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    Friday, August 29, 2014, 4:10 PM; today is my mother's birthday. She'd be 91 years old today if she had lived. She died at age 83 in 2007, with dementia, and I still really miss her.

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    Image--My mother and father at my daughter Erin's graduation. Photo by Erin Borchik, photoshop by me, clearing background.
  • Meanwhile, I am cleaning at ML’s, my mother-in-law’s, house. ML is what she goes by, short for Mary Louise.

    ML is not dead. She's very much alive, just a little slower at 92 than she used to be, a little less stable on her feet, prone to falls, and more forgetful. She's newly arrived at an assisted living facility, and I have come here with my husband to look after things at her house.

    At some point, we will have to sell the house, but meanwhile, it still contains all the dishes and pots and pans and other paraphernalia of a busy life, as well as some of the belongings of my husband's brother who used stay with her every other weekend before she moved to assisted living.

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    Image: My mother-in-law, ML Taitt
  • Today, I am cleaning the refrigerator. I throw away rotten and moldy food, some of it so liquefied I can't determine what it used to be. I pack some of the still useful, edible things to take home. ML now has her food prepared for her. She will not need any of the food from her house.

    After I empty and swab out the fridge, I wander around the house. It seems empty, forlorn and lifeless, even though many of her things are still here. Her tiny apartment at the assisted-living facility had no room for most of her things.

    Gone are her bed, her desk, her couch, and her dining room table. Still here are many chairs, guest beds, Paul’s bed, sewing machine, sewing machine table and cupboards, curtains, paintings, rugs, books, records, photographs, most of a life. But without her presence, her laughter, her smiles, her attention, the house and all its belongings seem only a shell.

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    Image: My mother in law as a young woman, with my father-in-law, Dean Taitt, and with her two children Keith, my husband, at top, and Paul, my brother-in-law. Background is one of her paintings from her living room, a print. The photographs were on the wall in the dining room.
  • Meanwhile, 25 minutes away, ML is sitting at a table with other seniors, elderly people who don't like to talk. The ones at her table, anyway, keep their thoughts to themselves. She's there now, in the dining room, having her supper. The food is good, she says, though not very interesting. They rarely serve fresh fruit, which she loves.

    Outside, my husband pushes the lawnmower round and round and round ML's big backyard. I stare at a painting of a profusion of flowers, one that ML loved. I think of all the possessions my parents left behind, and all the belongings my husband and I will leave behind when we die. The physical stuff of our lives seem so shallow and pointless without us.

    Image: My son Graham sitting on his grandmother's lap. He is a junior in college now.
  • We do seem to love our possessions--we keep collecting things. Someone will have to sort through them. Sadly, when my aunt died and left all of her stuff to me, whom she loved, I had to leave most of it behind, because my mother had just moved into a nursing home and I had just moved in with my husband--we had four households to consolidate.

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    Image before: Paul, who lived his mother every other weekend before she went to assisted living.

    Image after: Magenta mandala by me, just now. it represents the place we are headed where there will be no possessions as we know them now. Or not.
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