Friday, November 12, 2021

Out of Footprint

Dealing with the mundane aspects of my mother’s death has given me the unique experience of learning I was “out of footprint” from the bank that held Mother’s CD. In order to receive one’s share of a deceased person’s account, US Bank requires that named survivors present themselves at a bank office with a death certificate and ask for the money. For my five siblings, this presented no problem; however, as there are no US Bank offices in the entire state of Texas, it presented a significant problem for me. 

Upon explanation of my predicament, an agent on the bank’s customer service line told me she was very sorry for my loss and that they had an arrangement for people like me who were, as she termed it, out of footprint. Their Life Events department would, upon verifying my bonafides, send me a check by mail. This sounded excellent and I asked for the number to call. “Oh, you can’t call them,” the pleasant midwestern voice on the other end of my call chirped, “we have to send them an email and then they will call you in two or three business days.” 

The process began to sound less excellent. I imagined my sibs visiting their respective banking offices and collecting their portions while I waited for my phone call. But what were a few days of waiting, I chided myself? I would still receive the same windfall as my sister and brothers, after all. And to their credit, a US Bank Life Events specialist did call me two days later. 

After another expression of condolences, my specialist, Rebecca, asked me a series of questions to ascertain that I was indeed the Lane Devereux included on Mother’s list of children. Happily, we had no problems with this. “It seems that your Mother’s death has been verified with a death certificate at one of our branch locations, so I will not need you to send me a copy.” Phew, dodged an annoying delay there. “We will send your portion of the account out within three to five business days plus mail time.” Thanks to Louis DeJoy, that meant more than a solid week’s wait, but again, windfall. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, Lane.

The week went by and I began to pleasantly anticipate the mail, which usually offers nothing more exciting than sales flyers and offers to buy our house. In our younger, more hopeful years, Michael and I would ask whoever had gotten the day’s mail, “Did our ship come in?” (And no, except for the very rare refund of an overpayment, it almost never had.) Now, there was an actual ship on the horizon and the mail was fun again. Until it wasn’t.

That happened the morning my sister called and asked if I had gotten my proceeds from US Bank? “No, not yet, why do you ask?” It turned out that four of my siblings had gone to their local branches and collected the anticipated amount with no trouble whatsoever. When the fifth sibling went to his branch, the banker cheerfully explained that everyone else had claimed their portion and he was getting the last payout. Then the banker gave him a check for twice as much money as everyone else. Do the math. My brother got MY proceeds in addition to his own!  

I immediately called US Bank and explained the problem. Again, I was told I couldn’t call Life Events, but the agent would send them an email detailing my complaint and someone would contact me in two to three business days. Unhappy with this, I looked for Rebecca’s number in my notes, only to realize she hadn’t given me a number. Not to be deterred, I went to my telephone service provider’s website, scanned the calls I received the day Rebecca contacted me, and found the number. Gotcha! I called her back. 

Apparently you can call Life Events, you just cannot speak to anyone there. At least, you can’t speak to anyone unless you know the specific 7-digit number of your Life Events specialist. If you don’t know it, they provide an email address to contact which they say will be read within two or three days, triggering a phone call back. (In fact, their email address - - tantalizes with the possibility of an even faster response.) 

The two to three day window on both the email from the official US Bank customer service line and the one from me directly have come and gone without any response. Maybe they don’t know what to say to me or perhaps they are just busy asking themselves the big question I asked: wtf?

Just for the record, there’s no problem getting my share from my brother. He’s an honest guy and perfectly happy to give me the money. The problem is whether or not US Bank is going to go after him to return the money they gave him in error so they can give it to me. Presumably in two to three business days plus mailing time from whenever.

That’s Life (Events)!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

It’s Warm Where I’m Going

    I watched Mother’s funeral Mass on YouTube Wednesday. (One blessing that’s come out of the pandemic is access to events from afar.) It felt strange to be at home, watching and listening as people spoke about Mother, seeing the photo of her with Dad, taking in the small (so small) brown box of her ashes. She had belonged to her parish for more than 20 years, was well known and well liked there. The priest spoke warmly, from long acquaintanceship. But there is one thing he said - or didn’t say, rather - that needs to be added to the record.

    Every winter for many years, Mother would go to my sister Janet’s house in December and, in January, she would come to Texas with Janet and her husband Dave, who snow-birded in Port Aransas. They’d stop at our house on their way and drop Mother off with Michael and I for a month or so. What a joy for me to have those weeks with her and share her with my friends over the years.

    The priest mentioned her trips to Grand Forks and Texas when he spoke about Mother. He said he could never understand why someone would leave Montana in the winter and go to Grand Forks. (FYI - that’s in North Dakota.) He used to tease her about it after her last Mass the weekend she would leave with Janet and Dave. He remarked on her Grand Forks trips laughingly at the funeral, but he forgot to share the rest of the story. 

    Every year when he teased Mother about it, she always replied, “It’s warm where I’m going.” You see, Mother was never just going to Grand Forks, which is indeed a frigid place in winter. No, she was going home, literally, to the place she raised her family, because she was going home with Janet, who lives in the house my parents built more than 50 years ago. She was going home to the community where she earned her degrees and taught school. She was going home to share fond memories with her many friends of  bridge club and Altar Society and PTA, of the cocktail parties her generation made famous and the gourmet dinners that often followed them. 

    I felt sad not to be at her Mass in person, but there will be another service next summer that I will attend, when our extended family gathers in Mandan, North Dakota to inter her ashes next to my Dad’s. We’ll laugh and remember and tell stories to each other and to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren about this wonderful woman who raised us. It’ll be warm there, too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

 Obituary for Jeanne Paul Gustafson

Jeanne (Paul) Gustafson, beloved matriarch of her large family, died peacefully on October 12 at the age of 99 at her home in Helena, MT surrounded by family. She was born in Edgeley, ND to Donald and Florence (Petrie) Paul on August 29, 1922, the oldest of five children. 

Jeanne attended college at NDSU for two years, then left school to marry Arthur Gustafson.  During their 60+ years of marriage, they raised seven children together while living in Grand Forks, ND. Jeanne devoted many years to her family. Besides being a loving wife and attentive mother, Jeanne was a talented seamstress, expert bridge player, and excellent cook. 

When her youngest child started school, Jeanne returned to college at UND. She earned a degree in elementary education, then went on to earn her master’s degree. She was on the dean’s list every semester and graduated with honors. Jeanne taught for 15 years before retiring, first at St. Michael’s Catholic school in Grand Forks and then at St. Joseph Catholic School in Mandan. Primarily a first grade teacher, Jeanne could proudly say that every child she taught learned how to read.

Jeanne and Arthur lived in Escondido, CA for many years after retirement before they relocated to Helena, MT. In retirement, Jeanne began quilting. Over the next 30 years, she designed and hand-quilted more than a hundred stunning quilts that are cherished by her family, including more than four dozen crib quilts for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

Jeanne was preceded in death by her parents; her four siblings; her husband; her son, John and his wife, Jean; and her grandson, Stephen. She is survived by six children, Paul (Ann), Mark (Judi), Lane Devereux (Michael), James (LuAnne), Janet Weisgram (David), and Robert (Lynn). Jeanne has 19 surviving grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren.

A funeral mass for Jeanne will be held at Our Lady of the Valley on October 20 at 11:00 A.M. Interment will take place in Mandan, ND at a later date.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Saying Goodbye to My Mother

 I just said goodbye to my Mother, who is 1800 miles away, unresponsive and no longer eating or drinking. The hospice staff said that unresponsive people can still hear and understand, so my sister-in-law held the phone to her ear while I said my last words to her. Mother is 99 and this turn of events isn't unexpected, but I am still hurting. I saw her in May and she was in good shape. Michael and I had a lovely time with her. I have no unresolved issues with my Mother, no conflicts or remnants of past problems to cloud our relationship. For that I am thankful.

She started her decline over the summer, getting fuzzier about events and information, eating less and less. She held up her end of a telephone conversation fine as recently as two weeks ago, although she would sometimes respond to a question with "Now that's hard to know." She lost interest in food last winter. She has weighed about 145 pounds for a long time (a nice weight for her), but when we saw her in May she was down to 125 pounds, and now she only weighs 80. She will probably be gone in the next 24 hours. 

I made plane and hotel reservations to visit her in Helena in mid-November. I'll be cancelling them, of course, but I can't bring myself to do it until Mother is actually dead. My brother who is in charge of the details of her passing asked me to write her obituary a few months ago. I did, but it was hard. After she passes, I'll post her obit. She was a remarkable women and I'd like everyone to know it.

Mother wanted to live to be 100 and I wish she had. She came damn close. If there is a Heaven, she'll be in it soon, hopefully with my Dad by her side. 

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Here's a first: I'm blogging in the Veterinary ER at 12:40 am. Smudge, our 11-year old tuxedo cat, is sick. I feel extra bad because he had been sneezing last night and this morning but I didn't pay attention. Then I didn't hear him all day, so I thought he was better. Well, at bedtime tonight, I found him curled up in a hot, miserable heap by my pillow. His mouth was hanging open, his tongue was sticking out, and he was very hot. Obviously a sick boy.

Thankfully, they built a Veterinary ER near us. I hope we aren't here all night because we have an early appointment tomorrow.

This is the first time I've blogged using my cell phone. It's the first time I've blogged in a long time. Maybe using my cell is the trick that's going to get me blogging again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Creativity Explosion

I feel like I am in the middle of a creativity explosion these days. Quilting is big part of my creative output and I have become more and more interested in making art quilts. Bed quilts and lap quilts are large and take more time than I want to give sometimes. If I am not driven by a deadline - like a birthday or Christmas - I get lazy about working on projects that I have started. Moonglow is a good example. It is a beautiful quilt that I made in a block of the month class; it was paper pieced and I couldn’t have done that on my own without the class. But it is huge and I am hand-quilting it; I feel overwhelmed by it and haven’t done a lot of work on it. I told Alix she could have it, but I don’t have a deadline to give it to her, so no pressure. Plus, I kind of don’t want to give it away, at least not yet.

I have made several small projects in the last year that I like very much. A thread-painted small quilt with a rural scene on it that I lavishly hand-quilted while Michael had chemotherapy is one. Another is a miniature quilt I made for a Guild challenge and just finished. Simple, but lovely colors. I have a quilt in process for baby Gabriel and a UFO quilt of Felix’s footprints during her first year of life. Admittedly, there are a few more UFOs in my sewing stuff, mostly from classes. I want to get them finished, but I don’t know when that will happen.

This year I added another creative outlet: ceramics. Michael and I have wanted to do ceramics for several years but never got around to it until 2017. Last March we took a four-week class at The Potter’s Wheel and both made several pretty bowls. I even made a pitcher to add to my collection! This fall, we decided to enrol at Lone Star College for a semester-long ceramics class. It is very intense, lots of class time plus needed studio time after classes. The teacher, Kelley Eggert, is great and has really taught us a lot in a short time. I have made things I would never have expected to make. When they are all finished, at the end of the semester, I’ll take pictures of them and post the pix here for review.

I retain my interest in photography, although I’m not too active right now. I did put a photograph in a show at the JCC this summer and sold it. Last year year I sold an art quilt out of a WiVLA exhibition. Selling things is nice. We have a slush fund/windfall account and extra money like that, refunds, Christmas money, etc go into it. We paid our tuition for the ceramics class out of the slush fund.

I plan to take the ceramics 2 course in the spring. I really like ceramics and I am better at it than I knew I would be. It adds to my repertoire of creative outlets. I like it.

(And lest I forget, I found a new writers group and I am getting back into my book. I am developing some ambitions about finishing it this winter. We’ll see.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Insomnia Night Three

Another night and I am wide awake at 2:06 a.m. For the last three nights, I haven't been able to go to sleep and I've ended up awake until dawn. Yesterday, I finally fell asleep around 6:00 a.m. Or should I say, TODAY I finally fell asleep around 6:00 a.m. This is such a problem for me. I am not getting enough sleep and I am sleeping too much in the daytime, throwing off my schedule. Going to yoga at 9:00 a.m. was too much for me today and I skipped it. How am I going to feel tomorrow morning (this morning?) when I have to be at water aerobics at 9 a.m.? 

Today is going to be really tough if I don't fall asleep soon. I have the water aerobics, then a program on colon cancer at Glazier I want to go to at 11, and an appointment with Dr. M. at 2 p.m. I am going to be whipped after all that. Hell, I'm going to be whipped duriiong all that.

Most evenings, I start falling asleep in the living room when we are watching tv and/or I am fiddling with my iPad. I try to stay awake, but it is hard and sometimes I miss hallf the program. That doesn't translate into going to bed and going to sleep though. Before I can go to bed, there are chores to be done. Feed the cats and clean that up, finish the dishwasher and run it, brush and floss my teeth, take medication, give the cats their nighttime treat. By the time I have done all that, I am wide awake AND it is late. Like 12 or 1 a.m. late. And I get into bed and I can't sleep.

I am getting phobic about it. I start worrying that I won't falll asleep and that keeps me awake. Or I start falling asleep and I become self-aware of the progress, which wakes me up. I try tricks, counting, breathing, pretending I am in my chair falling asleep watching tv. It doesn't seem to help. I have some sleeping pills aand I always think I'll take one of them and get a good night's sleep and get back on track, but it is always too late to take the pills by the time I realize that I can't sleep.

I can see what I need to do. Get everythiing finished early in the evening so that when I get tired, I can go to bed and fall asleep. Get on a better schedule, stop staying up until 1 or 2 in the morning on a regular basis. While we were traveling on the West Coast, we got up every morning and got on the road around 8:30 or 9. We traveled and did things all day and went to bed 11-ish. We didn't nap. I didn't have insomnia. We had purposeful days.

I feel that I am adrift. I have lots of things to do but little motivation to do them. I doesn't seem to matter whether I accomplish anything or not. There are rarely any deadlines in my life. But, of course, it does matter. The house is in terrible disarray, still disheveled from the flood last February. FEBRUARY. What is it that makes me not care enough to put my house back together? I don't know. And in the middle of the night, when I can't sleep, that is part of what I am thinking about. Everything I am not doing and everything I need to do and should be doing. 

When morning comes, that is all forgotten. I am adrift again. You know, at 65 I really should have this shit worked out. For all the years after I left the workforce in 1992, my family's schedule defined my life and provided the structure that I lost when I retired from work. The kids are all gone now and since Michael retired, he doesn't have a schedule either. Self-discipline seems to have eluded me. External requirements still get me moving most of the time. But I hate living this way. I hate seeing myself as a failure on this very personal level. I need to change up my life. I wonder how I'm going to do that?