Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Transition

This is the house my dad built in 1960 on land my family has had since the late 19th century. It's where I first came home from the hospital, where my sister and I grew up, where I left for college. Every Christmas morning of my life has been here. Longish visits happened after a term at Oxford (as an academic tourist, not a true scholar), after a magical summer in Greece during architecture school, and more recently during Hurricane Katrina; my sister meandered back 15 or so years ago and stayed. Over the last 20 or so years, I came back more or less often, depending on my activities in New Orleans, finances or family approval. Due to a bout of underemployment (recently cured) I spent more than a month across several visits here in 2012. Now one of the reasons I visit regularly is gone.

I've been in the Northeast for the past couple of months working on a Sandy recovery project (primarily to ensure my continued tenure on Royal St). Last Sunday I finally got a free day in NYC. I had lunch at Eataly, went shopping, most notably at John Derian, where I got a gift for my friend who is watching Etta and what I thought would be a Mother's Day gift. Anticipating a blog post, I took a ton of photos that I can't bear to look at now.

On the way to Penn Station, I received a call: Mother was really not well, some sort of cardiac event. Not good for an 84 year old with COPD. First an ambulance to the small hospital in the next town, then an airlift to Nashville. She probably really died in the driveway, but we turned off the machines Wednesday. Her funeral was yesterday. We are still stunned, because she was in far better health than a lifelong smoker like her deserved to be. 

Mother was the source of my love of architecture, music, art and good writing. Much of what people like about me is from her (Dad bestowed quieter virtues upon me). Her contemporaries have told me how fun-loving and mischievous she was - a favorite story involved her lighting a roman candle in the house during a Christmas party. When I stop crying (about an 8 on the Claire Danes Scale this week), I'll scan and share pictures of her during this period. She was lovely in an apple-cheeked 1940s manner that she never really lost.

Right now we're in that horrible quiet period after the chaos of planning a funeral. I'm waiting to head back to work to see how Dad and my sister are doing. I dread going to the Nashville airport to head back North to Sandyland. Nashville has always been a transition point for family visits or returns to New Orleans, usually filled with happy anticipation. At the start of my current project, I had a layover in Nashville and it felt wrong to get on another plane rather than go to the farm. Now I don't know if I'll ever be happy to land or take off there again.

October 21, 1928 - January 9, 2013