Forward, Backward, Inside Out

This is not an ideal subject for the first post in far, far too long – but like the metaphorical elephant in any given room, there’s not really a way around it.

It’s also, technically, news that I’ve posted already, in that the permanent memorial page went live a few days ago. Specifically: my mother, Sally Bunnell, passed away last week, less than a month short of her 91st birthday.

Here in Beaverton, Oregon, that’s an event that arguably has a degree of news value. The permanent page hits the highlights – she held elective office, initially on Beaverton’s school board, later on similar county-wide and regional boards, and led or helped lead several other noteworthy local community institutions for the better part of two more decades before, after – and during – her board service. And with the sole exception of four years during which she was Education Director of the nonprofit Oregon Historical Society, every one of her numerous contributions and accomplishments was made as an unpaid volunteer.

You’d be justified in wondering, given the sheer number of hours she put in for her various boards, forums, societies, etc., whether I actually got to see much of Mother once I was living on my own. In fact, we spent quite a bit of time together – besides regular Sunday family dinners and summer trips to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I also found myself frequently drawn in as an informal consultant, editor, and occasionally ghost-writer in connection with one or another project with which she’d become involved. Nor was this a one-sided bargain. Over the years, looking over her shoulder on all those projects taught me a great deal about the mechanics of getting things done in volunteer organizations – knowledge that proved useful when I found myself in similar roles in both the fannish and professional science fiction communities.

The Sunday dinners continued even after my father’s passing a few years ago – in part, I admit, because Mother’s initial assisted-living community ran a superior dining room, and as a one-person household, an excuse to avoid cooking was always welcome. And if my visits grew less frequent after she transitioned into memory care, it was in part because I now have most of Mother’s written memories – not to mention a small but select part of the library-sized collection of regional history books she and my father accumulated – right here in my home office.1

The week just ended has been both busy and quiet – the immediate arrangements are mostly in hand, but haven’t felt unduly rushed. My brother is up from California to help deal with the more complex aspects, and I have enough time away from work both to get things done and to reflect on what moving forward will look like. There will be memorial events – but not till summer, to allow the California contingent to finish their school years in good order. That will also give me further time to gather my own thoughts and memories.

And of course, I’ll have this number from Pippin on my bedside music player for the next few weeks, because I’m one of those people who firmly believes that there’s no trouble that can’t be solved via the proper application of Broadway musical therapy.

“Library-sized” is not an exaggeration. Per my parents’ instructions, David and I boxed up their accumulated book collection after Father passed, and the archival staff at Whitman College sent a truck over from Walla Walla to pick it up – amounting to 230-odd boxes, which the driver estimated at a total weight of something over ten thousand pounds.