Over the next week, and indeed up to now, I’ve been slightly manic and overly perky, particularly when interacting with other people, as if I’d had not quite enough sleep (completely true) and way too much coffee (not true at all). My friends were eying me askance, wondering when I’d break down. (“How is he really” got floated a lot once I left the room.) Well, for better or ill, I’ve managed to keep it mostly together, except when I can set myself up alone with some really lovely music. Then it all comes out, and I had to apologize to my upstairs neighbors for the howling they were probably hearing from down here.
So when I got up on Saturday, other than the constant chyron of “Charles is dead Charles is dead Charles is dead” in my head, my big thing is I needed to deal with the bedroom, and I needed to contact more people. When I got up, I’d been phone-poking my best friend Brad, who’s on European time six hours ahead, to see if he had time to chat. He and his husband were at the airport, ready to fly to Gran Canaria to purchase an apartment (as one does), but after a teeny bit of warning, I texted him that Charles had passed away and (reportedly) he yelled OH MY GOD and dropped his phone. Then he found a corner and facetimed me, and I told him the whole thing.
The EMTs had worked on Charles on the bedroom floor over by his big chest of drawers. There was detritus from all the medical stuff they’d done, little wrappers and stuff under the bed and under the dresser, and (to my surprise a day or so later) a little ampule of some drug. There was a random white sheet that wasn’t mine, and it took me a while to realize that that was the sheet that they’d put over the body until the funeral home guys could come. There was a very stained pillow on the floor, and the carpet was stained. Sorry for the grossness, but unfortunately, the weekend chose to be incredibly hot and humid and it smelled like the Wrath of God. I attempted to wash the pillow and pillowcase, but they were goners, so they got dumped. I scrubbed the carpet with wet towels, and later bought a can of carpet cleaner, but that was not nearly enough. I also had to launder all the bedding, every layer down to the mattress. So I gathered all that up and was able to do pretty much all the laundry in-house, except for one very puffy and large mattress cover, which I took to the laundromat (and then immediately proceeded to lose the receipt). I think I may have taken a power walk, too, knowing that this would be beneficial, not frivolous, and picked up a breakfast sandwich from my favorite coffee shop on the way home. These breakfast sandwiches are delicious, with a salsa verde I could eat for days, and I usually inhale them, but that day, I got about halfway through one half, then looked it confusedly and put it down.
My appetite was nothing for the first few days. Those who know me (or even look at me) can tell that this is not normal. I’m not the sort of person who forgets to eat lunch, more like ‘am planning lunch from about 10:00 am on’. But I had no appetite. Rest of the sandwich in the fridge. My upstairs neighbor Mariah dropped off two delicious pastries from the same shop, I looked at them like they were alien artifacts and put them on the kitchen counter to deal with later. (And for the next few days, my friends continued to be concerned that I was not eating, even though I am significantly overweight and Not Eating is what I should be doing anyway.)
I continued contacting people, and didn’t want to post anything on social media until certain people definitely knew, but I realized that I was kind of in a race – Brad and other people were spreading the news and other people starting posting on my Facebook wall with sympathy messages. So I finally put out the word and then that at least was done. And somewhere in there were conversations with the funeral home, to set up an appointment with them, and with the cemetery.
I don’t remember what else happened on that first day, except it was a lot of laundry and phone calls, and manic mood swings, and another session with a glass of wine and Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna so I could do some more howling. My upstairs neighbor knocked on my door and handed me a loaf of homemade bread that was literally hot out of the oven. Couldn’t not eat that, so I cut a slice, put peanut butter on it, and had that plus the cinnamon roll that Mariah had handed off, and that was dinner. ( think I’d eaten more breakfast sandwich in the middle of the day, had half of it left at this point.)
Another night in the guest room, got some sleep this time.
One thing I found out very quickly was not only how many friends were willing to help, but that the close friends and relatives were not waiting to be asked or invited over, they were just going to show up. Also, that, yes, I had a ton of shit to do and it would help all of us if I made a list of stuff I could hand off to other people.
So Sunday, three fantastic ladies descended on my home – our niece Allison, my dear friend Susan, and Charles’s best friend Patti, to help me with stuff. I knew we’d be just sitting around hashing out the situation for part of the time, and that was great, but also that I could set them on tasks. I had Allison inventory the food situation – what’s in the fridge? Anything expired or dodgy, throw it out. Note everything else down with expiration dates. C had bought a couple of packages of these premade Fresh Direct chicken jalapeno cream cheese rollups that were a day from expiring, so I had Allie cook them and freeze half of them, and the rest got eaten (they’re really good, by the way). Inventory the freezer, the pantry. So for the next month or so I can look at the list and figure out what I can put together for dinner from that before I get into my own food shopping routine. (A lot of leftovers ended up getting tossed because I couldn’t remember when they’d been cooked originally and didn’t trust myself to get to them before they went bad.)
I handed Patti a couple of boxes to look at photos, which I needed to pull for the funeral service, and set all of them to look through file cabinets and bookshelves for important papers and bills (and more photos, and maybe funeral instructions, which I could swear he said he had written) to put in front of my face. That was tremendously helpful.
Meanwhile, we have an old electrolux carpet cleaner down in the storage closet, but I’d never used it. I retrieved it, got all the brushes and parts and the soap (years of computer adventure games have taught me how to quest). Then mechanically-minded Susan, who also helped me figure out how to wind and set the grandfather clock, helped me put the carpet machine together. This was more complicated than it looked, and we had to look at an online video just to figure out how to turn it on, but after a merry hour of this, I finally got it going and it only took ten minutes or so to shampoo the affected area of carpet. (I need to go back and do that again a couple more times.) Susan, unfortunately, had direct experience with this sort of thing from when her father passed away two years ago, and recommended I order “Folex”, a spot remover that also dealt with ‘biologicals’ very well. (and I did and it showed up the next day and it worked)
Took them all out to brunch. I just had a salad, but that seemed to be fine. Then went back and continued to work on everything until Patti and Allison had to head back up the Hudson, then Susan stayed and we ate some of those rollups, plus some of the goodies that my dear friend Renee had sent via Fresh Direct (the first of many gift baskets I started to get). And prepared for Monday, which was about setting up the funeral.