Dad, with one adolescent daughter on his knee and the other at his elbow in the yard of the Echo Drive house. I think he's looking into the future and imagining how much fun I'll have one day redecorating the house he just purchased.
I know there are at least a few of you out there who have mentioned to me, in the nicest possible way, that you don't think my life is very balanced right now. Of course you are right.
I can only answer that one's beloved father dies only once in one's life and that is all there is to that.
But I'm not without really large and enormously fun distractions. And I'm not kidding.
I'm redecorating my mother's house and her ghost hasn't even come to bug me about it in my dreams.
In that house, she was always the queen and that was, of course, as it should have been. But between the egos of my mother and my father, there were times when my sister and I felt a little extraneous in that home. If my mother had ever said to me, "Robin darling, what color would you like me to paint your room?" I would have dropped dead from surprise and wouldn't be here today.
There were other things I needn't go into. Suffice it to say that I grew up in a beautiful house that got stranger and stranger as the years went by, the rules of its management more weird and Gothic as Dad took to hobbies that kept him away from home for longer and longer periods, and mother's own challenges grew more frightening to those around her.
My Mom did have good taste in her prime and the bones of the house are really stunning. It is just all that gawdawful gargoylish garage sale stuff she decorated it with that frightened visitors as she got on in years. As both of them entered their eighties, the area they lived in got smaller and smaller and the cobwebs outside that tiny chalk circle blossomed into epic proportions. Dust piled in the nooks and corners high enough to challenge a snow shovel.
It wouldn't have been so bad had she let us help her clean the place. Or allowed as how she knew she was getting old and peculiar. Uh, no. Once, my sister cleaned the bathroom while our mother was in the hospital and Sis was so worried that mother would have her arrested she called a neighbor and hid out there until her nervous breakdown passed and she felt safe to return to the scene of her crime.
Another time, after our father began to fail, we noticed he was having serious trouble getting down on to and up from the truly wretched-looking couch in the family kitchen where they had been spending most of their time. We asked Mom several times if she would be willing to consider any other options on the couch thing and in no uncertain terms, she told us she would not.
So, another time when her head was turned, my sister and I switched this ugly monstrosity with another ugly monstrosity in another room, the second of which at least was higher off the ground and thus easier for my father to mount and dismount.
When out mother returned from wherever it was she had gone and saw what we had done, she pitched a genuine tantrum. It was a sight to behold. We should have stood her in the corner until she got over it, but, being the daughters we are, we switched the two bloody pieces of furniture back and continued to watch our father fall three feet from the standing position onto that ugly thing and then struggle for ten minutes to get up from it. At least it gave him something to do and it kept mother from having a heart attack.
So, now we can fast-forward to the present day. Can you imagine how much fun I'm having?
First of all, I have a talent for decorating and have had it since I first left home. The beauty of my mother's early, healthier taste probably did influence this. And I learned a lot in my travels and in my interviews with the famous and infamous when I visited their homes as a reporter. My own decorating skills have grown over the years and we tend to enjoy things we are good at.
So, give me a dilapidated space with lots of potential, a can of paint and some fabric and I can entertain myself for at least a year. I can do it on a budget, because I enjoy the creativity of that. And I can do it the expensive way. Either one of these options is really a hoot in my book.
And now that Dad is dying, I can visit him, hold his hand, feed him, kiss him on the forehead, and then drive down the hill to the old family homestead and throw out the ghastly and transform the inferno into Robin's Revenge: a faux bit of heaven I get to invent for my very own self.
When Mom was in her right mind, she might have appreciated what I'm doing. But I doubt it. Anyway, I appreciate it and in our next installment, or the one after that, and in between pre-writing my father's obituary and planning his funeral and doing his laundry and paying his bills and loving him and hoping he won't die for a few more weeks, and celebrating my birthday with visiting friends and talking to the folks at hospice and chatting with my niece who lives nearby, I'll show you some photos of my latest delightful distraction.
I think my friend Dr. B, who helped me screw my head on straight, would be very proud of me and he would say this was very healthy fun. Mom would have a fit and die if she saw it, but she can't do that now because she is already gone to her great reward. So I can't offend her or cause her any more pain. Nor versa visa.
And the place is really starting to look beautiful. And beautiful ...right now ... beautiful is a very good thing.