Sunday, January 22, 2006

Say "Hi" to Mom, Deana Mae, and Uncle Bud for Me

Like most people, I'm sure, I don't remember my haircut chronology--partially because we tend to get our hair cut sometime before long-term memory sets in.

I remember there being a barber shop in Center, and I remember going there at a very young age to get my hair cut. I don't remember my age at the time, so I'll have to say "five or younger".

If Aunt Lois was cutting my hair before then, and this was just a special case, I don't know. Someone in my family can probably clear that up for me, and no doubt will sometime before the upcoming weekend is over.

But for most of my childhood haircuts, it's Aunt Lois I remember. The Cottrell's (my mom's sister, her husband, and three kids) lived on a farm not far from where Tricia grew up. I vaguely remember making that connection as a child, and always being amazed that Tricia lived so close by, but I never saw her there (because, you see, 'close by' when you're on a farm can mean... well, not so close by).

It was like an adventure to go out to see Lois, Jim, and Mike & David (I don't have many memories of Toni living there, as she's older than my brother, Todd, who was graduated from high school when I was finishing up 6th grade). There were REAL, LIVE FARM ANIMALS, and also a pond, dogs, cats, and I seem to remember a time when there were pet rabbits... or rabbits, anyway. Maybe they were being grown for food. I don't remember the details on that.

Lois and Mom would talk, and they both would laugh a lot, and Lois would cut my hair... and the hair of any other kid mom had brought out for a haircut. While she was cutting my hair, I enjoyed making Lois laugh (probably because I enjoyed making anyone laugh).

I remember the house before and after they did some remodeling. I remember going out there for a Christmas or two.

When I was a kid, it seemed like they lived so far away. I remember once I turned sixteen, I drove by their house out in the country a couple of times, but it wasn't so far then. My world had gotten so much bigger. I'd lost more innocence, in a sense--the kind of innocence you lose when you find out for you entire life your world has been so much smaller than the actual world.

They had those cattle-rail-thingies that seemed so cool be going over when riding with mom in the car. They had a creek.

Several years ago, Leslie and I were in Center together for a visit. I went with her out to the farm to visit with Lois.

It was a horrible visit for me. When we got in the car, I told Leslie I couldn't go back there again. Lois had aged so much, it had seemed, and this image I had of her from when I was younger was just shattered. Oops, there goes some more innocence--when I thought I was too old to have any left. Time to learn the people from your youth--even people you love and hold dear to you as part of your childhood... maybe even ESPECIALLY those people--don't stay trapped in amber, waiting for you to return.

Lois and Mom shared a room at the nursing home up until last September, when Mom decided she had better places to be on some other plane of existence. I don't think they knew each other by then, but maybe their souls still did, to make up for what the mind wasn't able to do any more. Who knows?

Lois passed away this morning at 4:30. It wasn't a shock, as Leslie had called to tell me Lois' blood pressure had dropped a lot, and they didn't think it was going to be long.

I feel awful for Mike, David, Toni, Toni's girls, and grandkids. Having been there recently, I wouldn't want to be going through that for all the money on Earth. I'm wondering if there's anything I can say to them that would actually be helpful, or comforting. I'm trying to remember what--if anything--was said to me that gave me some sort of solace.

I also feel terrible for Aunt Rachel, the youngest of the five kids in the Hickerson family.

Deana Mae was oldest (she died of a heart attack, I think, in 1987 (again, I think)). It seems like her funeral was a million years ago, but I still remember so many weird details about it the service and the days before it.

Uncle Bud was the next oldest... although he died the youngest. He died at Iwo Jima when he was a very young man (I want to say 19, but he could have been 20). I'll always wonder what I missed by never knowing him, and what I missed by knowing my mom and my aunts after they experienced that loss at such a young age. Lately, I wish he was around for me to ask, "How do you feel about what you sacrificed so that we could live free, and how do you feel about the large number of people in this country who are willing to just hand over their civil liberties and freedoms because they think that's the patriotic thing to do?"

Mom died in early September, and now Lois is gone.

Having had my fun experience this summer, I know I do have this strong desire to live, but I still catch myself trying to convince myself I don't care one way or another. And if the series of emotions I went through that day holds true when it really is time for me to die, I feel pretty confident I'll reach a "Whatever... what power do I have over my fate if it's time to die" place.

I can say for sure that given the choice of being the first sibling to go or the last, I'd choose first. I'm not even sure I'd choose second. Me going is a piece of cake. A brother or sister going--even one that I can't stand right now--that's going to be a lot.

Yes, even one that I can't stand right now. That's what really sucks about death. It's so FINAL. There's no guarantee of anything after it, so for all you know, what you have left undone is left undone. Everything you've left unsaid remains unsaid. Your last words to them remain your last words to them, no takebacks.

So my death falls WAY below the death of most anyone else I know, mainly because I'm not going to have to be here for the aftermath of my own.

I hate the way time steals people. In a way, just like with Mom, I feel Lois was taken some time ago. When we'd visit the nursing home, I couldn't tell if Lois had any idea who I was.

There's this great picture of the five of them, and nobody can seem to find it. One of the sisters (Lois, I think) had one, and she had copies made for each sister... but nobody can find their copy. I want a copy so badly, and if I ever get one I'm going to scan it and put it here.

They're all five school-aged, and standing beside a house (according to Rachel, it's the house across the street from the house I grew up in). Deana Mae and Uncle Bud both look nearly-adultish, but they're all together; they're all young.

I think of how long it has been for them since they've all been together, and it sorta makes my heart ache.

And that's when I wish for an afterlife.


Andy B. said...

As usual, your writing has spoon fed my brain a great amount of nourishment, and I am still chewing. But initially, I want to comment to say that being comforted in a time of suffering may be not so much about someone saying the "right" words to you as it is about someone being present with you while you go through it.
Chew chew,
Andy B.

Peggy Wooden said...

Mark, again your description of events has vividly sparked something in my own memory. I feel sorry for you in a way that is strange, considering we've never met.

I, too, am chewing and digesting...