Arrivederci Roma

The kid with the tangled mane of hair sprawled across the worn gray carpet in the living room  She’d spent hours working the music box mechanism.  Winding up the platform, where the wooden boy, arm raised confidently, strode toward the train.

get on the train kid

She played a game.  Trying to wind up the music box just enough so that as it slowed, it would end on the final strains of the tune.  Sometimes cheating a little, pushing in the metal button to stop the music at the right place.

Forty five years later, the kid still has hard to manage hair.  She still doesn’t care much what it looks like most of the time.  She was back in that same living room yesterday, bringing her mother home from an appointment with the cardiologist…

Mom is doing ok as she approaches her 86th birthday.  The lung cancer has apparently been radiated into submission.  A pacemaker keeps her heart ticking along.  She moves slowly, with the assistance of a cane.  Usually out of breath, the cardiologist ran another EKG, and ordered some blood work to check for anemia.  Checked her pulse oxygen, which was a reasonable 93% using the finger cuff.

“I’m just so tired.  Sometimes I just think my heart is going to quit.”

Mom has been working through her estate plans.  She is not confused about what she wants to happen when she dies, and has taken the advice of her attorney to get things sorted.  We’d just returned from another visit to the bank to address some of these issues

Going into Mom’s apartment, she brought me to the dresser where she keeps her important papers.  She was showing me where she keeps stock certificates, and other assorted documents.

i was surprised to see the little guy on the music box, still chasing that train…

At the first strains of the tune, i was right back on that worn gray carpet.  A little dusty, it still worked perfectly…

“Your Dad gave me that years ago…”

“i know, Mom.  i remember this well…”  Still able to wind it up just so… Still able to use the metal button to bring the music to a halt at just the right place…

“Do you want it?  Put your name on the bottom of it.  Or just take it home now…”

“No.  i can’t do that…  You still have it out!  It looks perfect right here…”

“Well, you better mark it if you want it because if you don’t it might disappear after i’m gone…”

We had discussed this over lunch.  It is entirely within the realm of the plausible that anything that could potentially be of monetary value will vaporize as soon as she dies.  “The perils of benefactors, the blessings of parasites.”

i left it there, but the melody has been stuck in my head ever since.  Thinking about my father.  Thinking about the man that devoted his life to caring for her, and her children.  Leaving behind friends and family in the northeast, and starting over in his new role…

arrevederci roma

Get on that train, kid.  Don’t look back…

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31 thoughts on “Arrivederci Roma

  1. You are so, so lucky to be able to discuss this stuff with your mom. When my brother-in-law passed away a couple of years ago my wife and I ended up facing plans to take care of his two girls but nothing written down – i.e legal. Fortunately he had had the foresight to put his retirement and insurance policies in our names so his ex-wife couldn’t get her hands on any of it. Unfortunately not putting these items in a trust for his kids ended up costing them almost $100k but at least the stupid bitch didn’t get her hands on it. We’ve spent quite a bit of time, money, and angst getting things set up for the girls. Your mom is right – when the time comes things disappear. The very day of the viewing someone came and took one of Mike’s trailers right out of his yard. No doubt one of his “friends” decided to collect on a debt. People can be dicks.

    • jesus… i had no idea…. you did a good thing working through this, and there is no doubt it will be appreciated by his children. As to the potential for rotten human behavior? It is endemic to a trailer park. One of the other things i suggested to Mom is that i can wire her personal space with cameras and monitoring equipment – allowing me to track the performance of outside care givers, should they be required, and also track who is thieving shit from her… She likes this idea, as do i… 🙂

  2. Trailer park residents don’t have the monopoly on scummy behaviour. One of my friends went to her uncle’s funeral. She was a bit surprised to see that one of her cousins (and his family) weren’t there.
    Surprised until she reached her uncle’s house for the wake. The missing cousin was just pulling out of the driveway, towing a very, very full trailer of possessions he had decided were his.

    • How incredibly cold and rude! it boggles my mind… i have heard of cases where thieves target homes of deceased people DURING the hours of a funeral/visitation because they have a pretty good idea that no one will be home. Sad that it comes from family…

  3. This is a wake-up call. I’ve done nothing about what to do after I’m gone. And I’ve got those little chillin’ to worry about! Thanks for the boot.

    What was the tune? Do you know it? You could post a short video. That might be nice. Don’t forget to write your name on it.

    • You should – as a minimum – do a will and make sure you’ve got power of attorney (medical and durable) between you and your wife. Won’t cost much to have an attorney do it, or you can play with the online stuff….

      “Arrivederci Roma” is the tune. i know it only through the music box, and i can play every. single. note. in my head at will… Didn’t take the photos above – found them on eBay. The music box isn’t worth much (thankfully) and may survive.

      i am quite serious about the video surveillance system – with Mom’s approval. And it will be an OBVIOUS one, so everyone in the trailer park knows that their moves are being recorded. Likely to put in two separate systems – one they know about, one they don’t. Should at least make it a little more difficult to fuck with mom’s stuff…

  4. It’s those little things that trigger those memories innit? strange how it works… a week in Mexico and my liver hates me and i’m working my way through my DT’s (not really), and i adore how you remember your dad, hope the boyos remember me as fondly, might re-start the Late Nigh Maudlin series as relations between my mother and i slowly begin to detoriate again, she’s converted to American Jihadist and the spewing racism and hate (all in Jesus’ name of course) is wearing thin, can i at least claim i tried?

    • You tried, and that’s all you need to do… my relationship with my mother has evolved so dramatically over the past few years. my anger is gone. i just meet her where she is. she makes it pretty easy, though, because she’s not a venom-spewing, idealistic cretin. guarantee i would not be able to spend time with her if she was on the god squad…

      And i have absolutely no doubt that your little dudes are collecting many happy memories… the hard part is that we never know when those little brains are ‘recording’, and we just don’t know what the defining moments will be. The benefit of having adult children? They’ve told me… and i’m mostly in the ‘positive’ column. So far, anyway….

  5. It’s good to have those conversations with your Mom.
    I agree that you should take the little things you want now before they grow legs and walk.
    When my Grandmother died, Dad was beside himself not only with grief, but because he had no idea where to look for her important papers. I did. My Grandmother had shown me a few years earlier where she kept it.
    I had decided to stay in her house to keep an eye over everything, and it’s a good thing I did. My Aunt and cousin showed up at 2am planning to take what they wanted. Boy were they shocked to see me at the door! It turned into a huge scene and neither one of them talk to me.
    Death brings out the gold diggers.

    I love the idea of video surveillance; it’ll help kerp them honest!
    Glad to hear she’s doing well 🙂

    • i’m now thinking that there will come a time — certainly if she ends up in ‘end of life’ hospital care, and during any formal/publicly announced memorials or funerals, that i’m going to post an armed guard in her space. pretty sure The Boy would enjoy that particular duty…

  6. I’m glad you can have these discussions with your mother. Very good. You should have taken the music box when she offered it. She would not have offered if she had not been ready to let it go. Then it would be in your possession and she would not have to worry about it “walking off” after her death. Next time you are there, take custody! It obviously means a lot to you.

    My Dad did not do that and now the only thing I have of his is the rocks he collected on his travels, which no one else thought to be valuable. And even though my mother gave me permission to take them I got a nasty look when I mentioned that I had them and had built a cairn with them to honor him. Honestly, the relationship people have with “stuff” is weird.

    The person who is in total control of my mother’s finances and estate is the ONE person who no one else trusts. At all. so I don’t expect anything fair to happen after her death.

    And I can’t talk to her about the situation because she is in total denial. It sucks. She also is on oxygen all the time with COPD. No pace maker, no cancer, but I see her winding down like that music box and it is tough to cope with.

    • So very sorry that things haven’t worked out well for your family situation. You’d mentioned some of the challenges with The One In Charge before, and i imagine you’ve just had to check out as much as possible to avoid letting your brain melt down.

      A good point on the offer from Mom. Yeah, she may be ready to let go. It also occurred to me today that i might not be the only one in the family with memories around this particular article… It was in the living room. i was one of four children in that house…. so the others may also have a strong response to it. Perhaps best to wait… Or not….

      • The fact that she told you to put your name on it suggests that if there are other kids with responses to it, they haven’t bothered to mention it to her. I say take it now.

        Of course, around here after deaths they have big estate auctions, and when none of the kids can agree on who gets the special item, it gets put in the auction and goes to the highest bidder. That is more or less fair, because the “losers” at least get to split the money from the sale… My mother was at an auction once where there was a forked stick with a leather thong on it, very odd and very unprepossessing, which went for several hundred dollars. The auctioneer’s comment was “I don’t know what this thing is but somebody go out and make me three or four more of ’em” Turned out it was a goat hobble that had been made by the great grandfather of the family…

        anyway, I forgot to mention I also inherited my father’s cat….

        • And, let me add, I have checked out big time from the whole situation. My attitude at this time is “It will be what it will be.” I may or may not get an inheritance. It doesn’t really make a difference to the quality of my life in the future. It would be “nice” to have an inheritance, but Jim and I will live quite nicely if there isn’t one. And I ain’t holding my breath.

        • A very reasonable response, given the circumstances… and the cat was a lovely inheritance!

          Mom has already acknowledged that there will need to be an estate sale, as she has too many things… In fact, she’s still paying a couple hundred of dollars a month for her ‘stuff’ in a rented storage locker! Been paying for that for about four years! Studley and i went down to help do some excavation of things she might need in her new space, but no one has offered assistance to get in there and do triage! She could do most of the ‘estate sale’ NOW and be able to use the money HERSELF! Perhaps a project for me this Autumn if it hasn’t been done yet…

  7. This was a very poignant post. When I was little, my dad used to sing “You Are My Sunshine” to me. Whenever I hear that, it feels like a message from him. Once, when I was babysitting the grandkids at my daughter’s house, one of their toys started playing that tune all by itself from the toy bin. Probably would creeped other people out but I thought it was great. Big hugs to you, daisyfae.

  8. When my dad died, the siblings in charge picked out a couple of things they thought each of us might want and “auctioned” the rest to us. We could put what we were given up for auction, our trade it for something someone else had. I got the genealogical stuff I wanted, and traded back the crap I didn’t want. And the auction was fun.
    I also got a small inheritance, which suits in trust with the sister I trust, and buys me expensive things like wheelchair batteries and glasses.
    I definitely recommend cleaning out the storage lockers now. It’ll save your mom a couple hundred a month, and may save your sanity after she dies. Or not. We tried to clean out the Boyo’s locker before he died, but couldn’t get the little packrat to part with most of it.

    • That’s a sweet idea! And i love that your sister handles the trust for you! Good that there’s someone in your family that can be trusted… For the most part, i trust my siblings, and i’m pretty sure my niece will mostly do the right thing…. there’s just an extended cast of characters down there…people coming and going from that house all the time. Too many opportunities for things to wander away.

      A good reminder that we need to get working on the storage locker. She won’t let us do it without her, and with the weather this hot, i’m not planning to drag her outside in the heat for the hours it will take to work through it. She’s not needed those things for 4 years, and knows that most of it can go… i think she’s prepared to let go, but would like some cash for it. Her attorney gave me the name of an estate auctioneer who does it for a living, and once she decides what stays, and what goes, he’ll come and haul it away. It’s just getting things to work out so she can be there for the review process….

    • After reading through the comments, i’m pretty much convinced this is the job that will fall to my son. An Army infantryman might be up to the task…

  9. When my mom died very inconveniently at Christmas a few years ago, the first thing I had to do was convenience my eldest brother that having a funeral on Christmas Eve was NOT a stellar idea. Although it was a difficult situation my six siblings and I turned it into a memory fest. We were altogether in mom’s little place going through stuff and saying ya/nay to her life collections. Mom had envelopes for each one of us stating what each one of us was to inherit, predetermined by past conversations.
    There was no fighting or even raised voices. In fact there was LOTS of laughter and story telling We were all extremely ambivalent but I think really we had the ‘not taking your bullshit’ detector on high alert. I came away with the least, by choice, because I didn’t want to have to haul a bunch of junk around the rest of my life.
    In spite of the death of our mom, we really had a great time. It was the last Christmas that I know where I will spend it with all of my brothers and sisters, it won’t happen again, geography dictates that. I even initiated a surprise birthday party for my youngest brother who was born on Christmas, paper hats made from newspaper were the decorations of choice. That was a huge success.

    • Seems you are part of a high-functioning clan! THAT is gold! Making the best of a very difficult circumstance, meeting each other where you are in life, and balancing the emotion that comes with burying a parent, with those powerful ‘bullshit detection devices’… that’s just about as good as it can get, in my opinion! Bonus points for looking after the ‘kid’ with the Christmas birthday… December birthdays are always a bummer! One of my kids was born mid-month, and usually got the short stick from extended family…

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