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Updated on August 12, 2013


I mentioned previously that my mother's death was actually the chrysalis for my own reconstitution of self, although I wouldn't identify this until long after she passed when the tears dried and the smiles returned.

In the days immediately following mom's death, I was actually sober long enough to sift through the shoebox of possessions that the convalescence hospital administrators presented me.

While examining her dog-eared Bible I came upon a tightly folded note tucked in amongst the Book of Jude. As it unfolded, a small key hiding inside dropped into my palm. Curiously, I looked at what she had written. Scrawled lightly in pencil, the letters seemed random and sloppy in the words they formed. I stared until I summated that it was most likely the last thing she wrote in life:

Reid, this is the key to our storage unit's padlock. Everything's there. I ran out of money so the rent is a few months behind. Sorry. Please save what you can. Please! Don't let my life be forgotten. Go with Jesus and I love you.'

Frowning in disbelief, I huffed and shook my head. Even in death, the woman who died with no fixed address still owed rent.

I was familiar with the storage rental company housing my mother's possessions. When I telephoned them inquiring as to exactly how much delinquent back rent was owed I nearly fell over. She was not "a few months behind", nor did she owe only a couple hundred dollars, but instead thousands. Apparently, I discovered, she had never paid adequate rent throughout the several years of her homelessness.

Initially, the storage company was taken in by her plight, but eventually after infrequent, meager payments and her deliriously exaggerated stories they too had had enough. By the time the landlord realized that he was being duped and that his company would most likely never see the monies owed, only then did legal eviction procedures begin to get mom's possessions either evicted, or seized pending a liquidation sale for non-payment of services.

The eviction process began about six months prior to her death. I'm certain that once the reality hit that she was loosing what few possessions remained representing her life she began the process of dying. Just as humans can control the quality of life with the choices they make, I truly believe that once a person "gives up" on living, a door is opened and soon death will follow. We have more control over life and death than we humans are willing to acknowledge.

In the final year of her life, the year of her most intense and harrowing homelessness, mom frequently referenced how "difficult" the storage landlords had been. Whenever I would attempt to explain that most landlords do indeed tend to become disagreeable when a tenant's rent seriously lapses into arrears, she would bitterly assume a sense of entitlement, as though she was owed free rent. It was an old, yet familiar refrain. Oft echoed positions in her life were delusions of grandeur, or persistence that the world owed her a living of sorts. Throughout my entire childhood I can not remember any time when the "big pay-off" for all of her "undiscovered talent" was not "right around the corner." Mom lived beyond the boarders of her own existence in an alternate, pseudo-reality of prospective talent scouts, of imaginary recording contracts and of sold-out world tours. Sometimes, her eyes would glaze over as she addressed imaginary audiences far beyond the immediate and more numerous than whomever was in attendance.

I knew a little bit about California's rental laws. Subsequently, I knew that without my mother present I would most likely not be permitted to remove her possessions. Additionally, mom owed so much in back rent that if I arrived with a moving truck the landlord would most likely call the police, charging Theft of Services.

Either way, it was unneeded drama.

After assessing the situation I arrived at three distinct possibilities - 1) Settle the delinquent financial arrears of mom's massively overdue rent; 2) Abandon everything, and thus completely invalidate both her life and my childhood; 3) Concoct an elaborate scheme and steal back my dead mom's stuff.

Since mine has rarely been a life of invitation-only politics, there really was only one solution making perfect sense to someone like me: live on the fringe, and acquire as much as possible by expending the absolute least amount of personal capital.

I spent hours practicing my deceased mother's flamboyant writing style and signature. The task proved more challenging than I had initially assumed, particularly since she wrote almost entirely in calligraphy, and had done so her entire life. When it came to mom's handwriting, there really was no such thing as a simple note; even mundane shopping lists were transformed into testaments of artistic achievement, complete with flowing swoops and ornate designs. After countless hand-numbing repetitions I conceded that even my best attempts were still just really, really bad forgeries. Additionally, I realized there would be the unforeseen issue of content. Since at any given time my mother's thought process frequently took her around the globe, if not into the stratosphere, what exactly would a letter supposedly written by her have to say? It was all too grandiose for a novice like me. For deception this grand I would need to enlist the assistance of a truly professional con-artist. I needed the well-versed guidance of a duplicitous charlatan accustomed to operating on as grand a scale as the very woman whose sole and remaining possessions were awaiting liberation from a cautious landlord owed significant amounts of cash.

So, I called my father.

In our brief conversation, dad concluded that the smartest course of action was not to fabricate an entire letter of my dead mom's forged hand writing, but rather to focus solely upon perfecting her signature. Then, upon successfully accomplishing that one specific task, sign her endorsement to the bottom of some fictitious memorandum granting me access to her possessions. Additionally, he charged, I should take another person with me, preferably an attractive and flirtatious female, to diffuse focus should the landlord become overly inquisitive. My girlfriend at the time was a complete drama queen, and would perform the role flawlessly. Together we decided upon two cars; if needed we could depart at different times, thus raising less suspicion. Additionally, by using two vehicles we could remove twice as much stuff.

She and I rehearsed for two days.

The cover story came together: Mom had recently taken ill and her old medical records needed to be retrieved. Since we had no idea where exactly they were to be located, we would require several hours of uninterrupted access to the possessions inside of her storage locker. We were, however, fortunate enough to have one of the hospital administrators familiar with my mother's case type out a document on her behalf. Coincidentally enough, my mother's legal signature was on-file in the company's storage contracts. And, sure enough, the signature at the bottom of the letter granting me access into her storage unit, surely, would be found to match her signature on file.

My heart sank.

It was as I had suspected all along: meaningless trash, mostly. Many of the items my mother had stashed away in storage were of significance only to she. Even then, some of the items that remained were probably not of much value in that context either. Amidst ravenous silence I assessed all that remained of her world: a pack-ratted hoard of nonsensical trinkets and curiosities. I soon realized that the process of salvaging the final remnants of both my mother's life and my own childhood would actually be much simpler a task than initially assumed: it would come down to delineating quantity from quality, an ironic parallel of my own life.

Since mom was homeless, her cramped little storage closet was primarily used as a sort of staging point. It immediately became apparent that in order to survive a life on the streets, her most frequently needed items were most readily accessible: toilet paper, towels, hand-written resumes, clothing, etc. Trash, trash, trash; I was surprised at just how much I cried while sifting through what, in my opinion, ended up being little more than trash.

Several hours later, we departed with all that was of any true significance: four old suitcases stuffed most notably with my mother's artwork. Everything else was abandoned and, yeah as it turned out, only one car would have been sufficient after all. Wow...Less than one carload remained to validate fifty-eight years of a human being's life. While driving away I reflected upon that hand-scrawled note I discovered days previously in which she pleaded that her life not "be forgotten." Shaking my head, I huffed.

There really wasn't that much left anyway!

Driving home I thought of both everything transpiring in my midst, and yet nothing in particular. As my road-trip ended, I concluded that I'd inherited the responsibility of somehow validating, of honoring, what had been my mom's life. Someday, I decided that after both my heart and my mind had each matured, I would sift through those four old suitcases.

Someday, but not any day soon.

While contrasting her death to what had been my life, I wondered if anybody would ever care enough someday after my own death to likewise remember me. I sought to think about other things, but, like a shark circling vulnerable prey, one frightening reality kept returning to me: I too, being a loner and a modern-day gypsy, was equally in jeopardy of living a forgotten life as well. That possibility frightened me.

In my upset, a passage from the Book of Daniel, chapter seven, verse fifteen abruptly and unexpectedly permeated my thoughts: "I Daniel, was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions in my head troubled me." I could relate, and, I also was too afraid to confront my fears. Later that evening I cried for a very long time.

When my tears eventually paused, I telephoned my father.

According to him, mom supposedly was his "heart's first and only true love." But, even amidst such a compassionate confession, I still remained guarded. In his responses to me, my dad was equally reserved. Silence prevailed throughout much of that phone call. Rather than her death bringing us closer, we engaged one another with the warmth of two diplomats, each negotiating under the assumed pretense of brokering some secret deal. Breaking silence, I started to cry and without any pause whatsoever my father suddenly cleared his throat and sanitized his voice of all emotion:

"Yeah, well, Reid she's dead. Dead, dead, dead! So, fuck it and chuck it my boy. Donna's dead, that's it, so fuck it." He then began laughing.

I never understood why my mother, who at the time was young, educated and very lovely, had allowed herself to be so entirely commandeered by such an impertinent scoundrel. With youth comes ignorance. With education comes arrogance. With beauty comes prejudice of life's many superficial realities. Forever the rebellious sort, perhaps these very reasons were why she did anything that she did.

I could offer no reply, nor would I even dignify his dramatics with a response. I said good bye and hung up. It was apparent that we each needed to be in our own personal places of mourning. From that point, it would take almost an entire year for either of us to concede such a reality. Time, however, is the great moderator and it is over time that anger fades. Gradually emotion is released and anger surrenders to apathy. Only after my own upset dissipated, about a year later, was I able to understand my father's sadness and own sense of loss.

And, likewise, the visions in my head troubled me.

/ / / / END OF PART TWELVE / / / /


© 2007 - R. MARTIN BASSO


Part 13 - No Real Threat To Self Or To Others


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