Tuesday, February 24, 2009

South of Broad

I was wondering what my old boyfriend, Pat Conroy, has been up to the past couple of years so I did some poking around.

Be still my beating heart... he's written a new book!

At one point in time, I am sure that Mr. Conroy thought I was stalking him, and really, he would have been right. For several years I was at every reading, every book signing and every award ceremony. Many years ago, Pat Conroy was the first person in my life to pronounce my last name correctly and at that moment he had my heart. I adore all of his novels but I must be honest and say that I actually haven't finished reading 'My Losing Season' which I think is forgivable since it's a memoir about Citadel basketball. I'm fascinated by the cult that is the Citadel, but really, can basketball be any more boring? At least I got half-way through it... does that count?

South of Broad comes out this August, which seems like so long to wait! It will be toward the end of the summer, but I can't wait to get my copy and head to the beach (If I'm still in Charleston, that is!) On second thought, I think I will need two copies because there is no way I would take an autographed first edition of anything by Pat Conroy to the beach!

If you haven't read him, I suggest you do - especially if you have spent any time in South Carolina. Start with 'The Prince of Tides' and forget that you ever saw the movie. His writing will make you taste the salty ocean air, feel the sand under your feet and the warmth of the Carolina sun on your face.

SOUTH OF BROAD by Pat Conroy
Publisher Doubleday, August 2009
At last Pat Conroy brings to his readers who are legion a novel of his beloved Charleston. This time the eighteen-year-old protagonist Leopold Bloom King—yes, his mother is an ardent Joyce scholar—meets six new classmates who will join the senior class of Peninsula High School and develop a deep friendship that will last the twenty years of this glorious novel. As Pat Conroy is not a writer to hold back on either adventure or the pleasure of language, we are taken from the beautiful city of Charleston and its many islands to the mountains of North Carolina, the glamour of Hollywood and the trolleyed streets of San Francisco. In pursuit of the beautiful star Sheba Poe and her twin brother Trevor is their many-aliases father, escaped from prison, bent on terror and destruction. And, by their association with the twins, Leo, Niles and Starla Whitehead, Molly Huger and Chadworth Rutledge and his sister Fraser, and Ike and Susie Jefferson are also in danger. For readers of The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini, and Beach Music, August 2009 will be a month of great storytelling by America’s favorite storyteller.

Monday, February 23, 2009


First off, I'd like to start off by saying "thank you" to Clytie and Beth for the wonderful compliments they left on my blog. It was actually kind of funny because my best friend Becky has been getting after me for years to write a book... not about me, mind you, but about the truly odd life of my Great Nana. When you asked me if I was a published author I thought Becky had surely put someone up to saying that so I had to confront her. When I found out that she didn't I was truly humbled, so... thank you! It made my day!

Speaking of my day, although sleep deprived, it was very productive. FedEx came around 8:30am and I received the paperwork from Uncle Chuck and Aunt Peggy. I filled out the request for the appointment of Executrix (that sounds dirty, doesn't it?) and got the rest of my paperwork together. After Traci and Tonya arrived we drove down to the courthouse, which is where the probate office is. I handed over my packet to the clerk, Kay, who also handled my Father's estate. She double checked all the paperwork to make sure that everything was completed and properly signed. Being that I have never dealt with an estate before I am completely clueless and asked a million questions on how to do what and when. Kay was quite patient and extremely helpful. She gave me my letter of appointment ($25) and fiduciary letter and also a number of other forms to fill out. Luckily, she noted on all the paperwork with post-its when everything was due back at probate! It's a lot, but I think it's manageable... I'm sure I will be calling her with even more questions as time goes by!

Our second order of business was to stop at the Berkeley Independent, which is the little newspaper in Moncks Corner. Per probate, we had to file a "Notice To Creditors" in a County newspaper ($61) in case anyone wants to file a claim on anything my Mother owed to them before the end of probate. Here's hoping no one reads the Berkeley Independent!

After visiting the paper (and eating lunch!) we headed to the bank to close my Mother's account. I opened an account in the name of my Mother's estate and had them transfer what little was in her account to the estate account. Now I can use that money to pay the past due bills. It's nice to know I won't be living in the dark for at least another couple of months!

Tomorrow I'm headed to pay a couple of the house bills and also need to go to Berkeley Electric to file a claim for their "Deceased Patronage" program. Apparently, when you open an account and have it for a long time, as my parents did, you accrue a percentage (in dollars) of your monthly wattage. This dollar amount builds up in a fund until the account holder passes away, at which time you can file for the money accrued. Who knew??!! Also on task for tomorrow is to file the paperwork for the life insurance policy so I can finally pay the funeral home!

I'm still in search of a job, but I am thankful for these unemployed days that allow me to get the estate ball rolling. I'm driven by the purpose of tasks at hand and I think, for once in a great while, I just might sleep tonight.


This is a frequent scenario these days. Me... up at the wee hours or morning. In my normal, former life I have absolutely no problem sleeping. Someone could probably jump on the bed and I wouldn't wake up. I enjoy sleep. Even though I would sometimes have to force myself to actually go to bed, I looked forward to sleep. Sleep was my friend. When I was younger, I was able to function on only a couple of hours of sleep. As I've gotten older I've found that I just don't do well on less than eight hours. With less than eight my body is tired and my mind wanders throughout the day and all I do is dream about my bed. It was nice being on a sleep/work/life schedule. I miss that.

These days I have no schedule and it's absolutely taking a toll on me. I hate that I have none of my personal belongings with me. I'm in a house with all of my Mothers things that yes, I could go through, but don't really have the energy. It's all too overwhelming. I found a bottle of Ambien and this, instead of lovely natural sleep, has become my new friend. I think without it I really wouldn't sleep at all. Some nights I try to fall asleep naturally only to find myself up at 5am. I walk around the house, check my email, read a magazine. I suppose I should be taking the time to dispose of the boxes of coupons and newspaper clippings that my Mother kept for some reason. I think it would be safe to say that no one in the family would want a box of expired coupons. So, to maintain some normality in my life I take an Ambien and sleep the sleep of pill-induced fake sleep. I usually sleep in late, feed the dog and let her out and do the same thing I did the day before. Nothing.

Sometimes I tell myself that I need to force myself to go outside and do something... to go somewhere in Charleston that I love, just walk around, get some fresh air and take some pictures. Then, I think of the fact that I have no income and it would be silly to waste the gas so I end up staying home instead. I worry about the unpaid mortgage. I worry about the past due bills that Mom "forgot" to pay and I worry being able to pay my own bills. For many reasons, I hope to get a job soon... most of all I need a structured schedule.

Today I am supposed to be getting the paperwork from Uncle Chuck and Peggy where they signed rescinding their designation as executors of Mom's will. As soon as I get that I have to fill out the paper of appointment and take that down to the probate office. Traci is supposed to be coming with me. I have no idea how long it takes to be appointed executrix. Hopefully it's pretty fast because I'd like to get as much accomplished as I can before I start working. I'd at least like to get the $11,000 funeral home bill taken care of. That is weighing heavily on me right now. I also need to find out what the proper protocol is for taking care of mortgages of the deceased. Mom's mortgage was due on February 1st and they have already called. I haven't told them Mom passed away yet. I wanted to ask the probate clerk about how I should handle that before making a move. I think eventually we will need to get a probate attorney... as if we can afford that!!

Over the weekend Samantha and I went through all of Mom's kitchen cabinets. The stuff that she had in there overflowed on the kitchen table, the dining room table and the kitchen counters. Why does one person have so much food? There were multiples of certain items. I'm sure she would buy one and forget just to buy another. She had every kind of sugar free item imaginable and multiples of them. Most of the food was expired which was not surprising. I kept what I wanted and then gave the rest to Traci and Janine. Traci only took a few things while Janine took whatever was left, which also was not surprising. I know that there was at least 30 bags of groceries that she left with. Spending two hours with Janine in the house was not fun. What I really wanted to do was hover over her and make sure she didn't take anything else. She asked me for a couple of things here and there, but really, she can't be trusted.

My alarm is set for 9am. I might as well turn it off. In the meantime, maybe I'll go watch even MORE television, or perhaps I'll finally throw away those expired coupons and newspaper clippings.

Decisions, decisions...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Two Weeks

I can't believe that today is two weeks since Mom's funeral. I keep thinking about when Dad passed away. A lot of time had passed and I just didn't show emotion. I didn't cry and my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Peggy actually had an intervention with me... they said that they were worried that I hadn't shown any emotion about what happened. I told them I couldn't. I wasn't sure why, but I was not ready to let it out. When I finally did it was not pretty. With Mom, I can talk about it without crying and I feel bad for that. I'm just angry, I think.

The other day I was flipping through channels (I've watched more TV in the last few weeks than I have all year!) and I stopped at a rerun of 'Little House on The Prairie'. It was an episode where an widowed neighbor lady was telling Charles that the doctor told her that she didn't have long to live. She made him promise that he would do his best to find good homes for her children if she died before she could take care of it. Later that night she sat her kids by the fire and told them that she was going to meet their father in heaven soon than later. One of the kids started to cry. She got mad and kind of yelled at him. She said he shouldn't cry about someone going to heaven and that he was crying for himself and not for her. I guess that is why I haven't... or can't. I would be crying for selfish reasons.

I learned that even if you let it out, the sadness is forever there. It never goes away. You will constantly miss that person and no matter what people say, it DOES NOT get better. I would just be feeling sorry for myself and really, what is the point of that? Sure, I have my moments of tears welling up but I quickly do something to preoccupy myself to take my mind off it all. I'm waiting for the meltdown. Not that I want it to, but it's bound to happen and from experience, once it starts it's all downhill. I am so pissed off that I am only 40 and have no parents! See, that is selfish because I know people who are younger than me that are in the same boat. I try to broaden my mind regarding religion and my belief in God but things like this make me take 10-steps back. It's not looking so good for God right now in the world that is "all things Pam"!


I've slowly been collecting Mom's bills and trying to organize them and figure out what she owes and to whom. I've paid a couple here and there from my last paycheck at Sheakley, but I have to save as much of that money as I can so I can afford food and gas until I find a job here in South Carolina. Mom apparently liked to pay partial bills and I've gotten a few disconnect notices so those are the ones I have focused on. It's been very stressful because I've felt so helpless with being able to do nothing until the executor is appointed by probate. Once that is settled we will finally be able to access bank accounts, cash in the life insurance policy and pay the $11,000 bill I owe them and move forward with settling the estate. It's just beginning and I know it will be such a long process. I really think I might need some Xanax to deal with the situation!

The contents of the house itself is a major project. Since her time off from the funeral Traci has been working close to 60 hours a week so we've not had a chance to go through anything except for the contents of the freezers... yes, Mom has three! Janine took a lot of the food in the house so Traci and I picked what we wanted from the freezers (which wasn't much) and left the rest for Janine and the kids. There is a ton of food there and I'm not sure why Mom was still buying for a family of five. My goal is to get those emptied so I can unplug them. I'm sure they responsible for a huge part of the electric bill I just received! I still have some cabinets to go through in the house and I hope to get to them this weekend. It will forever be a mystery of why Mom needed 20+ jars of pickles! I was pretty excited to find some of my Mom's masterpieces in the freezer... homemade meatballs, baked apples and homemade stuffing. I guess I'll take a chance on how long they've been in there since it will be the last time I will have her cooking!

Today I was attempting to clean up the room that the computer is in. I was feeling very claustrophobic from all the clutter! I finally found the books that belong to painting group that Mom belonged to. I still can't believe that her "friend" Mary Lou asked for them three times in a week! Twice she asked for them before we even buried Mom. Does she think we really want their dumb scrapbooks? And how tacky is it that she asked for them at the wake!! I understand that they need the books back, but really... don't you think that she could have at least waited a couple of weeks before contacting us about them? I certainly won't forget that! I really thought that Mary Lou was one of the nice women in the group, but I guess I was wrong. Mom could not stand most of those women and I once asked her why she went to the group if she disliked most of them (and most of them weren't very nice to her) and all she said was "I love to paint!"

It was hard at the wake because when one of them approached me I wanted to say "are you one of the bitches or one of the good ones??" but I was nice. It was pretty hard to bite my tongue when they all asked what we were planning on doing with all of my Mom's art supplies. I wanted to punch them. They weren't the only ones... It's amazing how people turn into vultures when people die. It's like a damn free-for-all with the belongings of the deceased. Besides the food, this house hasn't changed one bit. My Mom's glasses are still on her nightstand and her clothes are still in her closet. I look at all of this stuff and I think how can I get rid of the stuff that she loved so much? I might think the Victorian lamp and anchor wall clock are ugly as hell, but she loved them.

On Monday Traci is supposed to be coming over to go through some of Mom's things in the garage. Janine can't be bothered to call us so I'm not sure what is happening with that. I will tell her our plans if I can get her to come over to get the rest of the stuff from the freezers. We tried to get together once before but Janine stayed for 20 minutes and then left to pick up her kid and never came back. We really need to start going through this stuff and plan some yard sales. Also, I should receive the estate/executor paperwork in the mail from Uncle Chuck and Aunt Peggy so I'll have to go to Moncks Corner to the probate office to file for appointment. Also, I've sent my resume's to my former employers so hopefully I can land a job soon! Being able to pay MY bills would also be nice!

In the meantime, I've been catching up with long-time friends. I've missed them terribly the past six years and it's nice to only be 5 minutes away from them when we talk on the the phone rather than 10 hours away from them! They've been wonderful support the last couple of weeks. Tonight I went to dinner at Yokoso with Annabelle and Samantha. The food was great, as usual, and we had so much fun laughing together! I'm lucky to have such good friends who always listen to my dumb stories and never complain when I bitch about life. With or without parents, it's nice to know that I'm not truly alone.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Witching Hour

The morning of February 2nd I got an email from my Aunt Peggy telling me that my Uncle Dave had passed away. We had been expecting it since he had been very sick. I was pretty upset and the first thing I did was call my Mom. It wasn't unusual for her not to answer her phone during the day. She usually sleeps all day and stays up all night. She was always a night owl, but it turned to the extreme after Dad passed away. I tried calling all morning and would intermittently call Traci. I knew that getting hold of Traci would take time since she worked nights and usually sleeps in during the day.

Around Noon Traci finally picked up the phone and I told her about Uncle Dave and that I was trying to call Mom but she hadn't answered. Traci said she would stop by Mom's house on her way to work to tell her. I kept trying to call anyway. Around 2pm I called once again and Traci answered the phone at Mom's house and sounded panicked. She immediately said that she found Mom unconscious and had called EMS. I knew it was bad.

I was at work and just sat at my desk and cried. I was really hoping that no one could hear me. First having to deal with Uncle Dave and then feeling so helpless in the situation with my Mother because I was in Ohio. I managed to stay at work for the next hour and 45 minutes. I was getting constant updates from Traci who told me that Mom had flatlined on the way to the hospital. They were in the ER trying to stabilize her. I finally left work when Traci told me that the Chaplain came to see her and said they didn't think she was going to make it. He said that they were trying to find a heartbeat and had her on total life support. I have no idea how I drove home and frankly don't remember the drive at all.

I went home and just waited. I was praying and really holding out hope that it was just another one of her diabetic seizures but in my heart I knew it wasn't. I was too scared to make a move... I didn't know whether to sit tight or begin the drive to Charleston. Traci called me whenever there was a change or an update and around 10pm she called and told me that the nurse said I needed to leave right away because they didn't expect her to make it through the night. I ran downstairs and grabbed my suitcases and literally threw my clothes in them. I had no idea how long I would be gone and packed whatever would fit. I remember it being so cold outside when I was packing my car. I left around Midnight and pretty much drove 90 mph. There were constant updates from Traci who was camped out in the ICU. They had done hypothermia therapy with no luck and they said all of her levels were extremely low. I was exhausted since I had been up since 6am. All I knew is that I just had to drive and not stop for anything.

Around 2:55 Traci called me and said that there was a “code blue” in Mom's room and she had just talked to the Doctor. He said that they would work on her for a max of 20 minutes. I guess there is some state law that says that anything after that would only cause brain damage so that is their limit. At 3:03 Traci called me back and said she was gone. I wasn't even to Tennessee yet.

What do you do when you are driving and have just learned that you have no parents? What do you do when you are so tired and are driving like a bat out of hell to get home just to be able to say goodbye, but you still have 7 more hours of driving left? I had no idea what to do so I called Justin, I called Becky and I called my Uncle Chuck and Aunt Peggy. The four people closest to me. After hanging up I turned off the radio and drove in silence for a while. It was the loneliest I have ever felt in my life.

Mom passed away on the 6 year anniversary of my Father's death at 3am... the “witching hour” - I have a feeling she knew exactly what she was doing. Since that day I have said “I can't believe it” a thousand times... I still can't and I probably never will.