Dust to dust

I’M A FILE man, a decades-long habit. I had a jammed file cabinet in Houston, and I have another one in Mexico.

I was going through the Miscellaneous file recently and came upon my mother’s death certificate and the certificate of cremation from Atlanta Crematory Inc. My sister mailed these to me in 2009, which is when my mother died.

You learn things by reading a death certificate and a certificate of cremation. I notice that my mother died on Jan. 8, and she was also cremated on Jan. 8. No time was lost.

There was no wake.

The certificate of cremation doesn’t have lots of details, but the death certificate is more informative. Mother died in Emory University Hospital at age 90. She had been hospitalized about a week, and had been taken there by my sister.

deathI only have one sibling, and she is a very conflictive person, which is one reason I was not present. I prefer distance between my sister and myself.

The death certificate says my mother’s “usual occupation” was teacher, and that’s quite right. Eighth Grade was her preferred class because she said they were old enough to wipe themselves but too young to have become smartasses.

Her parents — my grandparents, of course — are named. Her father’s full name was Walter Jackson Powell, which I knew. Her mother’s full name was Osie Evelyn Moree, which was interesting. I never knew her middle name.

Osie is a very old-fashioned name, but Evelyn isn’t so much. Nonetheless, you don’t see many babies nowadays named Evelyn. I like Evelyn. It’s all about Eve.

(Going back further, her father was Dard Moree, a very wealthy farmer who would have been born about the time the Yankee General Sherman was laying waste to Georgia. Dard’s success played a role in my being able to retire at 55, bless him.)

She was my favorite grandparent by far. My maternal grandfather died when I was 12, and my father’s folks lived farther north, way up in Atlanta, and we lived in Florida. Mother’s people lived in south Georgia.

It was an easier drive in the Plymouth, plus my father didn’t like his parents. My mother, an only child, loved hers.

Moving down the certificate, I see that even though the Atlanta Crematory Inc. cremated Mother, it was Wages & Sons Funeral Home in Stone Mountain, Georgia, that handled the arrangements. Mother had a contract with them.

Wages & Sons Funeral Home. Ironic, no? Wages & Sons also handled my father’s funeral back in 1991. I attended that one. I did not attend my mother’s funeral because there wasn’t one. I’m not sure exactly why. My sister ran that show.

The certificate goes on to point out that Mother was not embalmed, which I guess is normal if a cremation is in the cards. And then we get to the cause of death.

Since she was 90, the cause is pretty straightforward. She died of old age, but hospitals and City Halls want details, and here they are. Three conditions did her in.

Starting one week before she drew her final breath was “pseudomonas healthcare acquired pneumonia,” which sounds like she got pneumonia from being in the hospital. And then two days before her death, there was acute renal failure and hyperkalemia. I had to Google that last one.

The “cause of death,” it says, was congestive heart failure. And there was no autopsy. Good. Any halfwit who’d finished Junior High knows why she died. She was 90.

Down at the bottom of the certificate are the names of the attending physician, Sonjay Raja Lakar, and the “certifier,” Dr. Ronak Patel, demonstrating that multiculturalism is alive and well at Emory University Hospital.

Did you know the overwhelming majority of American motels are operated by East Indians? I read that somewhere.

It’s interesting to get into the files now and then.

* * * *

(Note: For a more heartfelt yarn about my mother’s death, one written just after the event, read Dancing the Hassapiko.)

Life’s little twists

muertos
This year’s altar.

WHEN I MOVED to Mexico almost 16 years back, my mother was not pleased, to state it mildly. I moved anyway.

I visited her in Atlanta most every year until she died nine years later at the age of 90. Now she visits me.

Every November 1, she joins the Mexican relatives on the Night of the Dead altar my wife erects here in the Hacienda’s living room, and her being there means she comes to visit.

I wonder how she likes it.

In her physical life, she only came once. That was just a few months after I moved south. She flew down with my sister for a week. It was the only time she’d ever left the United States except for a vacation to Banff, Canada,  ages earlier.

My sister had never left the United States, and hasn’t since.

My mother now comes every year on this night. She rests there on the altar near my wife’s father, the doctor who died at just 61; her mother who died at 31; her two brothers who were shot to death in unrelated events; and an aunt.

I wonder what my mother thinks of her company, none of whom spoke English. But I guess that doesn’t matter anymore.

You never know where you’ll end up.

Ancient history

BEING A SHARING sort of fellow, I thought it would be nice to show these photos from ancient history. You may have seen one or more before because, frankly, my memory ain’t so good, and never has been.

kiss

This first shot shows me kissing my parakeet. One must kiss parakeets to keep them content. I look to be about 8 years old.

I remember that chair, and I know where the photo was shot. It had only been about a year since my mother, father, sister and I had left Granny’s farm in Georgia and moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where my father got back into the newspaper business after his six-year failed attempt to make it as a pulp-magazine writer.

We moved first into an old second-floor walk-up on Osceola Street, but we didn’t stay there but a few months. Then we moved into a much nicer, two-story rental nearby on Herschel Street. It had a huge yard to play in. That photo above was taken in the living room on Herschel.

plane

I’m licensed to fly small planes if they don’t have more than one propeller. I guess two propellers would confuse me. No matter. I do not fly anymore even though the license is still good.

But it clearly was in my genes as evidenced by the second photo, which was taken, well, I do not remember. Nary a clue. I don’t appear to be much older than I was when I kissed that parakeet.

Prom

Flash forward a few years. We had moved from Herschel Street across the St. Johns River to the bedroom community of Arlington where my parents bought a humble, one-story, three-bedroom ranch house painted aquamarine at 2030 Cesery Boulevard.

This photo was from the Senior Prom at Terry Parker High School in 1961, but I was not a senior. My date was, and I was stepping into the lurch. She lived just around the corner from us and her scheduled date had backed out at the last minute after she’d bought her prom dress.

Her mother spoke to my mother who spoke to me, and the next thing I knew I was in a white coat and black pants and posing for a photo before a paddle boat on some distant Southern river reeking of magnolias.

Her name is Johna and she is now retired from a career with the Duval County Sheriff’s Department in Florida.

The following year I was a senior, but I skipped the prom.

I thought I was a Beatnik by then.

AF

I was 16 in the prom photo, and I am 19 here, standing with my roommate in our barracks at Castle Air Force Base outside Merced, California. The other guy was Adrian Landres who was not wrapped too tightly and later was discharged for psychiatric reasons.

He was a year older than me, and about five years ago I saw his obituary online. There was no mention of the cause of death.

Adrian and I were two of a group of three guys who were quite tight during my Air Force time in California. I lost track of Adrian in the late 1970s because he was not a communicator.

The third of the trio was Gilbert Gorodiscas who had been born in Sant Amant, France, and migrated to America at the age of 14.

Both of these guys were Jewish.

bike

Here are the three of us sitting atop an Indian trike motorcycle in the yard of Adrian’s parents in Redondo Beach, California, in 1964. The trike belonged to Adrian. That’s me on the right and Gilbert behind striking his best French fop pose, which he did often, especially for the ladies.

Never did him much good.

Gilbert married a woman he met during a stopover in New Orleans on his way to a base in the Caribbean where they lived for a spell. She was a sultry, New Orleans, Latina “Yat,” who are the people who live in the city’s Ninth Ward. They’re famous for asking: “Where y’at?”

I was living in New Orleans by that time, going to the university, and I introduced the two of them. Her name was Joanie Ruiz.

Joanie’s daddy was a Dixie Beer truck driver, and I loved visiting her parents’ Ninth Ward shotgun because daddy kept a second fridge jam-packed with Dixie Beer which he got free, so you could drink all you wanted on sweltering summer days, or any day, for that matter.

They divorced about a decade later, proving yet again that multiculturalism usually ends badly. He was a blond European Jew, and she was a Catholic Yat, but he still lives in New Orleans, running his own chemical-supply company, something he’s done for decades.

Jews are good at business.

Joanie remarried, but he never did.

* * * *

In the late 1960s, my first wife, my daughter and I were living in New Orleans, and Adrian came to visit, riding a Triumph Bonneville motorcycle all the way from Redondo Beach.

He stayed with us for a time, but his habit of lounging around the apartment in his underwear did not sit well with my wife, understandably, so we had to ask him to leave, and he got his own place where he lived a few months, driving a Yellow Cab for cash, before returning to the West Coast.

In the mid-1970s, I was passing through Southern California, and I visited Adrian. He had married a woman whose two front teeth were missing, and they were living with his parents in Moorpark. Adrian was working as a projectionist in a movie theater, the only occupation I ever knew him to have outside the Air Force.

After that visit, we totally lost touch.

dad

Lastly and many years later, the late 1980s, I’m standing with my father inside a Farmer’s Market in Atlanta, Georgia. This was about three years before he died in 1991 at age 75 of a heart attack. Though he failed to realize his youthful dream of being a pulp-magazine writer, he did become an excellent — famous even — haiku poet in his last years.

And with that, we’ll close the photo album for now.