Tuesday, February 26, 2008

And in this closet...

I have returned yet again. The trip to GA was long and difficult. Lawyers and CPA's and probate judges and banks and so much more. So many things to do. I've never gone through this and I had no idea just how much was involved. And I learned two very important lessons very early in the trip...
  1. EVERYTHING takes longer than I thought it would take
  2. NO ONE on the phone can help me until they've transferred me at least four times
And I learned one other thing during my trip. Something I never really knew about my mom. She saved every piece of paper she ever saw in her life. Every bank statement. Every old check book. Every grocery receipt. Every Christmas card. Every one.

You may be thinking....so what, one little pile of papers. What is he bitching about?

Oh no, my friendly blog reader, I'm talking many big piles. Many piles in this closet. More piles in that closet. Some piles under a bed. Some on the shelf. Piles and piles.

But hope remained. Perhaps all those piles were neatly organized, thus allowing me to quickly identify recent documents needed for accumulating assets and paying her bills while blindly tossing the 1994 Halloween cards.

No such luck. It was a hodgepodge. A jumble. A mishmash. A melange. A potpourri of papers. (Okay, I'll stop now. But are you getting it? There was a LOT and it was a mess!)

So what was a poor boy to do with all that paper when there were other things to be done? A game plan was hatched. Mornings were devoted to meetings with attorneys and financial folks. Afternoons were devoted to packing things in the house. Evenings were spent looking through papers - piece by piece - and either tossing or saving, as necessary. And on the final day, I packed up two large boxes and mailed them home for later inspection. I packed an extra suitcase with papers. I crammed my carry on luggage with papers. And I came home.

Now our family room has a new piece of furniture. The card table where I now sit - surrounded by boxes of paper. I think I might be here for a while...finishing the task of identifying what is current and tossing or shredding the rest.

Anyone for a parade? I've got all the paper you need!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

On the road again...

So today I hop on a plane and head back to Georgia for six days. This is the winter break at my school, so it gives me a chance to travel back to where my mom lived to begin the long process of dealing with her things.

What a cold phrase, huh? Dealing with her things. Better to say...sorting through her belongings? Sounds less than what it really is. Managing the estate? Sounds like she lived at Graceland. But no matter how you say it, there is a house to be gone through. Attic to shed. Every drawer and every cupboard. Eighty-three years of living. Some of it will come to us. Some will go to other family. Some will be donated. Some will be thrown away. And my job this week is to start making those decisions.

Plus probate. I gotta see attorneys. I have to start closing out her accounts for cable and credit cards and all those kinds of services. So a lot of phone calls and visits to banks, etc.

It will be a tough few days, I think. My wife and the kids will be staying at home. Son20 still has classes this week. The other kids need their school break to catch up on makeup work from missing a couple of weeks ago...and just to relax and enjoy a little free time.

And what will make the entire trip more difficult? NO INTERNET! (gasp!) I'm leaving the laptop at home. My mom never had an internet connection at her house...so I would have to go to a coffee shop or book store to find free WiFi. And I would. But the temptation would be to go there every day. Maybe morning and evening. Cause you know I love my blog reading and my e-mailing. So to avoid all that, I'm leaving it at home and going cold turkey. Yikes!

But I've at least prepared a tiny emergency backup plan. I learned how to text message with my cell phone this week. I know...only ten years after everyone else in the world embraced that little trick of communication. But now I know. And if I reach a moment of desperation where I just have to type something, I can send a text message to someone. Now if I only knew all your cell phone numbers...... :)

Be good. I'll be around checking up on you as soon as I return.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Funeral Food

My wife grew up Mormon. She is no longer a part of that religion, but all of her family is very active. And one tradition I've always heard about is funeral potatoes. Apparently this is an unofficial tradition among Mormons - especially those who live in Utah. If you Google "funeral potatoes", you'll find more than 90,000 links to blogs, online magazines, recipe sites, and other web sites discussing this particular dish.

Funeral potatoes are not just for funerals. They might show up at other potlucks, parties and gatherings. But they are a staple item at enough funerals that the name has evolved to simply reflect that fact.

For something so commonplace at these events, the recipes can vary quite a lot. Some are made with cubed potatoes while others are made with hash browns. Sometimes they are made with cream of chicken soup, sometimes with cream of celery soup, and sometimes with cream of mushroom soup. And sometimes people go crazy and use two kinds of soup in one dish! Some recipes have no soup at all but substitute cream, evaporated milk, or other creamy substitutes. And some top it off with bread crumbs, some with cracker crumbs, some with corn flakes, and some with frosted flakes.

But in spite of the variations, it is a traditional dish at meals served after Mormon funerals in Utah.

Is it good? I don't know. When we went to my niece's funeral in December, there were no funeral potatoes. My sister-in-law hates them and insisted that none be served. So I can't give you first hand experience of the dish.

But while visiting Georgia for my mom's funeral, we were lucky enough to have many people volunteering to provide meals to our family. My cousin's church provided a meal. My uncle's church provided a meal. My mom's church provided a meal. Even the funeral home provided a meal. There were no funeral potatoes. However, there were other foods that clearly represent the southern funeral. Fried chicken. I guess we could call it funeral chicken now. Every meal that was served by some church or other group had fried chicken as the primary - and often the only - entree. And it was also clear that every platter of fried chicken was destined to be served with something creamy and white. Potato salad...macaroni salad...or cole slaw. One of those was piled high next to every mound of the funeral fried chicken.

Am I complaining? Nope. I love fried chicken and potato salad. I like macaroni salad. I don't understand how anyone can eat cole slaw, but that's just me. But the chicken and potato salad...delicious.

However, there was one thing missing at every meal. Veggies. No green salad. No beans. No broccoli. No asparagus. Nothing that could be classified as a vegetable. And we all started to miss that. At one point, the five of us went to a restaurant just to order the salad bar. It was wonderful!

But the whole experience offered this interesting opportunity to observe the different traditional foods served around funerals. Makes me wonder what might show up at other parts of the country. And what might be missing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I have returned. Again.

I promise I'm not starting and stopping just to get attention. I am not competing for the title of World's Most Inconsistent Blogger. But just when I think I'm back on track...

My mom passed away on Sunday, Feb. 3. I never even saw the Super Bowl that I had so eagerly anticipated. Instead, I spent my evening making plane reservations, rental car reservations, and packing for a trip to Georgia.

My mom had a good life. She had not struggled with illness. She was as healthy as an 83 year old could possibly be. But that didn't stop the heart attack.

It was a long week of sadness, travel, finalizing plans, seeing family that I had not seen in years, and taking the first baby steps in the long process of dealing with her home and her belongings and any financial issues that need to be dealt with. And that process won't be an easy one to accomplish long distance...so I know I'll be traveling back and forth from CT to GA several times over the next few months. In fact, I'll be there again for part of next week.

This is two unexpected and very sad deaths in our family in just 9 weeks. That is too much. I'm crossing my fingers that my family can get a little bit of a break from such sadness.

And as I travel back and forth, I'll post when I can. I'm sure there will be observations and stories to tell.

For one thing...it is quite a shock to the biological system to board a plane in Atlanta when it is 69 degrees...and step off that same plane just two and half hours later in Connecticut where it was 22 degrees. The temperature changed very quickly. My body did not adjust at that same pace! Brrrrrr!!!

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Countdown Continues

I've been watching the pre-pregame coverage for 12 days now. Interviews with the coaches mothers. Analysis of how they grow grass on the field. And that wonderful special on which stadium has the best hot dog. I'm loving every minute of it.

What? Pregame to what? Surely you jest!

But just in case you missed it, the Super Bowl is this Sunday. And MY Patriots are playing. That's the PERFECT New England Patriots. They will be taking on the long-shot New York Giants. The two teams are just a short drive apart...and my house is just about dead center between the two stadiums.

Trust me, everyone around here has a serious opinion about how this thing is gonna turn out. We've been wearing our Patriots hats and our Giants jerseys and singing the Tom Brady theme song day and night.

But perhaps you don't care. Perhaps you don't live in the tiny corner of the US where these two teams reside. Maybe you live in Texas...or Minnesota...or Georgia. Anywhere but the New England area. And these two teams were just annoyances that got in your team's way this year.

Heck, perhaps you don't even like football. Though the mere thought of that is unsettling.

But if you are out there not caring...trust me, I'll be enjoying it enough for both of us!

Now I would review each game of their PERFECT season...and the beauty of the 3-4 defense...but I'm pretty sure highlights of previous Super Bowls will be on in a minute...followed by interviews with people who knew someone who had a cousin who actually attended a Super Bowl one time. Can't miss that!!