with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Hellos to New Life and Goodbyes to Old

The past few weeks have been a kaleidoscope of hellos and goodbyes. The goodbyes have been tough. Not only have I had to say goodbye to my wonderful (and frustrating) 5 year life in Israel and the lifestyle I’d become accustomed to, I had to say goodbye to my dear friends, almost family, left behind. They are as close as a phone call and email, but this doesn’t change the sense of loss.

Saying goodbye to the lifestyle I’d become accustomed to also has serious challenges to overcome and adjust to. Shopping is now different, going back to the way we shopped before, but now it feels more difficult than running down to the corner shop. We have to get into the truck and drive. As Brent is still taking the truck to work and not the bicycle (soon), I have to wait until he comes home, which is usually after seven at night, before I can make the run to the store. When I get back, we’ve only a little bit of time before I go to bed and it feels like I don’t get a chance to see Brent at all on those days.

It is wonderful to have WalMart, Lowes Hardware and Home Depot Hardware sorta close by, requiring a drive, but still, it is great to have access to the STUFF I need. Though, when I walk into those places, I’m completely overwhelmed with the choices and the pure junk available to buy. The junk is totally overwhelming.

Living in the states also means access to news about life in the US faster than I got in Israel. I now hear about someone famous dying within hours of their death instead of stumbling upon a conversation months later in which someone says, “…since she died…” and I’m hearing it for the first time. Susan Sontag’s death was reported today. She changed the world in amazing ways and I get to deal with her loss now instead of months later.

Our family lost another special member just after Christmas. I spoke a little of Flo Hein and her impact on my life earlier, and I’m glad that she lasted long enough to say goodbye and make her final arrangements, and sad that she died before I could get there. Also glad that she died one day before the anniversary of her husband’s death, something she would have been thoroughly angry about. My mother, though, has been handling all of the arrangements around Flo’s life, health, and now death, and I worry about her.

But it did get me thinking about the power of my mother’s actions.

My mother is an only child. All through her life she has “adopted” family members or been adopted into other “families”. Flo was one of those adopted aunts who helped my mother become the powerful adult and woman she became, and her support for her and our family was never-ending. Flo was just one of the group of powerful women my mother gathered around her as mentors and support, and I bloomed in their attention. Mary Lu Engman was a powerful woman, an interior designer who’s design talents went far beyond interiors but reached out to coach the interior and exterior of people for years as a college professor and mentor. Georgine Scott, wife of a local doctor who turned her life around after her public divorce to become an adventurous spirit. She taught me how to stand up for myself, say what I thought and move through fear, and best of all, how to laugh in the face of your enemies (yourself highest on the list of enemies). Dona Kearns, my mother’s life long friend and childhood neighbor, taught me a love of art and a sense of “rightness” about the world, seeing it as it is and not as it should be. She also taught me about the power of independence and that it doesn’t have to come with a butch woman attitude but a wonderful combination of strong and gentle. Her mother, Mrs. Kelley, was probably the greatest influence on my childhood, teaching me about the true inner strength of women to stand up for their rights while running an entire household without breaking sweat. Calm strength that comes from a steel inner core and dressed up with creative and joyous spirit.

The list goes on, but I just wanted to mention them as I say goodbye to Flo, as I’ve lost almost all of the women on the list save for Dona and Georgine, though I rarely hear from Georgine any more. My mother is saying goodbye to her dearest friends, supporters, and mentors, and I’m losing the valuable people in my life right alongside of her.

My mother’s need to be a part of a “family” taught me to learn to love non-family members of my family as much as family. I learned how to gather people around me that I am proud to be with, people I respect and learn from, and people who set an example that the rest of the world should follow. These are my family members. I wish I could say the list is long, but it is solid. People I know I could turn to no matter what for advice, companionship, or a kick in the ass.

Saying goodbye to some of them in Israel was very difficult, but being closer to some “family” and friends in the US will be nice, though we are still far from them, but when you are “family” distance is immaterial.

My mother is right now racing around dealing with all of the “closing of a life” details for Flo. She and her husband have been over at Flo’s apartment cleaning it and getting it presentable, as best they can, for the few people who may come by to pick up their little bits of inheritance. Mother told me that they are doing the best they can to make sure all her clothing is cleaned (wouldn’t want anyone to find Flo’s dirty underwear or anything lying around messy) and things picked up to make it nice, but there is little that can be done for the years of chain smoking damage. The once-white walls are almost brown with the yellow nicotine stains. Mom adjusted a picture on the wall and found a different color behind the picture than on the rest of the wall. So she said that she is just cleaning what can be cleaned visually and leaving the rest of the smoke damage cleaning to the landlords. What can you do.

She’s also written up the obituary and gotten it to the newspapers, gotten the death certificate taken care of and the body transported to the funeral home and all those arrangements made. She is the executor and trying to do what she can with the few things Flo wanted given to her step children (who never call or have little to do with her) and a few other friends. The rest of the stuff will be distributed to homeless organizations and food banks, wherever it can do the most good. It’s a lot of work.

This isn’t the first time my mother has been executor (or “executrix” as her husband calls it) of an estate and it isn’t much fun and games. It’s a lot of hard work, but it also has taught my mom a lot about preparing for her own death, doing as much as she can to make it easier for me and my brother. That’s nice.

I hate that I can’t be there to help.

Among the other goodbyes is the year 2004. What a year. I think in retrospect it will be one of the most exciting of my life, but I’m not there yet. Right now, it was a lot of travel that was a pain in the ass and a lot of changes that don’t all feel like they were for the good. But Brent and I did get to spend a lot of time together, which is the greatest gift of all. He was out of work for almost five months and while he was out doing things he’d wanted to do all his life, we still found time to be with each other and we cherish that precious time. We do so much better when we are with each other all the time. It’s half a life when we’re apart. Sounds corny, but it’s true.

Among the hellos is 2005. What will this year bring?

Among the hellos is the fact that I now have a telephone and I’ve started getting calls from friends and family from all over. That’s nice.

Brent and I say hello to a new life in Mobile, Alabama, where the people appear to be really friendly but surface friendly. This is frustrating for us, but it also helps to keep a distance so I can concentrate on my work and not be “involved” with new people.

We also now have the family property to consider and that is a big HELLO in the future of our lives. I’m going through magazines and books and culling tons of ideas and inspirations for building our home. Brent and I want to take home-building related classes and start getting familiar with the terminology of home construction. Within the next five years we hope the house will be finished and our lives situated, though still mobile, in Marysville, Washington, formerly known as Sunnyside. Too bad the town is a ghost town. I like the name Sunnyside more than Marysville. Since the town went out of business, so to speak, another Sunnyside, Washington, popped up in Eastern Washington, so the name is now gone. Too bad.

Our stuff has arrived on US shores, almost, from Israel. It is currently undergoing its second inspection for TERRORIST shit and security, which we have to pay for – I’m so pissed about that but that is for another blog – and we should be saying hello to our stuff in a week or two in Tulsa. I’ll be flying there to deal with the unpacking, inspection, and repacking, and then flying to Washington State to see family and clean up some messes up there. That’s a lot of helloing.

So for right now, we consider the hellos and goodbyes at the end of the year and wait for the rest of our lives. Happy New Year.
Mobile, Alabama

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