Monday, June 20, 2011

A Tale of Two Calls

As Debbie knelt down and placed two long stem roses…one white and one red, into the rectangular hole on top of the two urns, it was finally over. What had started five years earlier with a phone call while I was in prison was ending in a way that I had never expected.

It was early June in 2006 and I remember the announcement that came across the “yard” as I was walking back from my job assignment in the chapel.

“Patrick Lyons, report to your counselor’s office immediately.”

I didn’t often hear my name broadcast over the PA system and my heart quickened when I heard my name called. I walked into the unit and took a quick right and knocked on the counselor’s door. She looked up and motioned me to sit down.

“Do you have a brother named Geoffrey Lyons”, she asked.

My mind raced as I told her that “yes, I did” and she reached over and picked up the phone and started dialing without saying another word. I sat quietly and watched, wondering what was going on. A moment later she handed me the phone and I listened. After a couple of rings, I heard my younger brother’s voice on the other end.

I asked if everything was OK and he briefly told me that our mom had been moved to hospice and the doctors gave her less than two weeks to live. I was dumbstruck for a moment. I knew that mom was in the nursing home but had no idea that her health had been failing. I asked a few questions as the counselor sat quietly across the desk…watching and listening. He said that he would call when she had passed away and wondered if I would be able to make it home for the funeral. I told him that I would look into it and let him know.

We hung up and I quietly handed the phone back to the counselor. She said that we was very sorry and that if Geoff called back, she would let me know immediately and see what my procedures would be to get a short-term release from prison to go to my mom’s funeral. It became apparent very quickly that I would not receive permission from the prison to go home and in my mind, I accepted the fact that I would never see my mom again.

Days turned to weeks and weeks to months as mom got better. When I was released from prison 14 months later, she was back in the nursing home. The doctors had adjusted her medications and she had regained her strength. When I visited her when I got back, she never did recognize me. She would smile and appreciate the fact that “a nice man” was coming to visit and would smile and giggle when I would give her a kiss good-bye. When I visited with Geoff, he would tell her that “Mark” was her to visit and she would smile and nod, but there was never a glimmer of recognition.

Mom went into hospice again last month. As I was leaving work for lunch two weeks ago today, my phone rang and it was Geoff. I asked how he was doing and he said that he had just received a phone call from the nursing home.

“I got a message from the nursing home to call them. Mom passed away at 5 minutes to twelve today”, he said quietly. I could hear the pain, and a little anger in his voice…not only from the loss but the way that he had received the news. I asked if he was OK and he acknowledged that he was and said that he would get me more information when he could.
My mind was momentarily numb as I continued to drive. It’s not that it wasn’t unexpected…mom hadn’t been well for a long time. We just weren’t expecting it to be so soon and thought that maybe we would have the opportunity to be with her when her time came. Instead, she simply didn’t wake up for lunch one day.

For the next week, Geoff contacted all of the family members and friends’ of mom that he felt would be interested to know of mom’s passing. Plans were made for the service to take place in Newport, Washington where her ashes would be buried near her mom and her brother and with our dad.

Because the funeral would be across the state and out of my “probation territory”, I made contact with my probation officer to get permission to travel. We visited on the phone and she told me that it wouldn’t be a problem and to get her the paperwork. I mailed it off and waited for the permission form to be mailed back. By the Thursday morning before the Saturday funeral, I began to get a little nervous because the permission slip still wasn’t in the mail. I made a call to my probation officer and left her a message with my concern. When I checked the mail again Thursday night and it wasn’t there, I began to wonder if I would end up missing the funeral after all…even though I was no longer in prison.

I placed a phone call, leaving a message and followed that up with an e-mail from my Blackberry asking my probation officer to contact me. My mind started to process what was happening and I considered calling my sister Deb. She had asked me to facilitate the service and travel to the funeral with her. I knew that she, and the family were counting on me and she was planning to pick me up at work on Friday afternoon. A while later, my cell phone rang and I looked at the “caller ID” and saw that it read “unidentified number”. I answered and it was my probation officer on the other end.

“I just got your e-mail. When is the funeral?” she asked. When I told her that it was on Saturday, she apologized and said that she thought it was the following week. She said she would process the request first thing in the morning and asked if she could send it by e-mail when it was completed and I told her that would work great and thanked her as she hung up.

I finally received the permission just before noon on Friday and I put everything in my luggage in the car with the notes that I’d prepared for the service. My sister arrived in the early afternoon and after an overnight stay at Geoff’s, we made the 350 mile trip across the state to mom’s final resting spot.

The rain danced softly on the roof of the canvas tent as each of us said our good-bye to mom. It was a small group…ten of us in all as we sat and listened. An occasional tear would fall from someone’s eyes as stories were related about mom and letters of farewell and love read aloud. After a final song of “I’ll Fly Away”, we removed the Astroturf covered plywood that covered the small hole and Geoff carefully and gently placed the urns holding mom and dad’s ashes into their final resting place. Debbie knelt down and placed two long stem roses…one white and one red, into the rectangular hole on top of the two urns, and it was over.

Photos by Mark Lyons and Deb Shucka

Friday, June 10, 2011

Spreading Our Wings!

I stood and looked for a moment at the drab, pale yellow walls and tried to visualize in my mind’s eye what this space might look like when we were finished. We’d made the little cut-outs of the furniture we’d be placing so we had a general idea of the layout. And many of the antique items we’d be placing in the various pieces of furniture had already been in the case that I was moving out of. But still, I wasn’t quite certain how it would all turn out.

My sister Deb had driven up to help me this weekend as we were expanding our antique business and moving into an actual space that could hold furniture and other larger antiques that couldn’t fit into the small five foot glass case that I had occupied for the past seven months. We had been keeping our look out for the right pieces of furniture to put in the space and sought out other items that might fit the “look” we were trying to accomplish. My little fifth wheel trailer that I call home had become so full of boxes and small pieces of furniture that I gave up on trying to sit on the couch weeks ago. It was beginning to look like one of those places you see on programs like “Hoarders”.

Soon, the walls were being transformed from a state of depression to a palette of vibrant and lighter pinks. As I walked from the space to go out to my car to get some more supplies, one of the antique mall employees called me over to his desk. “You know…your space is looking a little ‘gurly’”, he said. I smiled a little and told him he just needed to wait until it was finished. As I walked out into the parking lot, for a brief second I once again wondered if it would turn out as we had imagined.

Deb did most of the painting while my brother Frank and his wife Clare brought their trailer over so we could move some furniture down to the mall. Unfortunately, Frank had ‘tweaked’ his back that morning and was in considerable pain. The furniture ended up being a little bit too large for the trailer to transport in one trip so our plans were altered slightly as we placed the first piece of furniture in the space as Deb continued to transform it. As the day ended, the paint was still too tacky to put the finishing touches on the walls…a dark mahogany chair rail that we hoped would add the touch to the space to give it the look we desired.

We knew we were going to have a long day in front of us as we sat in the small restaurant nearby. Deb and I talked about all that we needed to get done this morning to be able to get finished by the time the mall closed tonight. While we thought that we had given ourselves plenty of time to load up all of the antiques and some furniture from my place, we still ended up starting the day about 20 minutes behind schedule.

The walls in the space looked radiant as we carried the tools into the mall. We were soon busy getting ready to cut the chair rail and miter the ends so we could start to move the antiques into the space. I should have know when the miter box I was using didn’t open wide enough to accommodate the chair rail that this part of the project wasn’t going to go smoothly. After two attempts to cut the miter with the saw failed, we decided that this wasn’t going to work. I called my brother Geoff who was coming down to help us to bring along the “right” tools to get the job done. The problem was, it would still be close to an hour before he would get there.

Deb and I looked at each other and she suggested that we at least place the chair rail on the back wall so we could move the first piece of furniture in and start to load it. Our time was too valuable to spend the next hour doing nothing. Pulling out the small coping saw, I tried to “eye-ball” a 45 degree angle and started cutting. Somewhat satisfied with the results, we nailed the rail to the wall and stepped back to check it out. I can’t describe the difference that having the dark, mahogany wood made in the space. The mall employee who had said the space looked “gurly” the day before walked up a few minutes later to check it out. His comment this morning said it all. “It really looks rich”, he said. Deb replied back, “that’s what we were hoping for.” And it was really beginning too.

Patience isn’t one of my greatest attributes (nor is it Deb’s) so we decided to try to hang more of the chair rail so we could keep working. Using the handheld coping saw, I carefully cut the pieces we needed to finish two of the three walls. While the miters weren’t perfect, they were good enough to hang. With each piece of chair rail placed on the wall, the feel of the space continued to be transformed.

I was soon moving the smaller pieces of furniture from the truck to the space and placing them against walls and in corners. It was fun to watch the reaction of the mall employees and other dealers as each piece was brought in. After each item was placed in the space, we could count on one of the workers coming back to see what we had this time. They seemed to be as curious as we were impatient.

A short while later, Geoff arrived and with the right tools and we cut and hung the last pieces of chair rail and the palette was complete. While Geoff and I made one final trip to pick up the rest of the furniture, Deb began to place our treasures in the various display cases and curios. As Geoff and I moved the final pieces of furniture into place, I smiled to myself at how well it all fit into place as Deb and I had envisioned.

The rest of the day was spent unloaded containers and placing them in the cases. Geoff artfully filled the case with the sterling pieces while Deb pointed out where the pictures should be hung and carefully unwrapped the smaller items and placed prices on them. Soon, there were more empty boxes than full ones and the places to put the antiques were filling up.

Before we knew it, the announcement was made that the mall would soon be closing. Fortunately for us, this was a “dealer night” and we would have a little more time to work after dinner. Geoff left to go home as Deb and I visited with other dealers over the chicken dinner the mall was providing and soon lifted our tired bodies out of the chairs to finish our project.

I have to admit…the space didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisioned it. I’ve been in a lot of antique malls and have walked into literally hundreds of dealer spaces. They all seem to have their own feel and identity…and there are some that I’m happy to get out of quickly because they are not inviting.

The space that was created on that Friday and Saturday was something special! We wanted a place that had a Victorian feel to it…a richness that would transform you to another time and place. What we saw as we stood back at the end of the day was a “destination” space. Without question, it is the most beautiful space in the mall. Rich, the mall owner, was visibly pleased as he came back to visit with us as the night ended and told us how much he loved the space.

When I started my antique business, Angelwings Antiques, last August I really didn’t know what it would look like. It just started as a dream. This past weekend, we spread our wings a little bit. Who knows how far this dream will go.

Photos by Deb Shucka and Mark Lyons
A special thank you to Deb who helped to make all this possible!