The words in the email lept from the page and stung my eyes, “if you don’t come deal with your mother I am sending her back to Chicago!”. While everyone loved my Mom, when one over stays a welcome, it is time to leave. It had been over a year since she had come to live with Paula.
If you are a follower of our blog, you might recall that my childhood friend Paula, had offered to take my mom to her home in Florida (http://4broadsdish.com/ashes-to-ashes-with-sunglasses/). This had been a favor over and above the call of friendship since my mom was well.. ok, it was her ashes. This shows what a true friend I have in Paula, because who the heck would offer to do that!?
Paula’s minimal stipulation for ash-transport required a mere drop off at her door in a sturdy bag, which I did. But, trying to find a bag befitting the remains of Diane Raye, the American Burlesque Girl was a tough task. After a bit of a search, I decided on a lovely Neiman Marcus bag. Heavy matte silver, reptile imprint, strong sturdy rope handles. Diane looked elegant yet a bit sassy. On a very cold January day last year, I dropped her off at Paula’s home for the road trip down to Palm Beach County.
That was over a year ago. Paula being generous that first year, cleverly placed the Neiman’s bag poolside, gave Mom a cool drink, a magazine and then hung a pair of sunglasses from the bag’s rim. Paula then photographed her vignette and sent me all the photos in an effort to entice me to Florida. I didn’t feel I needed to rush down, Mom appeared to be having such a great time, as did Paula, so why rush I thought. But after a year, Mom had worn out her welcome. This was evidenced by the threatening email from Paula “ Get down her and do something with these ashes or Mommy will be making a round trip back to Chicago this spring”! UhOooh. Well, I quickly booked my ticket to sunny Florida.
Please, don’t think for a moment I hadn’t been making arrangements for her ashes, indeed I had. I had last year, made a call to my mom’s aunt’s family to inquire if they still owned property on the intra-coastal waterway in Pompano Beach. Much to my surprise, not only did they still own it all, they still owned my great aunt’s home there as well, and my mom’s first cousin Allen Merritt still lived there! I was so thrilled I almost wet myself while doing the happy dance. I quickly explained who my mom was, and how she loved watching the boats from the little lanai and gazebo with her Aunt Ennis, and could I, um well.. release her ashes on the property? There was no hesitation, “of course, you can. Just let me know when you get here”. Well in my mind that meant, no rush. Anytime. I once again had a plan for Mom.
I digress…Upon reading the email, and clearing time at work, I booked a ticket to Florida. I knew deep down I needed a vacation, as did Paula; I concentrated on that. Never gave the other project a thought. I was leaving a horrible Chicago February for the sunny shores of Palm Beach County. At the last moment I sent an email to Roy Merritt, my mom’s relative, via Merritt Boat and Engine Works website, about the business with my mom.
Landing in Florida it was 79 degrees! Woo hoo. There were Palm Trees at the airport, there were palm trees for as far as the eye could see. I hadn’t actually seen Paula and Jim since I dropped mom off at their home during the Polar Vortex, over a year ago. How great it was to see them. Jim brought me a LaCroix and a crystal glass for the ride to their home. We chatted on the ride, and somehow Diane came up, yet again, in the conversation “so did you work out a plan for your mom?” I explained I had sent an email and I hadn’t heard back from them, then the crazy suggestion came “um.. why don’t you call”. Damn Paula was serious about this whole disposition of the ashes thing. Call I did the next day. I got Roy Merritt on the phone right away, and he remembered my call from the previous year, and yes his Dad still lived in the old house, and just come on by and do it, and if anyone gave me a hard time, let them know he said it was ok. Wow, now there was REALLY a plan, and actual plan to release my Mom to her final landing. Suddenly all these visions came into my head. One in particular of Sonja Morgan of #RHONY, releasing her dogs ashes, on the river in NYC, and the wind blowing him back to shore and into peoples faces. Not to mention the scene from the Great Lobowski with John Goodman. I shook these images quickly out of my mind. That just wasn’t going to happen.
Wednesday came, and we grabbed the bag off the shelf and took it to the driveway. This is where you find out how good your friends are. “How are you going to get her out of the urn? I didn’t realize an urn was involved”. I looked it over and said, “do you have a pair of pliers”? Paula looked mortified but quickly pointed to where tools might be, and then said “wait while I get the camera so we can video this”. I flipped the urn over and much to my surprise, it easily opened. Inside there was a plastic bag, with a red twist tie. Why is all this important you might ask yourself? Well because not everyone has an easy time releasing ashes. Apparently some crematories “seal” the bags; or put them in heavy duty plastic that requires cutting; mine seemed easy, but I wasn’t ready to remove the twist tie. Paula said she’d bring scissors and a knife; just to be sure there were no problems. Paula told me my mom might come out in clumps, other people had told me of the bone and teeth, again, I quickly vanquished this awful images from my mind. We set the GPS, and off we went to Pompano Beach and Merrit Boat Works.
As we turned on NE 16th street, it was all eerily familiar. As a small child I too spent time here with my grandparents. I had some pretty happy memories of playing on all that land. Things had changed but yet they felt the same, until we hit the end of the road, boat yard is not quite the name for it anymore. Yacht yard maybe but boats.. not so fitting. I got out and hailed someone down and mentioned Roy and the old house and was directed to a “golf cart path” to take us the old house on the other side of the little marina. When we got there, the private road that led to the house was lined meticulously with trees leading to the private cul de sac on which one lone little house stood. It was funny, as a child it seemed so very big and modern, now it seemed so small compared to other real estate in the area. But it had been built by the family patriarch back in the 50’s along with his crews, so it was like a “home place”. We pulled up, the spectacular view didn’t escape us, and we proceeded to the back of the house which was situated within 50 feet of the intra-coastal. It was at this moment that Paula said “Shit I forgot the scissors!” I at that moment pulled the twist tie, and said “no problem”. The bag was open, the plan was in play. There was no turning back. We went to the part of the property that faced the water, and I began quite unceremoniously to put some of my mom along the bushes against the house. I need to tell you that as I tipped the urn, she literally flew out much like a Genie in a bottle baby. It was almost as if she knew she was somewhere she loved. I made sure to face north as the lovely southern breezes carried her across her aunt’s property. I kept going backwards turning the urn, to ease her exit and let her go where she wished. By the house, along the bushes, over the lawn around the gazebo and a bit by the water’s edge. Then the perfect thing happened for the American Burlesque Girl, Diane Raye, a boat slowed and the people on board applauded. I am guessing this was really for Paula and I and our efforts, but Diane seemed to know it was for her, as she flew up and even higher and gracefully back down, as if she was taking a bow. I know that all sounds bit nuts, but it’s how it appeared. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to do this. It was all going so very well, until an old gentleman screamed “Hey get off my lawn!!”. You can’t make this sfuff up. It was my mom’s cousin Allen! I walked up, urn in arm, and explained who I was. He is 93, and was suddenly delighted we were there. Next thing we knew we were in the old house, chatting away with my mom’s cousin. He remembered a lot, not necessarily what happened that morning, but could go way back. He even at one point divulged my mom’s real name, something that she would not be pleased about, and now she was residing there. We visited quite a while, but finally had to say our farewells, to Allen, Merritt Boatworks, Pompano Beach and of course my mom. I felt good leaving her there with her cousin Allen, and I know she is sitting in a chair on the lanai or the gazebo, waving at all the boats as they go by. I know she waved to us as we left, and I am sure I heard her say “thank you for releasing me from that damn awful urn, and that F*kn ugly bag!” .