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Ten years ago today — at about three in the morning, actually — my mother died. Way, way out in the woods in the middle of an hellacious thunderboomer. Pancreatic cancer, quick and ugly. She never saw seventy. She was madder than hell about that. I’ll post about my mother some time, but right now I want to talk about that day.

It was stupid, with a hundred surreal and inappropriately funny moments. You’d think when your mom dies it would be like you’re the Birthday Girl and everybody has to be nice to you, but somebody apparently forgot to make a law about that.

There was the Ritual Flushing of the Leftover Narcotics at Dawn. And the moment the hospice nurse turned to me and said, “you’re being so great about all this — will you help me move the body?”

I drove into town behind Mom and the undertaker. It was raining like a bastard. Do you know the old Carter family song Will That Circle Be Unbroken?

I told that undertaker,
“Undertaker, please drive slow.
That’s my mother you are hauling,
And I hate to see her go.”

My dad loves that song. My mother always thought it was hilarious. Hauling. Like Mama was a pickup-load of corn likker or something. Stupid hillbillies. I promised myself I’d come home and have a really good howl when I’d finished the paperwork, but I never got it. The undertaker forgot he’d left me in his kitchen, so I sat back there drinking burnt coffee with nondairy creamer and flipping a pencil into the sink for over two hours.

When I got back to the house, I called the office, and the secretary — normally a very nice person — roughed me up good. So how was I going to turn some work in? Turns out she misheard me. She thought I said my modem had died. She almost dislocated a joint apologizing later.

Then I had this handwritten list of numbers Mother wanted me to call. All her BFF’s from back in the day. Fifty years ago. None of them had seen her in years and they all wanted to talk about their latest gall bladder operation or pneumonia or whatever. I don’t think a one of those self-absorbed old coots even said, “I’m sorry.”

I was rushing to get everything done because it was a Friday and nothing would be open over the weekend. I wanted the hell out of there. Last stop of a long day was the bank and her safe deposit box. The bank manager said we had to sit together in her office and do a manual inventory of the contents.

Now there’s a sad job. Have you ever picked through anyone’s last effects? Deeds and divorce papers and bits of worthless jewelry. Letters and souvenirs that mean everything to one person, and nothing to anyone else. No meaning, no value. Useless flotsam. Do posterity a favor and get rid of this stuff your own damn self before you go.

Last thing in the box, shoved way in the back, was a small, plain gray plastic cylinder. I’ve still got it. I’d post a picture, but I’ve packed it for the move. “What’s this?” Weasel says, and twists off the lid.


It was one of those springy things with the squeaker in. You know, like the gag snakes they put in the fake can of peanuts? Only, this one was industrial-grade. Where they hell does somebody get an industrial squeaky snake spring thing? SHIT!

Did I say that out loud? I don’t know. I turned to see the whole staff of the bank had quietly snuck up behind me. They were in on it. I guess. Nobody would tell me anything about it, not then and not ever.

I’m kind of jumpy, y’all. Wrapped a little too tight. “Goosey” Mother called it. She loved it when I got hiccups. Lots of people love sneaking up on me. I guess some time in the six months between her diagnosis and her death, Mother went to the bank and dropped that evil fucker in the back of the box. I’d like to think it helped her get through the bad nights, thinking about that one last posthumous screaming kick in the ass she was going to give her baby girl.

G’bye, Mother. Almost joined you ten years ago today.

I’m guessing that was the plan.


Comment from Kowboy
Time: April 3, 2008, 7:43 pm

That milestone for me was last August for my father. Was a long time before I stopped reaching for the phone to call him about something he would have enjoyed.

Sounds like your relationship with her was pretty good. I got a kick out of the snakes in the can. Sounds like something dad would have done if he’d known it was coming.

Comment from porknbean
Time: April 3, 2008, 7:45 pm

Heh. Mamas know best. And their chirren well.

Comment from Muslihoon
Time: April 3, 2008, 9:39 pm

A very nice tribute, Ms. Weasel. Touched my heart at least.

May she rest in abundant peace.

Comment from Mrs. Peel
Time: April 3, 2008, 11:23 pm

That was a lovely post, Weas.

Comment from Stashiu3
Time: April 4, 2008, 5:35 am

I’m taking care of my father right now. Thank you for this.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: April 4, 2008, 7:15 am

Stashiu3 – I took care of Mom for 6 years (Alzheimer’s). You have my understanding and sympathy. I hope you have someone to give you a ‘break’ regularly. I couldn’t have done it without Sis.

Weaz – your Mom was a prankster. If I knew I was going soon, I’d fuck with everyone I know big-time, just as a matter of principle. Hey! It’s a gift!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 4, 2008, 7:33 am

She was pretty pissed off about this (she was only 68), so there was a definite hard edge to her pranking. But, yeah. I’d hear her say things on the phone like, “no, I’m sorry. I don’t want to buy a magazine subscription. I’m dying of cancer.

Alzheimer’s is the reverse: the long, slow loss of someone as a person. Oof. Horrible. My grandmother went with Alzheimer’s.

Mortality is the shits.

Oh, hey, this is a great one. Don’t know if it’s true. Probably not. Did you hear about the man who left a wooden box behind in his will? His instructions were that his family was to gather together outside someplace, build a bonfire and burn the box on it. Under no circumstances were they to open the box beforehand, under pain of disinheritance.

The box contained a fireworks display.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: April 4, 2008, 8:51 am

That man is now my Hero of the moment, Weaz! But I still like your mom’s prank. I may shamelessly copy it.

I’ve already told my friends and heirs that I want a real Irish wake, with all the booze and opiates they can consume.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: April 4, 2008, 9:58 am

She seemed like a real character. That photo says a lot.
Nice obituary, Weas.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 4, 2008, 10:00 am

It’s the little purse and the white gloves that makes the shot. You can dress a weasel up, but you can’t make her a lady.

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: April 4, 2008, 10:34 am

NOMB – but where was that photo taken? Looks like a surgery or dentist’s room to me. Or a research lab.

Were you a clone, Weaz? The result of some nefarious experiment gone awry?

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 4, 2008, 10:46 am

It looks like a ship to me. But I think it’s a boiler room.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 4, 2008, 10:50 am

Hm. To clarify. I nearly joined Mother on the Other Side ten years ago because she almost scared me into a massive coronary event with that stupid snake in a can.

Re-reading it, it almost sounded like I was suicidal.

Comment from Cuffy Meigs
Time: April 4, 2008, 12:16 pm

A very sweet tribute, S. Your mom was a hoot.

Comment from porknbean
Time: April 4, 2008, 12:19 pm

because she almost scared me into a massive coronary event with that stupid snake in a can.

Yep, that is how I read it.

I worked with a ‘goosey’ woman. There were a few people that loved to sneak up on her just to watch her crap her pants. It was very annoying. I wanted to beat each one of them. There is only so many times of hearing shrieks, squeaks, items bouncing off the floor, and the resulting goofy guffaws, that a person can take.

Comment from pajama momma
Time: April 4, 2008, 1:38 pm

because she almost scared me into a massive coronary event with that stupid snake in a can.

That’s how I read it too.

Your mom sounds like a blast. I can see where you got your brilliant sense of humor.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: April 4, 2008, 1:59 pm

Me too.

I like the way she’s wearing (what appears to be) her Sunday Best whilst in that boiler room/ship’s galley whatever. You just know the story behind that photo is going to be interesting.

By the way, I use Firefox (v2.0.0.13) and I’ve only got two things saved as bookmarks; the system summary and the management page for my router. And the funny thing is that the icon by the system summary has somehow got saved as the weasel icon that appears in the address bar when you load this site. Weird huh?

Comment from Lemur King
Time: April 4, 2008, 2:06 pm

As I’ve said Weas, I think your mom sounds like a real hoot. I’m sorry for your loss – last month mom didn’t go the same way your mom did, but facing the horrors ahead of her chose to force the issue and cash in her chips early. Didn’t quite work like she planned but fate is not without a sense of irony.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it sucks regardless, it’s surreal, and even four weeks later stuff just jumps you… Like when you realize “You know, I’m never going to tell her a rotten joke or kid her about voting democrat again.”

It’s good to remember the good times and not let the hard stuff overshadow it completely. It’s not fair to their memory if we forget the good times – I think you’re doing right by your mom this way.

First girl I ever brought home for dinner with my folks, my mother chirps brightly “Hey, who wants to see me to do a double back flip?” I’m thinking “Oh God, no mom” but have no idea what she’s up to. She gets out of her chair, pushes dad’s aside, paces off three steps a couple of times, and then as if she were doing a high dive, took three strides away from us, whirled around facing us and flipped us the bird with both hands.

Me: Oh God, mom… (wishing I could die and about 3 inches tall)

But it’s later you go – Hey, that was what made her unique and special. Like when she hung a rubber chicken on my IV pole in the hospital (mill accident)

So, oh yeah, keep thinking about those things! Keep a-sharin’ them too.

Comment from Jessica
Time: April 4, 2008, 2:09 pm

You look like her.

Made me tear up, damn you. I know that I will be the one taking care of my mother’s final “stuff,” and it FREAKS me out just thinking about it.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 4, 2008, 2:12 pm

Heh heh. You’re just emotional because you’re moving.

I know how that goes. I’ve been moving since SEPTEMBER.

Comment from Sissy Willis
Time: April 4, 2008, 2:53 pm

Best darned obituary ever. Full of love and humor and weasely goodness.

Comment from sillyblindharper
Time: April 4, 2008, 6:17 pm

Thank you. Stashiu sent me by to read this and I’m glad! Of course, I always take Stash’s advice…
Your mum sounds like an artist. Kudos!

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: April 4, 2008, 6:25 pm

Ha! She was an artist, actually. I’ve been laboring to put together an extended blogroll today, and Stash is on it.

But I’m retentive, so I’m not done alphabetizing 😉

Comment from Machinist
Time: April 9, 2008, 5:07 am

A very touching post. Thank you. Like the Gentle Harper I came on the recommendation of Stashiu.
It does not look like a ship as it has cinderblock walls and the small door above the butt can appears to be an electrical panel.With the pipe overhead it looks like a utility room or basement. Your mother shows style, wit, and class. So does your writing. Thank you.

Comment from Lizzy
Time: May 14, 2014, 9:15 am

Check that off the list of things I was coneusfd about.

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