There is some protected kernel in my mind, some insulated little tablet that is waiting to dissolve its time-release coating and floor me with grief and regret for a day or a week or a month. I know it's there; I get a tiny taste of it every few hours. Perhaps it will wash through me once the anger and horror have receded.
We are not sure exactly when she died; we just know that she wasn't found for several days. She lived with a number of cats who didn't have food. I'm sure you can see where this is going, so I will stop.
Clearing out her apartment is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It was packed several feet high with junk, broken furniture and newspapers. Shit was everywhere, and roaches. The smell...oh, god, the smell.
Though the body was long gone, the trauma scene clean-up service did not arrive till we'd been at it for a couple of days, and then I saw what had been so carefully hidden behind the bathroom door. I wish I could un-see it.
Dealing with the remainders of her life was overwhelming. There were storage units to locate, get into and clean out; countless boxes of papers to be reviewed and sorted; locksmiths to be called; haulers to hire; arrangements with the humane society and arrangements with the exterminator. There were carpets to be pulled up and new carpets to be bought. There was the trauma scene cleaning to set up and the regular cleaning crew to be hired once everything was out. There were unknown garages full of stuff, unhelpful property managers to deal with, bills to pay. Every minute was filled with some task, some grim and depressing task.
There were also a few surprising moments of nostalgia; moments I can't call bittersweet but maybe can call moving: one drawer full of broken pottery yielded bits of a vase my sister made in junior high; a metal box was filled with Kodak slides of us as children; a file marked "Love Letters" revealed correspondence between our parents in1963--before they even met in person. (The idea of my father being a bleeding-heart romantic and my mother being described as "too pretty for a poetess" are hard to reconcile; I hope my dad won't mind talking about them one of these days.)
I am angry. I am angry that she wasted her life. I am angry that I wasted much of my life hoping she would change. I am angry that we have to deal with things someone's children should not have to deal with. I am angry that she didn't admit to her addictions. I am angry that I cannot miss the person she became.
Sometime soon, I hope I can mourn her, the real person who nursed me as a baby and stood smiling in the background of some of those slides. I hope that coating dissolves and I can feel something other than this bitterness, this mourning of the way she wasted her life.