Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Friday, July 30, 2004

One more day to resolution

I called Mr. Tile Man. He was waiting until he had the right tiles from the distributor to call me. (Yeah, right.) We scheduled for Wednesday, August 4, the first day he was available. S the Jackass isn't coming out, but some other man is.

Almost there.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004


Mr. Tile Fucker cashed my check and still hasn't called. This means war. Or increased hostility. Or less sleep for me. Or something.

I hope he's losing sleep over this, at least a little. Jaysus.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Stirred from placidness

My father-in-law is somewhere between a Utah mental hospital and his home in Montana. It’s a long drive between the two, and his wife has/had to handle it herself, dragging along her toddler and her doped-up, sedated, and anesthetized husband. We haven’t heard from her yet, but that’s not particularly surprising. When you’ve been gone for several weeks on vacation, your communications tend to get backed up a little—especially when your husband was arrested and institutionalized on the way home. Brooke counted 45 beeps between the answering machine greeting and the leave a message tone.

Brooke is sad and angry about this. She’s horrified that her father didn’t learn from his past mistakes, that he’s going to miss out on his second daughter’s life. His drug and alcohol addictions ruined his first marriage, and he all but abandoned Brooke. My MIL gave up her dreams, divorced him, and tried to keep her sanity having almost no money and a child to care for. Brooke turned out okay, and MIL is now happily married. But he’s doing it again.

He’s been in rehab a couple of times, but nothing took. He never paid child support but once when he managed to get money back on his taxes. Only he didn’t send it to Brooke. The IRS did. The school he worked for screwed up the plumbing, and he fell and hit his back on a lab bench. Worker’s comp refused to pay for the surgery he needed, and he couldn’t find anyone to pursue litigation against the school district or its contractors. When they finally agreed to settle, the necessary surgery would have cost $250K, and they wanted to settle for $12K, for less than 5% of the cost. By then, it was nearly too late. The anesthesia could do too much damage to his heart and lungs, so he was left with pain killers.

Lots and lots of pain killers.

Take a former drug addict. Mix severely disabling pain with high doses of narcotic pain relievers. Add liquor until slurred.

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic. I wouldn’t ask to be in that position for anything in the world. I’m just frustrated that no one stood up before now to say, “Hey, maybe you should seek some other kind of treatment. Maybe you shouldn’t give him those pills. Maybe you should put him in the hospital until he sobers up so that he can’t touch the liquor.”

It took his driving donuts in a hotel parking lot. It took his hallucinating that he worked for MTV and needed to interview passersby on the street. It took his burying a ham sandwich in a wilting potted plant, his explanation that it needed to be fed.

His wife is being very supportive. She’s working through this to help him, to keep their two-year-old daughter with her beloved daddy. She’s just not sure how much longer she can handle it. We know she’ll do the right thing for herself and the right thing for her daughter. I think it’s only a matter of time.

But Brooke is heartsick. She’s terrified of the answering machine now, terrified of who will have called when she gets home. She’s so angry with her father, so broken hearted for her sister and for herself. She wants him to have learned from her own childhood, learned that he needs to be there for his little one. Only instead of being absent, she’s afraid he’s going to die.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Breathe in, breathe out

I just mailed the letter and check to Mr. Tile Man.  I think I'm going to throw up.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Feedback requested

Please give me opinions and suggestions on the letter below.
July 19, 2004
Dear Mr. Tile Man,
With this letter, I am enclosing half of the payment due on invoice #### for tiling the bathroom walls of Emilin's house.  As you are aware, the tiling work your company was hired to do is incomplete and has taken far longer than either of us anticipated.  I am protecting my interests by withholding the remaining payment until the work has been completed as outlined below.  You will have the payment within two business days of completion.
Although I was happy to work with A, you know from our communication on July 10, 2004 that I have been unhappy with S's work and felt very uncomfortable working with him.  During that conversation, you told me that you would be present with S to complete the work on July 12, but you were not and the work was not completed.  The former is an extreme breach of professionalism.  Please note the following ways in which I found S and his work to be unsatisfactory:
·                    When he arrived the first morning to work, he did not introduce himself but simply asked, "Is this the right house?"  I did not know his name until you told me one and a half days later.
·                    The toilet paper holder was placed such that it could not be used at the same time as the towel bar. (photo*)  When S came back to move the toilet paper holder, he commented loudly and threateningly that he hoped he wouldn't have to break any other tiles to get it out.
·                    Three tiles around the bathtub faucets were missing.  Although the template was available to him, two of the tiles were then cut improperly such that they broke upon assembling the faucet.
·                    One of the corner tiles for the vent hole was not cut to allow the register to be replaced.
·                    The grout work was flawed in several areas, most often containing bubbles or large gaps.  The bullnose tiles under the medicine cabinet were not grouted at all, even though there was adequate room to work. (photo*)
·                    After S's work, I came home to find that the backyard hose had been left on since his departure six hours earlier and that this water was leaking into the basement.
·                    The current tile goes up several inches higher on the wall than the previous tile did and was designed that way without my consent.  S tiled and grouted over the bathroom switchplate, making it impossible to access the wiring behind it. (photo*)  When he came to repair the work, he indicated that it would be impossible not to interfere with a wall shelf and challenged me to find a better solution.
·                    The corners of the tile work around the shower were cut in different ways.  The tile worker on the first two days, A, with whom we have been pleased to work, had used a square bullnose tile (photo*), and S cut a miter corner (photo*) even though you told me that he had had the parts available for the square bullnose.  S later told me that he did it that way "just to get the job done."
·                    He left grout spills on my finished maple floors in the living and dining rooms and grout and adhesive putty on the walls in the bathroom.
·                    S was often sarcastic or condescending.  When asked to replace the broken tiles around the faucet, he refused, stating that they would be fine if I used plumber's putty behind the faucet plate.  I requested that he replace them anyway, and he asked, "What are you hoping to accomplish with this, dear?"  His refusal to repair his flawed work and his sarcasm are unprofessional and inappropriate.  He eventually agreed to replace them but refused to use the template I gave him, and when I asked if they were cut large enough, he mimicked me.  The center tile was not cut large enough and needs to be replaced once again.
The door trim was damaged during tile removal, and you and I had discussed repairing that damage with wood putty.  (photo*) This still needs to be completed.  A did none of the grout work, and she had not communicated our desire to have the space between the tub and the floor tile grouted. You and I had discussed this in exchange for my having removed more than 60% of the wall tiles, and you also failed to communicate that to S.  This also needs to be completed.  Our electrician said that we will use a stacked switch, meaning that the switch plate is the same size as a single vertical switch.  This allows you to come out immediately, rather than requiring that I scramble to hire an electrician before your work is complete.
You will not send S to complete the work.  I will not let him in my house again.
The following tasks must be completed by Friday, August 6, 2004:
·                    Correcting the miter corner in the shower.
·                    Grouting between the floor and the tub.
·                    Replacing the center of the faucet tiles so that the faucet can be properly assembled.
·                    Repairing the door trim with wood putty.
·                    Replacing the tile around the light switch.
Please note that a copy of this letter has been sent to the **bricklayers' union** and the Better Business Bureau.  I chose a union company because I expected high quality work and high quality workers.  I chose a BBB member because I expected honesty and accountability.  That has not been my experience with Your Tile Company.
Additionally, I would like to thank you for your recommendation of C S and His Construction.  I was pleased to meet with C, and I am happy with the carpenter, K K, who made the trim for my window in the bathroom.  K's work was excellent and fast, and he was both friendly and professional.  I intend to use him in the future and will recommend C's Construction to my friends and colleagues.


Friday, July 16, 2004

And my house may be a giant fire hazard

My father-in-law is in a mental hospital 600 miles from home.  On his way home from vacation with his wife and daughter (Brooke’s half-sister), he came unglued in Utah.  Brooke’s nearly-three-year-old sister is convinced she’s never going to see her daddy again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Fucker called me “dear.”

I have paint in my hair. Primer, not paint, really, but the meaning is still the same.

The bathroom really does look nice.

The sink is in and caulked. The tub is in and caulked. As of midnight last night (this morning?) the walls are primed and ready for paint. We were working so late last night, rolling primer onto the walls and ceiling. It took half an hour or more just to tape around the window with its six upper panes and one lower pane. There was beer. There was swearing. There were cats sneaking in only to be shooed away and leave little kitty paint marks on the floor. I had to cut off a good portion of Muggle’s toe fur this morning so that he wouldn’t eat the primer.

And yet, the tile work isn’t done. It’s been two months since I first called them. Two months since the first estimate came through. The condescending jackass who did half of the work (and all of the crappy work) came yesterday morning, even though the owner told me he would be there himself. The condescending jackass who nearly refused to replace the broken tiles behind the faucet. He said he’d grout them back in, and when I sealed the covers on with plumber’s putty, it would be great.

No, thank you. Please replace the broken tile. It wasn’t cut properly, and I would rather not have broken tile behind the faucet.

“What are you hoping to accomplish here, dear?”

The work was excellent until he arrived. My attitude was excellent until he arrived. Now, I’m afraid I can’t recommend their services, and he can be certain that I will accomplish the anger inciting task of writing an explicitly detailed letter to the owner.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Comments for one another

As if it weren’t enough that the bathroom still isn’t done, I’ve got Mom on the brain.

She’s everywhere lately. Most recently, she popped into my brain while I made tea this afternoon. I had been thinking about my best friend and her family of origin, probably spawned from a conversation I had with Brooke this morning. Heather’s paternal grandmother is quite ill and lives with Heather’s parents. She’s a polar opposite from Heather’s maternal grandmother, a quick witted, friendly woman who worked as a nurse for years and years. I remembered that she died earlier this year and wondered if I had told Mom and reminded myself to ask her.

Ask who?

Mom’s doctor made a surprise appearance on the radio over the weekend, and I thought about the last time that I saw her. She was saying goodbye to Mom. “Goodbye” meaning, “it was really nice knowing you, and I’m so sorry that you’re going to die so soon.” Meaning, “this is the very last time I’m going to see you because I couldn’t save your life.”

Mom cried a lot that day. Dr. L cried a little, too. It was in stark contrast to the meeting we had had earlier that day with Reverend Brown. With Dr. L, the focus was ending the relationship. With Rev. Brown, it was forming it, creating it, learning Mom and sending her off to the next stage of her existence. There was creation present there.

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Dumbledore tells Harry that to the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure. I think I have more organizing to do.

Friday, July 09, 2004

I though wacky was my forte

Wackiness: 52/100
Rationality: 40/100
Constructiveness: 66/100
Leadership: 56/100

You are an SECL--Sober Emotional Constructive Leader. This makes you a politician. You cut deals, you change minds, you make things happen. You would prefer to be liked than respected, but generally people react to you with both. You are very sensitive to criticism, since your entire business is making people happy.

At times your commitment to the happiness of other people can cut into the happiness of you and your loved ones. This is very demanding on those close to you, who may feel neglected. Slowly, you will learn to set your own agenda--including time to yourself.

You are gregarious, friendly, charming and charismatic. You like animals, sports, and beautiful cars. You wear understated gold jewelry and have secret bad habits, like chewing your fingers and fidgeting.

You are very difficult to dislike.

I've been telling you that for years.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Operation: Bathroom Impossible

The goal: Regrout the tiles around the bathtub. Caulk the bathtub.

The plan: Remove, replace, and seal grout while Natalie and Adam are away in France.
Monday: de-grout
Tuesday and Wednesday: re-grout
Thursday and Friday: let grout cure
Saturday: seal grout
Sunday: let sealer cure
Monday: begin showering in own home

The reality:
Remove grout. Find wet tile backing. Schedule (union) retiling to the tune of $1500. Order tile. Decide to update 60-year-old sink. Choose new sink. Choose new faucet. Choose matching bathtub faucet. Schedule tile work.

Decide window needs sill. Watch Dad pull off window frame. Schedule carpenter. Reschedule tile work.

Step-father-in-law decides to install new sink drain. Demands to replace bathtub. Replaces hot water pipe to bathtub. Watch as carpenter installs new window frame. Listen as SFIL puts off putting in the bathtub. Reschedule tile work.

Rip off 60% of the tile. Remove furring down to the studs. Learn how to cut fiberglass. Replace insulation. Watch as SFIL shatters the bathtub, cuts large hole in the floor, and removes bathroom door. Sit in new bathtub in living room. Install new bathtub. Prime new window frame.

Watch tile person tile. Rejoice and be glad. Find tiles missing. Find toilet paper holder useless. Find gouge in door trim. Meet with Head Tile Person. Reschedule more tile work.

Await tile person’s return. Watch tile person leave. Find that the door trim is still gouged. Thank Maude you haven’t written them a single check.

Have you seen my control panel?

The fact of the matter is that I’m sick of not having my life in the rigid order in which I plan to put it.

The tile work is finally, finally done. After taking a full day longer than they had expected, we discovered that some things were just not right about it. Not only were there no tiles around the bathtub fixtures, but they had hacked a piece of the door trim off and placed the toilet paper roll holder such that we couldn’t use it and the towel bar at the same time. Much deliberation later, Brooke and I decided that the missing grout around the tub, the grout splatters on my beautiful maple floors, the slight dents on the other side of the doorframe, the cut and grouted-in switch plate, the putty-covered towel bar, and the one spot near the floor that doesn’t seem to be quite flat all were not worth working ourselves into a frenzy. Two deal breakers: the door frame and the toilet paper holder. Of course, the remaining three tiles around the bathtub fixtures just had to be applied. We wouldn’t consider the job done without them.

The three tiles were put on this morning, and the toilet paper holder was removed and moved. The door frame is not repaired, but the tile people have no money from me, so I’m not so worried about that right now. We should be okay to use everything Thursday morning, God willing. Tonight, there will be paint. Tomorrow, Al is coming over to fix the bathtub drain.

Although we had been under the impression that the bathtub itself was completely functional, we were wrong. Well, if by “functional” one means “being able to drain water out of it without creating a large pool of water in the basement,” then we were definitely wrong. Humph. The sink and bathtub issues should all be resolved tomorrow evening. I’m awfully excited about being able to wash my hands in the bathroom and take a shower in my own house.

This weekend went very well, and Brooke and I are even more excited about getting the house cleaned up and in order for a party in July and a weekend gathering in August. The bathroom will be completely painted this weekend, and I hope to clear out the guest room and paint it before the middle of August.

It was inspiring to listen to Paul and Hope talk about preparing their guest room for Hannah and then preparing Hannah’s old room for the new baby. Hannah is not so much of a baby anymore. She managed to climb out of her crib on Saturday night, and she sustained quite a number of scratches and bruises. She also earned her first case of road rash after running and slipping and scraping her forehead on the asphalt. She seems not to have noticed them, or maybe she just doesn’t care. She has no fear, and this frightens Hope.

Soon, everything will be back in order. Soon, I can clean my kitchen and bathroom and put the couch back where it belongs, the bathtub no longer needing to reside in the living room. Soon, I can have the illusion of a little more control over my life.

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