My plan is to continue podcasting but it's unlikely, I think, for me to have the necessary time until somewhere in the Spring.
The memorial service for my parents at Westmoreland Church went great. About 60-65 people showed up. One lady flew in from LA. Several came down from NYC. Quite a few from surrounding states. A good mix. All ages. One young lady in her thirties spoke of her friendship with my mom and one of my dad's friends who's ninety five (a doctor) showed up in his wheelchair. Between the live music, poetry readings, personal remembrances, the minister's remarks, the flowers, and refreshment afterward in the church parlor (catered by Balducci's), it was sort of like the parties that my parents used to throw. Everyone enjoyed themselves and I feel like it was a job well done.
Next I'm organizing a smaller gravesite memorial service at my mom's family plot in Mattoon, Illinois, where I'll inter some of both their ashes. That'll be in mid-November. I'll drive from DC, on the way picking up Ida-Mae, a ninety year old first cousin of my mom's. I'm actually looking forward to the trip.
Meanwhile I'll pay my mom's estate tax, either late this month or in early November. If my accountant is right in his provisional estimate the tax bill will be much less (much being in six figures) than what I'd expected. Yea!
It's a strange thing going through boxes and boxes of old papers. My parents both were quasi-hoarders and kept all kinds of things, in no particular order. I can't throw away anything in bulk because tucked in here or there may be old photographs, old letters, old whatever that I want to keep. And old unexpected things.
I'd always known, for example, that my mom had worked at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials after the war. And that later on she'd worked for Army Intelligence in Trieste, where she married my dad who was on his first tour in the foreign service. What I did not know, and what she'd never mentioned, for some reason, was what she'd done between times. But she'd kept her government personnel actions in an old manila folder, which gave hints of her activities. As a matter of idle curiosity I was looking through these documents in preparation for throwing them out when I happened to notice on a personnel action from Trieste a notation that said if information on her service with the CIA was needed, for the commanding general in Trieste to contact the CIA personnel office. Oh! Going further back in the folder I found a letter from the CIA welcoming her to the organization, specifying her salary, etc. And then, as I'm trying to fit the pieces together, I'm wondering what she was doing one summer taking a Russian program at Middlebury College. And whether that odd fact might account, it occurred to me, for the Russians having once denied my dad a visa to visit Saint Petersburg, something I remember had annoyed him. There's a letter from my mom resigning her position at CIA so as to marry my dad, but now I'm wondering whether, indeed, she continued her work in some way and/or why she never talked about it.
Is it that the Agency inculcates a culture of secrecy or that it hires people who are secretive? It could be either or both. Separately, cousin Ida-Mae told me an interesting story about my mom that I hadn't known. My mom's mom, Gertrude, was one of thirteen children, ten girls and three boys. When Gertrude gave birth to my mom she gave her to one of the sisters, Aunt Emma, for — as near as I can now deduce — at least two years and quite possibly much longer. Could this account, I'm wondering, for my mom's unwillingness to talk about her early life on the farm? Whenever I'd ask her what it was like growing up she'd change the subject. It's not that they were poor farmers during the Depression and had to spread the kids around; her family was actually quite prosperous. Besides, my mom had two older brothers who weren't given away, even temporarily. Something was not quite right.
My dad, also, never talked about his childhood. Because, I suppose, he was an only child and his mom abandoned the family when he was five. So his dad's mother raised him. I may have heard half a dozen stories from him about his upbringing. More than my mom proffered but not by much. Judging from his old photos, however, he was a fairly happy kid while my mom's old photos often, but not always, show someone a bit on the wary side.
For all of that both my parents successfully reinvented themselves as young adults, separately and together, and had, to be honest, quite exciting (the word glamorous even comes to mind), productive, international lives.
I wish I'd known them better!