Friday, October 16, 2015


I am off to Boston, to await my flight. Finally. 

Arrived USA July 22nd. Departing October 16th. A long time to be away. On the other hand, a short time, in which a great deal has been accomplished. I could look at it that way. If I choose. I suppose. 

I have taken this journey as far as I can take it, for the moment. 

I have de-Pegged and de-Odded the house. 

Their personal effects have all found good, appreciative and welcoming homes.

Their ashes have been interred in Minnesota, under the rhododendrons in Becket along with collies too numerous to mention, plus a bit of a suicide victim named Peter Kip. A small amount of Peg is in Seattle, to be interred, at her direction, with a loving fan and his wife when it is "their" time. A small Florentine gilt box of her and my father are in my hand luggage, awaiting scattering in England.

Anything important to Peg's stupendous career has been preserved in perpetuity at the University of Oregon Libraries, not counting her portrait, currently still in the living room but which will be shipped there. And anything sent to UO has been scanned or photographed and two digital copies made of her entire archive. 

Anything of interest and worth preserving of a family nature has been shipped to The Dodge County Historical Society in Mantorville, MN. 

The house has been emptied of All Things Uninteresting or Saleable, the majority of saleable items now up in Williamstown and, under the care and professional guidance of Louise, going on eBay, with Peg's provenance, even as I write. 

The house has been cleaned, top to bottom; windows, including hard-to-get-at storms and screens, shine. Inside and out. Carpets up, floors sparkle. Nail holes filled, no small feat, Peg O'the Hammer having been hard at work for 45 years moving picture frames every 20 minutes. Walls are painted. Woodwork painted. Outside trim painted, both stories. Garden cleared. Trees cut, limbed, hauled off. Fridges and freezers emptied. Ovens cleaned. The furnace has a new motor. The septic and leach tanks being pumped. Ancient TV antennas down and slates replaced on roof. 

I am done. With the house. It is on the market. 

A few issues remain, as yet unresolved. Travelers insurance is threatening to stop providing Home-owners because I don't live there full time and because the house is on the market. I may get a buyer, I may not. I may take it off the market and do holiday lets. I may not. Amazing Ken is in residence to act as caretaker. Free of charge. He will pay 1/3 to 1/2 of utility bills. For as long as he lasts there. Ken is capable and good at what he does. And likes living in the country. And keeping the heat at 50. Thank fucking Christ.

Outside Bob will work two more days, making me new outside bilco doors to the basement. He will then remain only "on call", should he be needed.

Dominick, for whom I wrote a letter of recommendation, has found employment in the health care line. He found that he enjoyed it (believe it or not).

Terri, who held both my parents as they died, is taking some time off to move into a new apartment. 

Bonnie's hours have been reduced to two short days a week for the moment. She will stay in charge of all matters financial and cleaning, and get a jump on sorting out this year's taxes. With Ken, she will prepare the house for viewings (if we get any). She is hoping to find more permanent work at a legal firm in town. 

I have had help from both friends and strangers. I will be eternally grateful to both. It is sometimes rather surprising who shows up at your door in times of crisis, and who doesn't; those you were sure would be there for you in a heartbeat, you don't hear dick from, and those you never expected to see in a million years are suddenly rolling up their sleeves. It's been revealing, this whole thing. About friends and about myself. 

Story. One which I cannot recall if I've told already but too bad: 

Last March when I was here and Peg was in the hospital, I happened upon some sparkly beads in the dining room, looped round the bronze head of a Greek reproduction statue of Peg's. "Boy On A Dolphin". I ignored it, rolling my eyes, assuming it was yet more peculiar Peg "decor". 

After she died, I again came upon it, and, now in Shoveling Mode, said "What the fuck is this anyway??" 

I held up the long string of crystal beads to show Bonnie and Terri. Both looked up from lunch, surprised.

"Why, they're--yours. It's a necklace. Your mother made it for you. Didn't you know?"

Peg? Made me a string of beads? A necklace? Made me anything besides maybe pot roast? 

"You're kidding. Really? Why?"

"She had us all sitting here at the butcher block stringing and stringing--oh, for days. She had a pattern she liked and we had to follow it, then she changed her mind and wanted a new pattern, then we ran of out the pink ones and--she never gave it to you?"


"She said she wanted to replace the one you lost."

I looked blank. 

"When you were a little girl. The one she had made out of your tears, she said."

And suddenly I--went to pieces. Utterly. It all came down on me in that one moment. All the months and months of "giving up" my life at home to be with my parents, to look after them, their deaths, their ashes. Everything.

When I was a little girl, and I was upset over something, or had hurt myself, Peg always managed to make me stop crying. 

"Wait--wait--" she said, sounding excited, as the tears rolled down my cheeks. "Let me get it, let me get it--oh! That was a big one! Here, give me another one--I need another big one now--" and so on until I was so fascinated by someone putting tears in a pocket or wallet or dish or whatever was handy--that I stopped wailing. 

"I'm going to make them into a necklace for you," Peg explained. This also fascinated me. One day she returned off the train from New York and handed me a box, and in the box was a string of little clear irridescent beads. My necklace of tears. 

Which, not surprisingly, I mislaid at some point in my life. 

And now my mother has made me another one.

Terri took it away so her crafts friend Amy could put a clasp on it, whereupon Amy promptly mislaid it and it remained lost, much to all our distress, until yesterday. As I was loading my pile of suitcases in the car to head to the airport, Bonnie drove in the drive, excitedly waving it out the window.

Thank you, Mama. 

And of course Daddy. Who probably paid for it.

So. That's it. After over two years of WAITING FOR GOD KNOWS, I'm done. 

Although I am, of course, still waiting. But at least with my tears around my neck now, instead of running down it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


I seem to only sit down when I am in the car. Yesterday the borrowed Saab started right up, every time, which thrilled me, so as a reward I put the top down, all the way home from Williamstown, about 45 min. Weather glorious until I hit Hinsdale, which is in shadow behind the mountain as the sun sets and the temperature suddenly went from 75 (honest) to about minus forty, and me with no sweater and hair blowing madly and, yes, looking extremely cool, granted, barreling along Rte 8, but had to pried out from behind the wheel when I got home, being frozen into fourth gear.

So. The countdown begins. One bag packed, three to go. 1st extra bag on Virgin is £55, the next is £120. Don't ask about the third. I feel the need to get all my stuff OUT of here. It's been accumulating, after all, since 1970. I have left clothes in my closet here, and my chest of drawers, for the last 20 years. Goodwill did very well out of me (not to mention Peg and Odd) but there is still--well. 20 years worth. And anything Peg-Important I will have to hand carry. DVD one-offs, gold jewelry, gold coins, scrapbooks, essentials like maple-bacon flavored Snyder's pretzel pieces for my son...Pack Mule Inc.

The Hillbillies ring every day. I never recognize Donald's voice and sadly he no longer feels the need to identify himself:

PAUSE "Er.."
"It's me!"
PAUSE  "Er.."
"It's Don!!!!!"
"Oh. Hello, Donald."
"I was wondering if you wanted me to plow the drive."
" it snowing?" [It's 74 degrees out]
"Ha ha!!! No!!! I mean this winter!!!!!"
"Right. Well. Let me see what Delaney charges and---"
"Whatever he charges I will charge half of that! HALF!!"
"Oh. Well. The thing is, whoever plows the drive I need to be able to count on, see, I can't have your truck breaking down [as it does every fucking day] or needing an axle or--"
"All I need is $500 and I'm getting the new transmission and Russell and I will be putting it in! Like tomorrow. And if it breaks, I have snowblowers!"
"It's kind of a long driveway for snowblowers, Donald. Like sweeping the Mass Pike with a toothbrush."
"Ha ha ha!!! Toothbrush!!! Hey! Me and Russel'll be coming down to get the ladder if Ken's done with it. Bout ten minutes. We don't need paying or nuthin. Just a 30 case o'Bud!!! (beer: Budweiser)

So, Ken is indeed done with Don's ladder, having washed then repainted the trim on every window in the house (plus washed it), plus did the eaves trim and the back and front door and yesterday and today has been hard at work scraping and painting the laundry room, pantry, and back entry, formerly red, now white, and all French doors. Saturday he starts work for my friend David J in Middlefield putting up sheetrock, whatever that is, and sticking in insulation made from recycled blue jeans. I'll be outta here by then. If I can get past Don and his snowblower blockade in the driveway.

I feel--dazed. Went for a spa pedicure and gel manicure today, treated myself, and sat there in the chair having my feet and calves rubbed as I watched some endless House Restore program on the big TV at the Vietnamese nail parlor--and realized tears were running down my cheeks. For no reason in particular, they just started and didn't stop until I got to the Big Y supermarket for loo paper and Lysol Wipes and Cinch garbage bags (I remember when I use to go shoe and handbag shopping) and I came out pushing my cart and the rain had stopped and there was an enormous rainbow that went from one mountain to the other and, I tell you, with the blazing fall colors behind it, it stopped me in my tracks. And, more good news, the Saab started for me, first time. I think it feels sorry for me.

I miss sitting here and not hearing the weather channel and Turner Classic movies. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I don't care to do this every day--getting the place spotless and clutter-less for potential buyers--so just as well am heading out of here on Thursday. 

Spent half of yesterday raking leaves, pine needles, pachysandra, myrtle, driveway, paths, front steps, anything else that needed raking, my hair, and today of course am living on Advil. Hillbillies arrived at 9 AM to de-needle the quarter of a mile long drive. Looked good for about 20 min, then the buggers started falling again. 

Showed a couple from Greenwich round at 10. Actually had met him last night at a neighbors' cookout round the fire pit, didn't make the connection. They won't buy, too big, but they'd be interested in renting weekends and so on. It may come to this. Then showed 6 New Yorkers around at 1, led by Daniel, proprietor of The Dreamaway Lodge. Not sure what they have in mind, all theatre types or teachers, so how they could afford this I don't know, they were talking about "all buying a place together", which sounds like a disaster to me but the fun part was discovering that one of them lived at 12 Gramercy Park, where my mother lived in NY from 1944 - 1964.

Wish she still had it. She paid $90 per month, rent control. Imagine it must be rather more these days.

Dinner and overnight guests, then I start the final countdown. Have spent 2 days digitally organizing Peg's archive, all that I've been scanning and copying and photographing for the past 5 years. Only scratched the surface. Would like to at least break the back of it before I go home and lose interest.

I went to see my 95 year old friend Jeanette Roosevelt (FDR's grandson's wife), at Sunset House,  the nursing home division of Kimball Farms Retirement Village. Broke my heart. Been to see her 3 or 4 times since July, but she was sleeping. This time though the nurse said to wake her, so I did. She was now sharing a room with a lady whose ankles are so fat she can't stand. I sat on Jeanette's bed, and held her hand and said her name, she opened her eyes, they lit up. I knew at once she knew me, asked about Alex and DK and...Peg. She didn't know. No one had told her. We both cried. 

I spent the rest of the day depressed--nursing homes do that to you just going in and out the door, imagine what it's like having to live there. And this is a NICE one. Jesus. So I came home and raked myself senseless, delighted for the invite two houses away, which ended up being the perfect tonic. Met lovely, really lovely people, including beautiful and about to give birth any second Danelle, who was Peg's Visiting Nurse physio, and when she recognized me in the dark, came over and threw her arms around me (almost sending both of us into the fire pit) saying how sorry she was about Peg, how she adored her. Her husband is a real estate lawyer. Offered his help if I need it. Extremely kind and they left fortunately before I had to go off and find towels and get the water boiling in the kitchen.

Sunny and crisp. The colors are superb this year, the sugar maples turning redder every day. (See how Brit I've become, talking about weather?)

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Mine, not the house's. Ellyn my father's Hospice nurse--also a qualified masseuse, how very convenient, who worked at Canyon Ranch for seven years--came by at 6 PM with her table and oils and went to work on me up in my sitting room. Bliss.  Refused to charge. Said I needed it. Wants to give me another before I leave. 

Today I went for full highlights and cut at Tina's, Peg's Italian hairdresser who told Peg to get the Italian Channel from Dish Satellite costing nine million dollars and a stupid dish sticking up like a lollipop on the front terrace. I have in fact had some other issues with her on earlier visits, when I left looking orange, but this time, possibly because I didn't give a fuck--just needed the bloody stuff hacked off and brightened--she did a bang-up job. And all for $75.

So let's see, on the WHAT'S LEFT IN THE HOUSE FRONT, have found a vintage place that wants Peg's party dresses, U of Oregon wants Peg's portrait, which I am thrilled about because I sure don't, I have an electrician lined up to re-wire the bar fridge, the only one we have working now, the other two having been cleaned and turned off. This is the "bar" fridge Outside Bob has wired to the generator, which is in fact a good thing, but (in fact at Bob's urging) I need the wiring to look like someone professional did it. I don't need the house catching fire. Especially since I've spent the afternoon on the phone talking to insurance companies re the homeowners policy here which strike me as outrageous at $400 per month. 

I feel the need to report that, as I write, Amazing Ken, over on the other side of the room, is cleaning the oven.  This is after spending the day suspended over a slate roof cleaning a hard-to-get-at window, cleaning the mildew from the trim and sill, and painting the sucker. It was actually Bonnie who started the oven cleaning, but then got the time wrong and realized she'd be gone by the time the self-lock unlocked itself. So Ken took over. Bonnie has also cleaned the big oven in the big kitchen. It occurred to me that with all this oven cleaning going on, with temperatures exceeding 500 degrees or something hot-sounding, I might have avoided all the Dery's Funeral Hone ashes confusion by doing it myself.

I am, in a word, two words, near collapse. So, really, the only thing I need to make transformation complete, besides manicure and pedicure, is to be whisked and whirled back to Kansas.

And now I believe an employee is trying on a scam involving $7500, which saddens me. Greatly. Tomorrow will be on the phone to lawyers and tax accountants. Just what I need. 

I'd cry myself to sleep if I didn't have to go watch a dumb movie with Ken.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


It didn't work out with the old girlfriend in Boston. Apparently around 5 PM she looked at her watch and said hm,  guess you'd better get going if you want to be back in Becket before dark. Except the trouble was, Ken couldn't reach me--sitting nice and cozy in the warm barn in Middlefield, WITH my phones next to me on the dining table, while we waited for 2 HOUR BARBECUE RIBS to cook, which I'd thought were the Warm Me Up Only 15 minute jobs when I bought them--anyhow Ken, getting no reply, and having no key, had to spend the night at the Super 8 Motel in Lee. I felt badly the next day when I found out. At least he was warmer than he'd have been at the house, down to 40 that night.

So. Ken is back. Indefinitely. He is going to look for jobs locally. I have written him a letter of recommendation. Did well as one for Bonnie and Dominick. I basically write one for anyone who asks these days. Will be writing Paul the Furnace Repair Guy who showed today, one any day now. Paul has shown Ken how to by pass the automatic water feed and how to fill the furnace manually whenever it needs water. (I in fact already know how to do this, would you believe. My father showed me 40 years ago. And you never forget how to fill a furnace.)  

So, basically, all you have to do now, instead of ignoring the whole thing and getting heat on demand by shoving the thermostat in the den up or down--is get a flashlight, and better shoes on, and go down the scary rickety stairs to the basement, hanging onto the bannister, which is in fact a maple tree branch my grandfather gerry-rigged years ago--turn right, stare at the furnace, walk gingerly over to it, avoiding dead mice in traps, and shove a certain lever to the right (or maybe left) and turn another thing the other way (let me know if I'm getting too technical) and check that the water level has then come up to where it should: where the black magic marker line is on the glass thing behind the furnace. 

Piece of cake. Anyhow we have heat.

Ken had second-coated painting Odd's office, which Outside Bob started. He has also put nice brass numbers on the new classy black non-beige plastic mailbox he installed yesterday. He also took down the 70s track lighting in the kitchen with the track lights covered in brown "wood-grain" contact paper. He made a salad. And hummus (with a ton of garlic)

I meanwhile, working my way through the freezer, as ever  have used 2 packets of stewing beef to create a carbonnade of boeuf, which should be ok by tomorrow. I used freezer-found chicken breasts to make chicken piccata yesterday. Not much left in there except some maple-flavour breakfast sausages, 1 filet steak, 1 lamb chop. Ice. Half a package of Eggo Waffles.

I then met friend Wendy from Vermont in Lee, to hand over 4 Norwegian cookbooks and two framed Norsk items, a map and a poster. That I don't want or need. Raced home in time to meet Louise, here to collect the last of the eBay stuff, including a mink coat and a mink and silver fox jacket hat belonged to Ken's wife Pam. 

I want this jacket, big time. 

Seriously. NEED it. Require it.  Desire it. Feel I deserve it. It's fantastic and a perfect fit. Will see what the furrier appraises it at. Or if Ken decides he needs to give it to me because I make such great carbonnade. Or if DK reads this post and secretly contacts Louise and does a deal. Because I'm so wonderful and love it and need it and deserve it, as I said. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015


So the furnace stopped working on Friday night. Dave the Cesco repairman came Saturday at 3. Emptied 6 buckets of water from the furnace. Got it back running. Said I'd have no problem with it but it was due for a service, I should do it just cuz. An hour and a half after he left the furnace went off and stayed off. Saturday night was a two duvet night. House rather parky this morning. I stood, teeth chattering, watching out the bathroom window as Amazing Kan loaded his car at 7:30 and headed east on the Pike to Waltham, near Boston, to a former girlfriend's. I think to see if she'd take him in. He is hopeful. Even though he ran out on her 20 years ago and left her with his half of the rent to pay. I told him not to arrive looking like the Beverly Hillbillies with a full station wagon, it might put her off. But he appears to have taken everything except his desktop Mac and 2 mink jackets belonging to his dead wife. And half a bag of Faro, whatever that is, and some chick peas in the fridge. And his organic sesame whatever health bread. And some wheat germ cereal that's like eating bark mulch.

My guess is he will be back. And if not, I can wear the coats, which believe me crossed my mind as I sat blue-fingered in the kitchen today.

I have now scanned all 390 Peg-signed scripts for the MY FILE. Bollocks to Oregon. These are my babies. To sell. Catalogued them. Put them onto the external hard drive. Bought a sandwich at the General Store. Schmoozed with the locals a bit (didn't take long). Bought a sweatshirt that says "Becket General Store" with a small line drawing of it, so I remember this place when I get back to England and cursing Peg and Odd for dumping a house with a dead furnace on me and a septic system THAT FAILED TITLE 5. Yes. Perfect. The bad news. But expected. So that'll be $30,000. And a new furnace, that sounds cheap.

And Bonnie has vertigo and in bed for Day Three.

I am now at my friend David's barn-that-is-actually-a-house, 10 minutes away. It is warm. I have been given a vodka & tonic. A place to type. Tony Bennett is playing. Ribs in the oven. I am feeling better. Not great, but better. Slightly. 

I have booked my ticket home. A week from Friday. No charge apparently for changing flight dates because Peg died. I knew I'd find a plus in all this.

Thursday, October 1, 2015


$30,000 is what it's going to cost me. New septic system. Odd should have dealt with this. He didn't. (Like how I'm annoyed at a man, my dad no less, because he had a stroke or 5 and LEFT THIS TO ME, who doesn't KNOW from fucking septic systems..?)

Am very very very--no I mean really VERY low. 

The only good news re the septic system is that it will never back up, we're far too far up the hill on a ledge for it to ever do so. So can shower and flush at leisure. No worries until I sell, please God. Which is when all this Title 5 crap, no pun intended, has to be taken into account. 

The soil guys also managed to dig up half the back lawn looking for the septic tank, which they assured me was "only ten feet away from the house, tops," and I assured them NO WAY was it in the back lawn, my father THE AVID GARDENER never would have countenanced that, I was sure it was way down the hill in the woods somewhere. Which it indeed turned out to be. Bill the Septic Guy, who, (2 hrs of hitting rock ledge and fucking up grass later)  stopped looking at me like a dumb female, has now made me President CEO of Soil & Septic Tanks INC or whatever his company is. Should I choose to ever re-think my existence in England and move here permanently, I'd have a job divining septic tanks. Who knew I had such talents.

Ken is now upstairs at 10 PM scraping wallpaper off my father's office. He has made a run to Pittsfield, not only not gotten lost, but found a box in which to ship Peg's typewriter table, a wood post on which to install my new non-icky-beige-plastic mailbox, replacing the existing one with a nice black metal one I bought yesterday (but didn't think  further than "black" or "nice" towards posts, ] say) gone to Home Depot for more bubble and tape, and Price Chopper for you name it. And now I am happy to let him scrape wallpaper while I sit down here listening to scraping. Almost.

I might have had too much red wine. 

Bonnie and I celebrated finishing the Last Of The Oregon Boxes (like Last Of The Mohicans but with marginally fewer missing scalps) with a lovely California merlot, which I bought knowing nothing about California merlots,  but am now a fan. We sat remembering Peg and her last days, and I was in floods. Reading her fan mail again today, as I was packing it. Christ she was so loved and admired and adored. Like some sitcom God. I hope I told her enough how proud I was of her.  I hope I did. I'm not sure. Probably not.

Good news is Heidi, Terri's beagle peed on the vinyl laundry room floor today instead of a Persian rug. Terri who came to help scan Ethel &Albert TV scripts. Because I am fucking sick of it and will pay anything at this point for help.

All I hear is the scraping of wallpaper upstairs. I will now tell him to go to bed. Maybe I will too. (Not together.)