Sunday, June 26

How we remember: Thinking of Jim

James Pinkston, my stepfather died on Tuesday. In the wee hours of the morning. He had been declining after a fall and a weird blood pressure thing, failing slowly.

My mother has dementia and has been moved to memory care. She acts out in unpredictable ways. I got a call yesterday that she took a swing at one of the staff workers and tried to punch the staff member in the face. I've repeatedly warned the staff that she can be a hitter and hitting in the face was the default when I was a kid. Needless to say they'll have a psychiatrist evaluate her on Monday.

I don't know if they've told Mom yet about my stepfather's passing. When they were separated over a week ago (Mom kept trying to take care of Jim but was at risk of hurting herself and him, and Mom had taken to wandering so memory care was the best option), Mom didn't ask about him for a while but then she told a visitor that he'd been kidnapped and she needed money for a ransom. I'll get more information about her situation on Monday.

In the mean time, I find I'm processing in odd ways. I'd been able to see Jim a few times before he died but I was surprised by how it hit me. Then there are the post-death details which are constant reminders of the finality as well as the changes. And now I have new worries, considerations, concerns about managing finances depending on what happens with pensions. Mom's behavior can lead to her being asked to leave unless they can medicate her sufficiently to mellow her out, and that worries me, too. Those are wearing and stress-inducing. After a long, difficult year, I was reluctant to give up my vacation.

So it may seem weird that in the aftermath of all that's going on, including the passing of my stepfather, that I'm on vacation. Well, I was getting up to get ready to leave for vacation when I saw that I had a message from hospice. They don't usually call in the early hours of the morning so I knew immediately that Jim was gone. Because he and my mother had already taken care of cremation arrangements and I believed the decision of what to do with Jim's remains was one his kids needed to make, and because there was really nothing I could do, and because Mom's move was too recent and I thought we shouldn't tell her yet, I decided to go on vacation anyway knowing I could head to an airport and be in Florida within a day if really necessary.

I talked with two of Jim's biological kids a day or so after his passing. They too were continuing on with their lives for many of the same reasons as I. Kyle and I discussed having a memorial celebration around Jim's birthday when folks can get together and share stories. It's the kind of thing Jim would enjoy.

Hiking in Yellowstone and being mostly disconnected has been one of the best therapies ever and a surprising way to remember Jim. In Cody there was a BNSF truck in the parking lot of the hotel where I was staying. Jim used to work for the railroad and specifically BNSF. "Hey there, buddy. I hope you're okay now" I thought. There's a small Union Pacific monument near the West Gate of Yellowstone, so every day we drive into the park through that gate I think of Jim.

I realize I'm not really mourning his passing. It's not grief I feel. It's not like we were close, but I was fond of him. So it's weird yet nice that I see these things that remind me of him in gentle ways. He was, after all, a gentle man.

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