Department Of Should Auld Acquaintance Be Misspelled
I’d been in kind of a funk as the end of the year approached,  about a good many issues and subjects, from the personal to the political.  Unlike in years past, as my December birthday approached, there were no birthday cards (I typically get at least two before the day itself). I figured people had picked up on my less-than-enthusiastic response to my birthday and decided not to remind me.
Then, on the day, I received six cards, three of which contained notes and/or letters which were possibly the best, explicit, paeans to friendship I’d ever read…and they were addressed to moiself. They contained the kind of prose which makes me think more profoundly of the writer than the recipient – sort of a “living eulogy,” as one of the senders lovingly and cheekily put it.
We say such kind and significant things at memorial services; we innumerate the qualities we appreciated in our families and friends…which is wonderful for the “survivors” to hear. But why don’t we let people know more often and in specific detail how much they mean to us when they are alive?
I don’t think my daughter Belle had any kind of living eulogy intention when she wrote her “gift letter” to MH and I, but it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Along with her Christmas gifts to each of us (gorgeous, framed, original paintings and drawings!) MH and I received an amazing letter from Belle. It was written days before Christmas, and she had no idea how important would be the timing of her letter’s presentation. She wrote in specific and affectionate detail about the things she loves and admires about MH, and about moiself. It is something I shall cherish forever.
I read the note around 9 am on Christmas Day, after we had opened our stockings and presents. I had decided to hold on to the news I’d received earlier that morning, just before son K drove over  to join us, so that MH, K, Belle and I  could have an hour of a laughing and loving, “normal” Christmas morning.
From John Glenn to Zsa Zsa Gabor; from David Bowie to Florence Henderson to Leonard Cohen to Prince to Morley Safer, Patty Duke, Keith Emerson, Gwen Ifill, Elie Wiesel, Gary Shandling, Pat Summitt, Alan Rickman, Anton Yelchin, Robert Vaugh, Gene Wilder, Leon Russell, George Martin, Paul Kantner, Harper Lee, Muhammad Ali and so many more….and now, Carrie Fisher? Hey, 2016 Grim Reaper – did you have to be so greedy?
During this last week of the year magazines, newspapers, websites and other news venues will be compiling End of Year Lists re the passing of “notables.” Marion Alberta Parnell will make no one’s celebrity death list, but she was important to a few of us in her own teensy corner of the world.
Longtime readers of this blog may know that my mother has been in poor mental and physical health for some time – really, since her husband/my father, Chet Parnell, died in 2009. In the past week Mom went on a sudden downhill slide, and entered home hospice care (in Santa Ana, in her longtime home). Her four children scheduled rotating visits so that we could each see her before she died (but not all pile on at once, so to speak).
My older lives twenty minutes away from Mom and visited daily. My younger sister made it down on Little Christmas Eve (the 23rd); my brother, on Christmas Eve. My older sister’s children’s families were going to bring food and sing carols to their grandmother on Christmas Day, and my visit was scheduled for the day after Christmas.
On December 24 I sat at the dining room table with my family, enjoying our annual Christmas Eve lefse dinner – a tradition from my mother’s family. I told son K and daughter Belle about the last minute trip MH and I had hastily arranged, for me to go see my mom. I filled them in on her status; it was entirely possible she would not be able to communicate with me (my older sister reported that Marion was mostly incommunicado/in and out of awareness during my brother’s visit, earlier that day), but I was going to tell her stories and give her foot and leg rubs and thank her for being my mother. I showed them what I was taking with me, to give to my mother and thank her for starting what has become a Christmas “decorating” tradition in our family – hiding a bajillion  little Santa’s Elves figures all over the house.
I found out early Christmas morning, right before K returned home over to open stockings and presents with MH and Belle and I, that my mother had died late the previous evening (My mother’s longtime, live-in caretaker wanted to spare us the inevitable but still sad news on Christmas Eve.).
My mother so loved Christmas; my siblings and I shared the sentiment that it was somewhat fitting for her to pass at this time.
Department Of But, I’m Too Old To Be An Orphan 
We understand what you mean about becoming the oldest of a generation….. The circle of life. More like the moving sidewalk that you can’t get off once you step on.
(My friend KW, upon hearing the news of my mother’s death)
My mother was the youngest of four children, and the last of her siblings to die. With her passing, I realized, all of the family from both of my parents’ generation are gone. I don’t think I’m prepared to be part of the family’s oldest generation, I told MH. But, Life doesn’t ask you if you’re ready, does it?
“I’m sorry you’ve lost your mom.”
It is sad when it is really over. She’s gone, “all of a sudden,” but not really. The truth is we’ve been losing her, bit by bit, for years. A cognitive and physical death by degrees…at least there is a modicum of peace, knowing she is free from the memory loss and confusion, and their attendants, fear and paranoia, which brought about the awkward conversations where I would have to “kill” my father for her. There were far too many of those phone calls, when she fretted and would not be distracted from asking where her husband was, how and when had he left her, and why people were hiding this information from her.
* * *
And Then There’s That
Moiself, to MH and Belle: “On the plus side, this – my mother’s death – means that I can finally get a motorcycle.”
MH: “How do you figure?”
Moiself: When I was in my twenties and interested in such things, my mom asked me to promise the following: “Promise me you won’t get a motorcycle before I die, because if you do it will kill me.”
MH: “Uh…can I be the one with the veto, now?”
* * *
May you remember to love’ em while you got ’em;
May you love’ em while you got ’em;
And may you love’ em while you got ’em,
…and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
* * *
 GEE, DO YA THINK?
 Holy Fucking Regime Change, if you know what I mean and I think you do.
 He lives about twelve minutes away from us, in a rental house he shares with four friends.
 And our kitties Crow and Nova, who REALLY enjoyed the catnip stuffed carrot and parsnip Santa MH got them.
 Closer to several dozen
 One of the many WTF remarks I made to MH, after hearing the news about my mom.
The Skeptical Homeschooler
Dec 30, 2016 @ 00:44:54
I’d never seen those two pictures of your parents; it looks like Chet is planning a prank, maybe? In either case, they’re wonderful. I am so sorry you have had to endure such a shitty year, but (may I say this?) it must be priceless to have had solid relationships (and good memories, even if the last years with your mom were tough) with them and your siblings. Let’s hope 2016 is done reaping.
Dec 30, 2016 @ 07:01:47
Thank, thank, and thank you. Those pictures were originally in black and white (can you tell?) – it was common in that time to have them colorized. My mom never was as fond of the picture of her as Chet was, because, she said, you could see her crooked teeth, of which she was self-conscious. My favorite picture of her…I hope I can find it. Chet kept it on his dresser…I’ll look for it when I’m down for the funeral/house arranging.
Yes, the memories are so helpful (sometimes, even the shitty ones).
Dec 31, 2016 @ 12:28:44
Oh my goodness Robyn, your dad gave you his smile and dimples. What a wonderful gift.
Dec 31, 2016 @ 12:52:18
I’d never thought to credit him for that – thanks for pointing it out!