he was willing to offer.

“Don’t argue with me. The bottled stuff won’t work.”

He showed us out of the room. An hour later he came to get us. I looked at the marks on his wrists and covered them with a towel filled with ice.

“I can’t thank you enough John.” I took his hand in mine. It was hot to the touch as people often are after they give blood.

John put his other hand over mine. “You know I’m always here for you Juliette. How long do your people live?”

“Vampires?”

“Yes, how long do Vampires live?”

“I don’t know.” Honestly, I don’t know, nobody knows.

“How old are Tellias and Eleora?”

“Over 2,000 years, at least they’ve been together that long.”

“Christ almighty,” John whispered under his breath.

“Before Christ.  Maybe a few hundred years before Christ, maybe more.”

“Considering you all live so long, why is it that I’m always feeling like I’m the adult when I’m around you?”

I shrugged, feeling like I was 12 years old.

“John, if you ever come over here and find clothes with a lot of dust or ashes…”

“I’ve seen dead Vampires Juliette. I know you just combust. That isn’t going to happen to these two.”

We talked some more and then John left us alone with the elders.

I found Tellias alone in the kitchen. Putting my arm around his slim waist I asked “You ok?”

“No, but I’ll be fine. I think John is in love with her. He always has been. Since he was a boy. They all fall in love with her.”

“I know sweetie, but you have her heart.”

A tear ran down his face and I held him tight.

Over the next few months John will check on the elders a few more times a week. We’re setting up a special signal light in case there are problems. My brother Val and G-G-Grandmother Lola will be staying with them on and off for the next few months to help out. Lola might even move back into the smaller house on the property for a while. She is old but not ancient or frail like they are.

My kids are pretty upset but I know they’ll be a big help. Our elders might not be around forever. We never know how long any of us will be around, so we’ll treasure each and every day with everyone we love, be they Vampire or regular folks.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Lost and Found

A long time ago, when I was only twenty-seven, the man I loved died.

One night he didn’t come home. I waited alone wondering where he was. The friend who found him contacted another friend who then told me.

In that moment my world changed. All of our hopes, our dreams and our plans were gone. I’d lost my friend, my lover, my future husband, the future father of my children, all at once.

I was numb and lost in a way I could have never imagined. The grief was paralyzing. In time I was sad, angry, hopeless, and lost. In time I was hopeful and grateful for the time I’d had with him.

Now those memories of loss, and my memories of the man I loved are mine and mine alone. The are no common friends or anyone who shares any memories with me. They are all gone.

I never thought what if. It was over. Dust and ashes blown to the wind, into time, gone forever.

For a few years I slept in one of his shirts – a button down dress shirt. Now that is gone as well – worn out as my broken heart healed.

But he is always with me, even now. Even now when I am passionately in love with my husband Teddy.

If by some magic I could go back and never meet him, never feel that pain, I wouldn’t do it. I would never trade that time with him.

The experience changed me. It happened. I had to continue my life. But I didn’t have to forget. He is part of me. We all carry those we’ve loved inside of us, as part of us.

When he was alive not a day went by when we didn’t say I love you. Not a day went by when we didn’t laugh ourselves silly. I can still hear his voice and see the mischief in his green eyes.

It was so long ago.

I can smile when I think of him.

And I can hope and pray that my children and their young friends never have to go through anything like that.

He wouldn’t have wanted me to be alone and spend my life lost.

That was a long time ago. I’ve lost others since. And I have found more love than I could have ever imagined.

It is never easy when something like this happens. Some people will say, “get over it.” You have my permission to just bitch slap them, or at least just walk away. You don’t need them in your life.

And you might never get over it completely. Even today, when someone is late I sit in fear that they will never return. I try to logically convince myself otherwise but the fear creeps back into my bones.

But more, there are those times when I am grateful because I’ve had that kind of once-in-a-lifetime-love twice. I’ve experienced love at first sight twice. TWICE. And you know I don’t live in a romantic lala land. You’ve seen my meme.

this guy

Yes, I did date that guy and a lot more. Yes, I had to add in something funny.

And each and every single day I tell my husband and children that I love them. Each and every day we laugh until our sides hurt. And each and every day I know that I am exactly where I belong. 

Your assignment today is to hug those you love. Tell them you love them. Laugh until your sides hurt. And do it again every single day of your life. 

 

My heart goes out to the people of Roseburg, Oregon today. May they find peace and keep the love in their hearts.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman