Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mom... the Finale

Gary and I left last Friday headed for Key West. Our main objective was to dispatch mom's ashes to the place she loved so much. I initially thought the worst was behind me and that this was merely a formality. However, the closer our plane got to the Key's, the more nauseated I became. I was a complete bundle of nerves by the time we landed. It wasn't only our task at hand that was eating at me. This was the first time in 13 years I'd stepped foot on the island. I grew up loving this place so much, but was saddened and disgusted at how it had developed when I'd last seen it. I was worried I wouldn't even recognize the place. Also, our dear family friend Pat was letting us stay at her house (now a vacation rental and place for family and friends to stay.) Her place, as fate would have it, lay squarely in between the house I grew up in and the one Mom and my step-dad Gerry moved into after I left for college. I wasn't exactly certain how my emotions were going to respond.

I spent the entire drive gasping and marveling all the way to the house. True, so much had changed. Many things were gone, new businesses, buildings or condos in their place. But in the short ride out to the house things weren't as bad as I'd envisioned. Strangely, everything in the old neighborhood looked much smaller than before... Isn't that always the way it is when you go back to the place you grew up.

My friend Fish drove down from Naples to spend the weekend with us. He arrived moments after we did. We got settled into the house and decided to head out for dinner.

A friend of mine from high school (Rich) told me several months ago that the class of '83 was having their high school reunion the weekend I was down and invited me to 'crash' the cocktail party. I wasn't sure if we were going to, so I didn't commit, but we decided 'why not' at the last minute. Initially Rich had said not many people were going to be there. Even though I was 2 years behind him in school I had many friends in that class, but it never crossed my mind I'd see anyone other that him and his wife Paula there. What a terrific surprise! I saw several people there that I knew, but the best was two of my dear friends Kathy and Beth! I think they were just as surprised to see me. Rich hadn't told them I might be coming. It was hilarious walking up to them with this grin on my face. Both of them had this 'I-know-I-know-you-but-I'm-just-not-sure-who-you-are' look. Then BAM! The light bulb went off. It was fabulous catching up on old and new times.

On Saturday, Gary, Fish and I did a most unusual ritual with mom's ashes. We took her on the 'Duval Crawl' as the locals call it. Normally this refers to a pub crawl along the main drag of Key West. We decided to hit all of her favorite places along the drag. I'm completely convinced that she would have loved the absolute absurdity of it and was smiling down the entire day. We went to her favorite places starting at La Te Da, had a great brunch next to the pool, and ran into Kathy and her husband Steve. We snapped a shot of me and mom in front of the "White House" (now a Key Lime Pie store) where she had her hair cut for years. Next we cruised on down to Fast Buck Freddies, the best (but not cheapest) shopping in the known universe. (Also my second place of employment where I wrapped presents for celebrities and dusted every single one of the 10 billion chochkies in the place my senior year in high school.) After that we slid on into Margaritaville, previously known as Del Rio's back in the day. This is where Jimmy Buffett used to perform before he "grew older; not up." Mom and I were known to frequent the place from time to time. I think the picture says it all. (See slideshow below.)

Sunday we headed out to 'return mom to the earth' as Beth so eloquently put it. The neighbor across the street Tracy offered his boat for the event and he, Pat, Fish, Gary, Beth and I headed out around mid-afternoon. Originally I thought I wanted to put her to rest in what we call the 'back country;' the islands to the west in the Gulf. But is was a little rough, so we went about a mile off shore from the old neighborhood towards the Atlantic.

Mom loved "The Prophet" by Kahlil Gibran. Shortly before we went to Key West, I found the book given to her by her dear friend Carole Anne many, many years ago. I read the following:

Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.
It was but yesterday we met in a dream.
You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.
But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.
The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.
If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together
and you shall sing to me a deeper song.
And if our hands should meet in another dream we shall build another tower in the sky.

I slipped the water soluble envelop that held her ashes into the water. It bobbed gently on the waves and we all let the wind catch rose pedals that settled beside her. Tracy maneuvered the boat in circles around the flowers and ashes for several minutes until they sank beneath the waves. We then popped a bottle of mom's favorite champagne and toasted her wonderful life.

I really hadn't planned any of it. Granted I got the rose pedals and the champagne, but I really wanted it to just unfold. And it did; beautifully. We spent the rest of the afternoon at the local marina bar having a wonderful time, just as mom would have.

The rest of the time in Key West was great. I'd managed to work through my nerves by Saturday and quickly slipped back into island time. No multi-tasking; no watches or clocks! We didn't really plan one day to the next and had a great time doing it. We were able to spend time with friends both old and new.

Strange that I couldn't put my finger on my emotions after letting go of mom's ashes. I was very emotional reading from "The Prophet," but immediately after, I was empty; no, maybe placid is the word. Not in a negative way, not even in a positive way. I didn't even feel a sense of "closure." It was just simply done; finis. I suppose there is a peace to having that.


Lauren said...

I love the slideshow! Looks like you had fabulous weather too! :)

Mariellen said...

How beautiful...what a wondeful final resting place for your wondeful mom...
I brought a tear to my eye and memories from our short trip to Key West with my famliy mom included.