Sunday, September 28, 2014

St Louis

I am on the plane, returning from a week spent in St Louis, preparing my mom's apartment for sale. I have sorted through books, papers, photos; opened drawers one last time; wandered through closets; stood in the office lost in thought.

I have packed boxes and hauled them to the car, and from the car to FedEx. Photos and papers have been shipped to New Hampshire. The photos will be digitized and preserved, the old postcards written by my grandfather to my grandmother in German during the First World War will be translated, old letters and papers filed away. Bills, tax forms, condo titles will be filed where I can access them easily until the estate is settled.

Shipped to Cody: a large chrome vise; to Daniel: a Shofer; to Sarah: a Le Creuset casserole; to Susan: a watercolor by Sandy Schultz. I'm keeping an oil painting of klezmer musicians by an Israeli artist. I want to hang it somewhere where I will be able to see it frequently; it reminds me of my parents.

An estate sale is planned for this weekend. I am a bit uneasy about it all. We have been stiffed by a painter who took our money and now says he can't do the work, and can't return the money either. We're threatening him with the police if he doesn't return the advance we gave him, but I'm not holding out a lot of hope. The estate sale people took something out of the sale and gave it to a friend of theirs without our permission. Fortunately I noticed that it was missing and demanded its return, but even so, how can I trust them now, to sell things in good faith, and give us an accurate accounting of the proceeds? I wish now that I would be there for the sale, but I won't. I've asked a few people to stop by and let me know if anything seems amiss, but I suppose it's out of my hands. At least they will haul away anything that doesn't sell and give it to charity. That's worth something, I suppose.

Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah. After taking one last box to FedEx I went to services at CRC, my mother's wonderful temple. They have a no ticket policy so anyone can attend and their high holiday services draw unaffiliated Jews from all over St Louis. I love their services. Their have a dynamic choir and a charismatic rabbi, Susan Talve, who was so kind and caring to my mother and all of us at the end.

I'm surprised by how emotional this is for me. I miss my mom sharply, and the prayers are more meaningful than they usually are. I sadly stand with the people who have lost a loved one for Kaddish, the prayer for the dead. It's just hard.

One night I meet my cousin Michael for a drink at at Brio's. One day I meet my friend Sarah for lunch at Chipotle one more time. One evening I go to dinner at Lester's with my Aunt Ray, my Uncle Al, their grandson Teddy, and his girlfriend Chris. These are old habits, things I have done so many times over the years, visiting my parents and later my mom.

My strongest connection to St Louis has been broken. But St Louis is where I was born, and where I spent the first 18 years of my life. It's where my parents lived for 60 years of married life, and where my mother ended her days on earth. A childhood in University City.  Teenage years in Creve Coeur. Cardinal games at the old Busch Stadium. Sledding on Art Hill. The Art Museum. The Zoo. The Planetarium.

The apartment building on Heman Avenue that my grandmother owned. The house on Judson Manor that my parents built. The condo on Oxford Hill where they moved for their last years.

Delmar, Skinker, Kingshighway Blvd. Olive, Ladue, Clayton Road. Lindbergh, Spoede, Woods Mill Road.

Creve Coeur, Frontenac, Webster Groves. Kirkwood, Bridgeton, St Charles. Wentzville, O'Fallon, Ballwin.

If I start listing all the memories that come to my mind this post will go on forever. I didn't expect to feel so sad to say goodbye to STL as a frequent destination, but I do. I said at the beginning of this piece that my connection to St. Louis has been broken and of course it has. Broken, but not forgotten. My habits will change, just like the daily phone calls to my mother no longer take place, the trips to Missouri every three or four months are over too. And will I really miss it? The heat, the traffic, the strip malls? Well yes, I will. I'll admit it. I'll miss you St Louis, very much.

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