Some things impossible to divide
My father was planning to speak that afternoon, so of course he barely said a thing all morning. Didn't complain when my sister forgot something...
Seattle Times staff columnist
My father was planning to speak that afternoon, so of course he barely said a thing all morning.
Didn't complain when my sister forgot something in the house. Didn't engage when we tried to make small talk from the back seat.
We knew to just leave him alone and look out the window as we drove to the Philadelphia Museum of Art the other week to spread my mother's ashes.
This is what she wanted, and so this is what my father arranged with my mother's fellow museum guides.
They chose a Monday, when the museum would be closed, and the only people around were administrators and the tourists who posed outside with the statue of the movie boxer Rocky Balboa, their arms stretched over their heads or thrown around his brawny bronze shoulders.
The night before, my brother had poured my mother's ashes from a marble box onto a piece of paper he had spread over the dining-room table. I stared at the pile, trying not to let my mind distinguish what was there.
"It's not her, it's just dust," my sister said lightly, quickly.
My brother and I looked at each other with a mix of disbelief and well ... a word I can't quite think of. If my mother were alive, I would call her to help me.
I looked at the plastic bags, the kitchen bowls and the antique glass bowl that my brother had set out for the surreal task — dividing her ashes for three destinations.
"You know what you're doing?" I asked.
"No," he said, his eyes wide. "I've never done this before."
It was another of the countless things we never thought we would do, but have, again and again, in the 10 months my mother has been gone.
We who have lost loved ones know the stunning range of duties, from withstanding the shock of words spoken by solemn doctors, to folding the last load of clothes she left in the dryer, to simply carrying on.
At the museum, about 20 of my mother's fellow guides gathered to greet us. Each clasped my father's hand and murmured things about my mother that were lovely to hear but sat in my mind like wilted flowers.
We chose two gardens on either side of the museum's famous front steps. My father spoke of how much my mother loved this place — the people, the art, even the intense studying she did to prepare herself to lead tours through the Chagall, Frida Kahlo, Monet and Degas exhibits.
Everyone shared after that. How my mother loved Prosecco and off-color jokes. The trips she organized. The luncheons she brightened.
With that, my father sank one of my mother's silver spoons into her ashes and flung them into the green. There was a brief hiss, a cloud of dust, and then he passed the spoon to me.
It was a talisman that conjured up all kinds of things: The smell of her perfume. The way she checked her lipstick in the rearview mirror and always fell asleep on the couch.
Where is she?
I flicked my wrist.
Here. She is here now.
Sometime today — Bastille Day — she will also be in Cape Cod, where my sister will spread more ashes in my mother's favorite cove in Chatham.
In the spring, we will bring the rest of her to France, where she was born.
On the drive home, my father spoke with relief in his voice. It was a beautiful day, he said. It was what your mother wanted.
This time it was I who said very little. I just looked out the window and prayed for rain.
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Tuesday and Friday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She is riding the wave.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
About Nicole Brodeur
My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
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When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.