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The Hawk's Nest

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Death, marriage and a new home; that is life and its joy

The other day I received a call from one of Linda’s cousins. She said, “Ernie, congratulations on your marriage and finishing your house, and I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your mother.”

That sentence pretty much describes my month of June this year.

It started at 12:15 am, June 2, with “that call." We had been with Mom until after 9 pm the night before, the earliest we had left in several days. For the first time in a week we thought this was not going to be “the night." Mom seemed more stable and a little stronger, a very relative term.

Still, when the phone rang at that hour I knew what it was. “Hello, Ernie Hawks?” 

“Yes,” I said. 

“I’m sorry, but Elsie Ankeny has expired. I’m so sorry, do you want me to call your brother and sister?”

“No, I’ll call them,” I said without any thought. My thoughts at that moment were hung up on the word “expired." Mom just expired like a parking meter starved for pocket change.

I had had several months to prepare for that moment. I thought I was ready for her to die; somehow, though, I wasn’t ready for her to expire. Mom was ready, she had told us she was done with her time here. The belief system that had worked so well for her for 90 years wouldn’t let her do anything but wait.

Maybe I was stuck on the word expire because the unexpected let me know just how unprepared I really was.

I called my sister first. She had been here in Idaho until less than 24 hours before, and was finally home in her bed with her husband. I think she knew as soon as the phone rang, also.

Delena is a take-action person and needed to start making preparations. It was the middle of the night. There was nothing to do. She was left to grieve in another way until morning. She talked until she was through, then I called my brother.

Bob hadn’t been able to see mom for about a year. I was wondering how ready he was. When his wife heard my voice on the phone, I knew they knew. He seemed a little lost at first. I don’t know why, but for some reason I knew I couldn’t hang up the phone until he was ready. We talked about something for a little while, both of us dealing with a new and, surprisingly, unexpected issue. I don’t know what was said. I bet he doesn’t either. Then he said goodnight.

"Elsie Ankeny has expired," went through my head.

At that point I had done all I could do. Suddenly, without any warning, a loud, primal wailing burst from my body. My whole being was trying to release all its grief at once. I rolled over, almost convulsing, not feeling good but feeling right. Linda was there to hold me like a sobbing child, like I hoped she was held when she had received that same type of call a few years before. The noise I was making surprised me but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t even want to try.

I have no idea how long it took, but after I regained a little control I needed to be outside in our woods. It has always been my sanctuary. Linda asked if I wanted to be alone. “No.”  That surprised me also. Alone had been my way of dealing with issues most of my life; now I wanted Linda with me. Relationships change attitudes. We sat and talked for a couple of hours. Mom had just expired.

The grieving process is interesting. Sometimes I feel it’s over and then, at the strangest times, wham! there it’s back. Maybe it just expires and then some unexpected event gives it a little more pocket change.

At the other end of both the month and the emotional scale, Linda and I were married. Somewhere, somehow, in between we finished the house. Okay, it will never be finished, but we are in it and the tools are out. I would like to see this project expire, but it seems we just keep feeding it with huge handfuls of cash. If we didn’t, would it expire like a parking meter? I kind of doubt it.

On the 26th many of our friends gathered in our yard in a driving rain to celebrate our wedding. It was quite an event. As Rev. Marilyn Muehlbach announced that "we are gathered here in the presence of God," lightning flashed and thunder clapped. Someone said, “Wow, she’s good,” and that was how our marriage began.

The party after the ceremony was great. The rain stopped while everyone ate and toasted our future. It was fun to be at the center of attention for a little while. I’m sure we needed some time devoted to us.  We even got to drink Pend d’Orielle Winery merlot from crystal goblets while everyone toasted us with “two buck Chuck’s” in plastic glasses.

A little to my surprise was the emotional release that visited me again. I didn’t seem to have much control over my tear ducts. One friend said, “I could look at Linda, but when I looked at Ernie my mascara began to run.”

After a wedding night at a friend’s place at Schweitzer, we left for Victoria, BC  and then a stay at another friend’s beach cabin at Tokeland, Wash. For the first time in years, we didn’t have an agenda.  Not only that, but we couldn’t look at the house and see things that needed to be done. We were away from all of our responsibilities. It was time just for us, a honeymoon.

So when will this emotional roller coaster expire? I miss mom and that makes me sad, but I’m not sad she is dead. She is where she wants to be. The house is where it is until we spend some more cash and time. Linda and I are where we want to be and very happy to be here.

I know! I don’t really want the roller coaster ride to end. That’s life and its joy.

Now I need to send 20 bucks to the city of Victoria. It seems when we got back to our car, there was a note under the wiper. You guessed it, the parking meter had expired.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

Tagged as:

marriage, death, Housekeeping, mother

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