One Month In

Today, at 4:45 p.m. One month.

I have my first appointment with a grief counselor tonight. I’m, um, looking forward to it? Kind of?

I’ve been getting a lot done, but definitely getting to points where the apartment makes me stir-crazy. I’m definitely going to reserve Sunday (or, as with this weekend, a Monday holiday) for ‘Eric recharge time’, where I go out and do something nice and any tasks I do will be about Eric, not about the estate or the apartment. (This is the point where my friends jump in and remind me that they’ve all offered to have me come visit for a weekend. Yes, yes, I know, I appreciate that, I will take advantage of that. When I’m ready.) So, anyway, once I get cleaned up and fed this morning, I’m going to go see Little Island, and then go shopping. That’ll be nice.

There’s a smidgen of guilt, of course, as I wander around this quite-large apartment that was really Charles’s baby – he’s the one who bought it with a clear eye of what he wanted to do with it, and then spent years doing it, as I moved around the edges doing laundry and being supportive, but otherwise getting out of his way. It’s mine now, and although I have every intention of honoring Charles’s vision and (mostly) maintaining it the way it was, there are already ideas for change. No rush on those. And I realized that I, too, could get as excited as he was back in ’95, to make this place into my home, honoring him and his legacy and his choices, but tweaking and adjusting. For instance, the living room is going to be reorganized so the corner where the Christmas tree goes, which for the rest of the year has two armchairs in a lovely arrangement that no one ever sits in, is going to be about music now. (it’s right by the piano) A bookcase for sheet music, a chair or table where my horn can live when I’m in practice mode, and probably at some point a nice wooden music stand. No more practicing in the guest room, nosirree.

Thursday, I met with my estate lawyer, so the will and stuff is in the system now. I don’t think it’s that complicated, but it will involve setting up a couple of trusts for a couple of underage beneficiaries, which will then have to be managed.

Friday, I went to Social Security. I picked the Flushing office, and they had a nice setup – you check in on a computer kiosk, take a number, and then they call you up. The room was nice and air-conditioned, plenty of seats, plenty of room for social distancing. Took 15 minutes, tops, for me to get someone. But it turned out that, although they could have helped me if I were willing to wait for an appointment months down the road, I’d get service today if I went to my ‘local office’, which turned out to be the one in Rego Park.

You can get from Flushing to Rego Park by public transportation, but it’s the opposite of how the crow flies, so I just grabbed an Uber, and that worked out OK. Bad sign when I got to the Rego Park office, people standing outside in line. I went into the building, saw immediately that they had a check-in kiosk, but it was busted, with the door open to get at the innards, and the security guards barked at me, “Outside! In line!”. I regrouped, gave my best ‘fuck you’ grin, and said, “that sounds great!”.

As it turned out, I was only fourth in line or so, but there was no shade and it was very sunny and they kept us waiting without bringing anyone in for almost an hour. Finally, whatever logjam they had broke and things started moving quickly. And I got in and got to talk to an actual person who could help me.

There were three issues to deal with: (a) do they know he’s no longer with us? (b) can I get my one-time survivor benefit payout, and (c) will I be able to get his social security benefits in some form? The answer to (a) was yes, the funeral home had taken care of that, and that was the only issue with urgency. The answer to (c) was, “Yes, but…” I can’t get his benefits until I’m 60, and even then, not if I make ‘too much money’, which I do. However, the nice lady pointed out to me that by the time I’m eligible to do that, my employment situation might have changed, or, more intriguing, I could choose to change my own employment situation to take advantage of the benefit. In other words, that might be the time to retire and just do music gigs and writing, enough to make something but not to disallow the benefits. So that has me rubbing my hands together like a snickering villain, and I’ll certainly have to explore the pros and cons of that scenario. But I have a couple of years yet.

Option (b) was the only thing we needed to do anything about, and that took about two minutes, and I’ll be getting that lump sum sometime soon showing up in my checking account.

Oh, here’s a fun thing: we’d discovered during our inventory blitz during that first week that C had done something that I try never to do – had gotten gift cards as gifts and then shoved them in a drawer and forgot about them. (I try to use gift cards right away just so that doesn’t happen.) One of them was a Tiffany’s gift card that had been given to us as a wedding present, with a substantial amount on it. I work within walking distance of the flagship store on Fifth Avenue, so during lunchtime on Thursday, I’d headed over there, thought I might get a clock or something for the living room. They did have a clock I liked that’s been discontinued, so it’s not available online, but they may still have one back in storage or whatever. Anyway, I figure the gift card plus the SS lump sum will pay for that clock, and if I can get it engraved, I’ll do so with some sort of memorial to Charles and that will be a nice way to tie that all up. I’ll follow up on that this week.

Once I left the SS office, I walked over to Queens Center Mall, where I hadn’t been in ages, had lunch at Applebee’s (used to my thing to do there) and went to Macy’s to look at sofa pillows, but no luck. Home, took a nap (I take a lot of afternoon naps now, and I need to make that not-a-habit), had dinner, watched TV.

Saturday was about laundry, but I also attended a street-naming ceremony for Pete Magnani, a neighbor who passed away last year. He and his wife Dot had been to our house for dinner, and Dot and her daughter had come to C’s viewing and funeral. I hadn’t realized that Pete had been such a big deal in Queens politics, but he was and there was an hour of speeches. Very nice, but I chose not to go to the food-gathering afterward, snuck home and made myself a turkey sandwich. Did house stuff for the rest of the day. My dad called and we had a nice chat, and that took care of the ‘obligatory Father’s Day call’, as far as I was concerned. Then Tessa called right afterward, and we decided to have dinner together. I’d been thinking about taking myself to La Cabaña, up the street on Northern Boulevard. It’s great and I love it, but hadn’t been there in years. Anyway, Tessa came out to JH and, since by serendipity, I’d come across an envelope that day with “Tessa” scrawled on it, I had the pleasure of giving her one of my mother’s brooches (a cat) that I’d saved for her, but kept forgetting to give her. So she wore that, that was nice. Mom and Tessa really loved each other. It was a great meal, lots of good reminiscences and bitching. (A topic that continues to come up any time we talk about C’s sudden passing was ‘you couldn’t tell him anything‘. He wasn’t going to listen to advice, no matter how worried we were about his health.)

Yesterday was more house stuff. I’m now at the point where I’m going through C’s papers carefully and refiling them in a way that makes more sense to me, so I did some of that. Got the dumbwaiter tools into the new storage bins. (There’s a part 2 of that project, but it can wait.) Got some of the boxes out of the guest room into the bedroom, where they’ll live against the far wall for now. Went through the secretary, threw out a lot of stuff and reorganized, and now the secretary is going to be ‘office supply land’. (C had like six pairs of scissors in there. What was that about?)

I also found a little daytimer, probably not touched in 20 years, where he had notes to himself on life plan items, like ‘quit smoking’ and ‘lose weight’. One of them was ‘find a mate’, and has a checkmark by it. That made me grin hugely. I’m keeping that. I also found a sheet of paper that Patty had seen earlier, where he’d handwritten the spelling of numbers, as a reference. Like “Eighty” and so on. He really had a lot of trouble with spelling, I’m not the only person in his circle who thinks he was an undiagnosed dyslexic. He certainly enjoyed reading a lot more once he figured out how to get his kindle to do the whispersync thing where it narrates to you as you read it. Anyway, that sort of thing is going to end up in a file called “Charles – Memories” or such.

So, this week should be busy. To the office tomorrow, then dinner with friends out. Wednesday, my brother arrives through the weekend. I need to get moving on this, but I want to coordinate Saturday so other friends come in to help, and we can do apartment stuff that takes many hands, like taking the mattress off the (king-sized) bed frame in the master bedroom so we can vacuum under the bed and tighten up the currently-quite-wobbly frame. (Two big boys climbing in and out of bed have done a number on it.) So, get moving on that.

OK, time to get moving on the day and my ‘Artist’s Date’ and ‘Eric time’. Enjoy the week!

One thought on “One Month In

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