Friday, December 18, 2009

As a Candle Burns

For the first time I noticed a candle today at my dad's house. A large burnt light red candle with dried wax along side of it's awkwardly-shaped remains. It certainly was not a pretty candle--one that I imagine wasn't pretty to start with. It sits on the second shelf over my mom's computer desk. And there it still sits even two years after her death. From the looks of it, the candle was well-used and now sat dormant along side the corner of the office free from use.

My parents each had their own desk with my mom's being far more elaborate and useful than my dad's. From the looks of it, my mom's desk is generally untouched. My parents converted our old billiards room in the front of the house into their office or den area. For not working outside the home for many years, my mom's desk was utlilized fully. She had files for her very successful E-Bay business; had filing cabinets full of her animal charity work--and even some files dating back to the days when she worked for her attorney-friend sending out collection letters.

Most noticeably, though, are the trinkets and personal affects that adorn the shelves. My favorite piece is the ceramic baby harp seal. That was the first animal rights cause my mom joined. In fact, I wrote a very well-received term paper my senior year about the plight of the baby harp seals. That cause was a platform for my mom to realize that there were a lot of animals who needed human intervention to keep them safe and protected. That seal speaks volumes to me in who my mom was, what she believed it, and what she was passionate about.

Another favorite piece is a beautiful ceramic African elephant planter. She got that as a gift from the neighbor across the street on her last Christmas. This was just one of many elephant pieces she owned. Honestly, I never understood where she developed a love of elephants. On a Friday, Pam and I spent a day cleaning their house as a surprise for when she came home from the hospital. I remember so vividly dusting the shelf that proudly displayed several elephants, carelessly breaking off the trunk of her favorite one. I got disproportionetly upset about it , knowing even in the moment that it wasn't really about the elephant. Fortunately, my dad was able to repair him. Unfortunately, my mom never made it home.

Gazing across the desk, I also noticed a box of tissues. It seemed oddly out of place. Opening her drawer, looking for a paperclip I scanned the contents. Surely my dad had rummaged through the office supply drawer looking for a post-it-note or highlighter, but it struck me how largely it was untouched.

Even today, as I entered the front door to my parent's house, I gazed to my left as if looking for my mom. It was at her desk she spent most of her time -- either working or playing games. Gem Shop was her favorite game, although she loved Iggle Pop and Jewel Drop, too. It was at that desk that my mom grew suspicious of the cancer growing inside her. She started experiencing back and belly pains and often noticed it while at the desk. The doctor had suggested getting a new chair. I think even the weeks leading up to the diagnosis--one that should not have taken so long to get--she knew something was wrong beyond the ill-fitting chair the doctor claimed it was. Although my dad would defend the doctor, my mom shared with me her frustration in the 3 months it took to be diagnosed--even with all the advancements and clear indicators of a serious illness. Three months is valuable time lost with a pancreatic cancer diagnosis and she knew it. My mom was rarely sick -- rarely ever visited the doctor-- so for him to put her off for so long really "irked" my mom, as she would say.

My dad has been steadfast and dilligent in remodeling the house--directing his grief in a positive manner. The office is one of the next projects. Although "next" seems to be the operative word. He has acknowledged that my mom's desk would be better suited for him--that it would be beneficial to combine work spaces and get rid of excess furntiure. Easier said than done, I wonder. As he remodels the house, it has become his space -- one that does not include her. The office is the last space in the house that still embodies her and can tell a story of her life.
Maybe the day will come when the desk will be dismantled, the ceramic animals dusted and put away. And maybe that day will be sooner rather than later. And as ugly as it is, the candle will find its way home with me. It's time to burn it again--and see what was so special about the ugly red glob that graced her desk.


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