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Boy, do I wish I got this email from you a few months ago.
It was a month ago today that my mother passed away. If she had lived, she would have liked the rhyming scheme of that last sentence, but would have been totally freaked that I was writing about her death. If it was grammatically incorrect she would have told me so and fixed it for me. I just have the grammar checker in Microsoft Word now, and it's nowhere near as warm, colorful, and caring as my mom. No matter how much I want to try to believe that the appearance of those little green squiggly lines were generated by her in the Heaven that she believed in, my theology is strictly in the materialist "when it's over it's over, and it smells real bad" school. In hindsight, my mom was a materialist as well, but more in the "she who dies with the most toys wins" vein. I'll get to that later.
She was a huge supporter of everything I wrote from the simple "Return to Sender" that I inevitably scrawled on the letters she wrote to me asking why I never wrote to her, right on up to my autobiography-in-progress. I think the full graphic detail of the "Sex With Lepers" chapter probably gave her the aneurysm that did her in. I can imagine the blood clot now, travelling from her eyes processing that very text in the form of a big lump, crawling up her forehead like in those old Tom and Jerry cartoons where Jerry would be scurrying under an area rug followed quickly by Tom toting whatever household object he was pursuing the mouse with at the time.
She was a very caring woman who was loved by all those around her. She had many friends, and no enemies save for any girl I brought home who she felt wasn't good enough for me (which was all of them), and the FBI. She had hopelessly high expectations of the former, and thanks to a vicious letter written to Alan Greenspan, she brought the inquiries of the latter. Only the aforementioned, my father, and I saw this ugly side of her. No one else did, so she managed to keep her genuine persona of sweetness and light intact for all others around her, which was probably for the best. I forgot: I'm sure she's on a lot of shit-lists of various waiters and waitresses around Manhattan for pushing a little too far, but those people have hair-triggers. I don't know if she could be held personally responsible for any duress they experienced.
I digress. Even though she was an extremely nice person, she had one major fault. It's a sickness that I unfortunately see in myself as well, anytime I walk into a store that pedals shiny metal electronic objects. The sickness of spending, acquiring, and hoarding. Where most people in recent months have been stocking up on water and food to survive The Worst, my mom would simply be the best dressed woman in the local fallout shelter. She would emerge after the radiation levels dropped, looking as she did when she went in, while everyone else would look like they actually went through the catastrophic unnatural disaster that they did. Speaking of which, if you ever need a Band-Aid, stick of deodorant, or any item from the entire line of Channel make-up, please feel free to email me back here at this address, and we can work something out. She left enough toiletries, first-aid products, and beauty aids to bandage all the impending injuries in Iraq (on both sides), unclog their sandy pores, and cover up any unsightly wounds in case if they feel self-conscious in front of their brothers in arms.
When going through her things, we found a photo album. When we opened it up we were shocked not to discover pictures, but credit cards. Approximately 120 of them. How she got that many we'll never know, and what she spent $650,000 in credit on is a mystery. If credit given is credit due, then every banking executive in America must have been indebted to my mom. At first I thought that maybe she was blackmailing these people somehow, but my mother was a very intelligent woman, so I doubt she would collect her ransom in credit and not cash.
Sure we have some evidence of where the money went. Yes, she did pay off my college loans, and for 10 years at $15,000 a pop, that did turn out to be a large sum. Then there was the e-mail I found from Amazon.com's CEO. He was thanking her for being such a good customer, that they had to close down for two days to restock after one of her sprees. But wait, there's more!
After a few weeks, we found a second apartment... a storage apartment. One cheap 3 bedroom place which would have been a luxurious dwelling to most, but merely the largest walk-in closet you've ever conceived of to my mom. There might be more secret stashes out there, I don't know. The good news is that I'm comforted by the fact that should I ever become homeless, I can build a spacious house out of the shoeboxes from the "shoe bedroom".
So the long and the short of it is that she racked up a huge debt. We seriously thought of cheap funeral alternatives like sticking her feet in cement and giving her a mafia-style send off into the East River or shooting her out of a high-powered circus cannon into the sun. While these ideas would have made for a highly amusing service, they were quite unfeasible for either legal or technically impossible reasons, not to mention totally lacking in dignity.
So to remedy the situation. My father and I went to Atlantic City where we boozed it up and gingerly made cautious 10 dollar bets to raise the money we needed for a proper funeral. Talk about a lack of dignity! 14 hours later, having made only $300 bucks and being completely loaded, we picked the pockets of about five blind-drunk Japanese businessmen to make up the difference. Neither of us remember doing that, but the wallets we found the next morning when we woke up in a ditch off the New Jersey Turnpike told the story loud and clear.
We had the service two days later and it was very nice. Just how my mom would have wanted it. It consisted of a small group of family paying their respects in a quick ceremony. Just yesterday we got the form from the funeral parlor asking us what we wanted to put on her grave. It will read as follows:
Irene Stokvis Land
Loving wife, mother, sister, and avid pet owner.
She went to The Great Beyond
and all she got was this lousy headstone.
In ancient Egypt, dead pharaohs were buried with their possessions with the hopes that they could "take it with them". If we were to do that with my mom, we'd have to construct a large basement under her neighbors at the cemetery. I think we got off very easy. Instead my dad and I are going to have a huge eBay bonanza. I'll give you a link when we have it set up.
So now that you know my story, I'm going to ask you a favor, because your email has come along too little, too late. Is it possible to buy life insurance from you retroactively? Maybe you could pretend that the paperwork got lost. Actually, here, let's do it this way:
To Whom It May Concern,
My mother applied for life insurance with your company five years ago. I realize that this inquiry is tardy, but she never heard back from you, and she paid you a ridiculous amount of money. Unfortunately she has also recently passed away. If you can't find her account, please simply deduct the past five years worth of payments from your most expensive policy and send the difference to me, Jonathan Land, her son and beneficiary.
If you'd like, I can get you some free advertising by personally chiseling your company's name into the top of my mother's headstone.
I thank you in advance, and despite her shortcomings, I'd have to say that it's unfortunate you never responded to her because you missed out on making the acquaintance of a truly remarkable human being.