Apparently orphan age |

Apparently orphan age

Mike Drummond, Columnist
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

A while back I wrote about my mother and her fancy cigar box. Since my dad died in December, his cremains, stowed safely in that box, have accompanied her everywhere, most recently on a three-state tour of all the kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and ne’er-do-wells.

Mom didn’t quite make it out to Clear Creek Ranch this time. The rutted road was too high-centered for her brand-new Chrysler. She and her “little” sister spent several days at a motel in town. I led them on daily sorties to see the sights and sample the native cuisine while we caught up on all the family news.

We worked off breakfast one day with a two-plus-mile trek on the Independence Trail. Got as far as the waterfalls and newt ponds on Rush Creek before packing it in. It is a good hiking spot for those of us on the multi-generational AARP mailing list. The trail is wheelchair accessible, which means it is wide and fairly level for its entire run.

After the hike, they spent the rest of the day in their rooms resting up. Dinner was at the New Moon Cafe, and it was excellent. The table conversation was upbeat – the future, how “old” my cousins were looking, that sort of thing. Dad’s cremains, resting on a cushion in the trunk, were not forgotten, but they weren’t mentioned, either.

A week later Mom called to say she was back in Arizona. She sounded relieved that the trip was complete, and perhaps a little lonely, home alone. Until a few months ago, she’d spent her whole life living with my dad, and before that, with her parents.

A month later, I got a call from her neighbor. Mom was in the hospital. She’d had a heart attack and recognized the symptoms from experiences with my dad. She called an ambulance. While she was waiting for it to arrive, she changed her clothes, straightened up the living room, and cleared away the breakfast dishes, and for all we know, did some dusting, too.

She put the binder with all her important information on the kitchen table and asked her neighbor to call us kids. Then she went to the hospital, and within 24 hours was dead.

We laid her to rest next to her parents in a Los Angeles cemetery. Church things have changed from Latin to Latino down there, and we “se habla’d” a special request to have an English-speaking priest preside. Dad is with her, too. In her arms, still in the box he crafted in his workshop back when I was a boy.

The binder she left on the kitchen counter was her final gift to us. It included originals or copies of her will and all her important papers – lists of bank accounts, stocks, insurance policies and other important names and numbers.

My sister had long been a signer on Mom’s checking account, and already knew where all the keys and combinations were. I was named executor of the estate. Things have been infinitely easier than they might have been had Mom not been addicted to tab-dividers and a three-hole punch. Even so, those AT&T share certificates she got at retirement have mutated and metastasized into a dozen companies, each with their own stock-redemption rules.

And I’m not really a paperwork guy. There have been moments when I’d like to escape it all, pin a note to my chest, sit in a big basket on some orphanage’s steps, and wait to be admitted.

But more often, I wish I didn’t qualify yet.

Mike Drummond is a Nevada County writer whose column appears on Tuesday. You can write him in care of The Union, 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, 95945; or e-mail him at

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