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Judith Eleanor Paynton Hutchins, 1942-2017

October 13, 2017

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Because of my financial situation and because I had been away from home so long and didn’t know any of her current friends, my mom advised that I not attend her memorial service on August 12. I took Greyhound and did anyway. The shelter system would allow me three nights’ leave to attend, but I didn’t trust them, so I put a lot of what was in my locker into storage and seriously hurt myself with two full IKEA bags. The trip took about $500 out of my savings, about what I estimated, until Greyhound lost my suitcase, which, thankfully, I got back ten days later, although not before I had started to replace some of the things in it.

Although I encountered serious hardship by not being able to rent a car, I took three trips via Lyft. I should have taken more, since the sidewalks in the Castleton commercial district of Indianapolis are so discontinuous that often I was left hobbling along the shoulder, which wasn’t even much of a shoulder in many places, and I hobbling along with a cane, but I wanted to save money.

I was one of the first people to arrive at the cemetery since I got Lyft straight from Avis after I learned I would not be allowed to rent a car. I didn’t get the memo that Mom wanted people in bright colors, so I was one of very few people in a suit. One of the first of her friends that I met said of her to me, “She did not like Trump.”

The scattering of Mom’s ashes at the cemetery occurred around Dad’s memorial rock, although they were technically divorced shortly before my father died. When I was last there, the rock around which his ashes were scattered had only a plastic name plate, which Mom had replaced with a more permanent plate after I returned to New York. Mom wanted her ashes scattered in the exact same way, and sent my brother photographs to remind him how it was done, in the shape of a sun, as a little kid would draw one. Lisa Fox, the cemetery employee who also had been a family friend from church (that she handled my Dad’s scattering was a coincidence, we were told), had improvised the sun when Dad’s ashes proved to be too be larger than would make a circle.

Dad was excommunicated on allegations of sexual harassment of an unspecified person from Unity of Indianapolis by then-Reverend Gloria Moncrief, who turned in her resignation just before he passed away. The Sunday before he died, he was talking about rebuilding the church. I believe around this time, Mom had stopped her facilitation of A Course in Miracles there, and several months after I returned to New York, she discovered The Progressive Spiritualist Church. Reverend Susan Hill-Mellott presided over her memorial, in which she read from The Prophet by Kalil Gibran. Another man from her church, who mentioned that Mom reassured him that it was OK to retire, did a Native American funeral ritual with drumming. He also drummed us to and from the cemetery road to the location of the memorial stone.

I was asked to participate in the scattering of Mom’s ashes, some of which landed on my shoe, and remained there for the memorial service. My brother and Mom’s boyfriend each also scattered some of the ashes. My niece and nephew were invited to do so, but declined. My niece put down the flower vase that blocks the view of the name plate, but my brother put in the others.

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photo taken by Mom’s boyfriend’s daughter
 
My brother drove me to the Church for the service, and before we got out of the car, but after his wife and kids had left, he coaxed me into signing the consent form for him to be the executor of Mom’s will, despite the misgivings of my Occupy friends. He convinced me that the estate isn’t worth enough for us to be able to afford having a lawyer as executor of the will. My godmother was assigned to this in 1985, but is of an age that she didn’t want the responsibility. She had to be driven to the Church by a home health aide, who had to stay in the car because she had been banned from entering for some reason unrelated to us, which led her to be one of the first to leave the memorial. My godmother still attends the Unity Church, and my godfather (no longer living), was also among those excommunicated by Moncrief.

Mom seemed to think her friends’ view of me was wholly different from my own. In addition to all the wonderful things they said about her, believing my brother and I must have had wonderful childhoods as her sons, they also acknowledged her to be stubborn and demanding, and that she had “a nasty sense of humor,” things she would never have admitted about herself. I often wondered if Mom might have been bipolar, because she could be wonderful at times, but could also be stubborn, demanding, and somewhat abusive (mostly verbally). My brother talked about the 56 e-mails (possibly a made up number) telling him exactly how she wanted her memorial service to go, wanting it to be mainly a celebration of her live, but with a period of mourning for much-needed catharsis. It opened with one of her favorite songs, “Let Me Remember” by Oman and Shanti, a beautiful song she played so much when we were kids that I got sick of it then, but was totally moved by it at the memorial. Some of her friends from the church got up and spoke about her. One said that she kept calling the name “Eleanor” on her death bed, and mentioned that there was a story behind her middle name, but didn’t share it. The story that I know regarding her middle name is that her parents had planned to name her Judith Ann Paynton, but since she was born during the height of World War II, they didn’t want her initials to spell “Jap,” and so gave her her mother’s (and maternal grandmother’s) name. Eleanor was calling to her to have new adventures together. I never heard Mom address Grandma Paynton by her first name when she would visit us, just “Mom,” and we used the surnames with our grandparents, because that was the level of formality my parents wanted. (By contrast, I introduced myself to my niece as simply “Scott,” to which she replied, “You’re my Uncle Scott.”) My maternal grandmother, the longest surviving into my lifetime of my grandparents, would crack up if I referred to Mom as “your daughter” in the context of their relationship.

I didn’t volunteer to share anything from the platform at my mother’s memorial. One memory that I wanted to share I mentioned to Mom in an e-mail shortly before she died, but she was convinced I made it up. She was driving me somewhere, most likely to nursery school, and we were on Elrico Drive, a street we always used when headed north out of our neighborhood. We saw a turtle in the middle of the, and she got out, picked it up, and moved it to the side where it was going. I was an inquisitive kid, fascinated by the turtle, wanting to know all about it, what kind, etc., but she, not being an expert, had no answers other than a guess that it was a box turtle. I did ultimately share a detail about her relationship with our cat, Patters, who passed away while I was in graduate school, after her boyfriend shared the way her current cat, Scooch, who now lives at her boyfriend’s house since my brother has too many cats, and I have no way to care for one in my living situation, would lie stomach-up in her arms and stretch his front paw up her arm. She elicited the same response out of Patters (who, to be fair, did that to all of us, even me after I gave him a boo with my new plush Donatello when I was maybe 13), and I wanted everyone to know that she got more than one cat to do that. That comment was well appreciated to her friends.

The post-memorial meal was catered by a couple who went to Unity as well, Ernie and Flo Knowlton. I tried to stay away from Ernie because he always seemed extremely right-wing to me (their son, Jeremy, also very right-wing, posted on my wall many years ago when I still had a Facebook account that I can’t say that I have worked because I haven’t dug ditches or other hard, physical labor), and was afraid he might be even worse with Trump as president. I did have a conversation with one of Mom’s friends about the challenges between us, and my brother noticed this. He reassured me that it’s better that Mom and I went out arguing than not speaking at all, because it shows that we care and are not indifferent toward one another. Eventually Ernie approached me and found out what is going on in my life, and he was reasonably sympathetic, although he seemed to think I was here to become an opera singer. My brother offered a ride back to the Red Roof Inn where I was staying, and Ernie spoke to me once more before I left. A lot of what he said wasn’t spoken clearly enough for me to make out, and I didn’t want to ask him to repeat, but I think he was encouraging me to persevere.

My brother noticed the ash dust on my shoes and said that Mom definitely wouldn’t want me taking her ashes back to New York. She was not a very materialistic person, and certainly would not want her ashes saved as a fetish. I wonder if Marcel Fecteau still has Dad’s parents’ ashes, which went to his wife, Dad’s cousin, when Dad died, and she has since died as well. His parents’ headstone is easily findable today through the Find a Grave Index, but he was never able to locate it while he was alive. My godmother didn’t like the fact that he didn’t invite me to his home to spend more time with his family.

Since I had had no breakfast owing to the debacle over trying to obtain a rental car, I went for a second meal late that evening at Formosa Buffet. I think it used to be Shoe Carnival. The Frank’s Nursery and Crafts my parents haunted when I was younger is now a Patel Brothers Indian supermarket, and there is a Chinese supermarket right in the same shopping center. I tried to go there first, since there was a microwave in my hotel room, but it was closed. The Formosa Buffet was open until 11, but unfortunately, the food did not seem very fresh two hours before closing. I went to see what Castleton Square looked like from the outside, but the security didn’t like me being there after it was closed, so I left. As I walked back, I thought sure I was going to have a bathroom accident. I made it into the bathroom of my hotel room but lost control seconds before I could get to the toilet, so I was up a long time washing my clothes, which I had just done a few hours earlier. This ensured that I wouldn’t take Mom’s ashes to New York with me, since I had to scrub my shoes.

In spite of what Mom said, there were still plenty of people at Unity of New York. I tired to get there in time for Michael Wright’s meditation, but didn’t make it, especially since the nearest Lyft driver was half an hour away. (There was a comment at the Progressive Spiritualist Church about Mom appearing at 10:37 AM which neither my brother or I got. Mom said that they channel the deceased there, and it looks just like with Ida May in Ghost, but the reference was a little too specific. I didn’t attend her church that morning.) Among the people who recognized me there were Larry Fitzgerald, Mike and Debbie Coyle, Dorothy Mack, the aforementioned Michael Wright, retired associate minister Bettie Barta (whose husband Louie’s memorial rock is right next to Dad’s), Kathy Cracknell and her husband Steve, Ron Jones, Dave Fawcett, and maybe one or two others I’m forgetting to mention. One who recognized me who I didn’t recognize was Todd Fouschée, who told me he looked very different when I was last there. I was encouraged to stand up as a new person when they made an inclusionary comment about people who had not attended in many years, and Todd later called to the platform to be acknowledged, since my parents had been prominent members of the church, as had I, before I moved to New York, having been song leader, a member of the choir, and generally a fixture there.

The Red Roof Inn, when I arrived, was run by people who looked Middle Eastern. One had a symbol tattooed on his arm that was painted in very large mural in the Progressive Spiritualist Church. I could not place it until Michael E. Davis, Music Director at Unity of Indianapolis and an Interfaith Minister, gave his talk and identified it as the “om” symbol. (That morning, the crew in charge looked quite white bred) He included it in a lesson about a spiritual tool box that also included love, joy, and peace (cuing up “Gifts of the Goddess” by Karen Drucker), service, and gratitude as the gateway to abundance. He also noted that the tomb of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: “Think of the poorest person you know and ask how your next act will benefit them.”

I stunned Kathy by telling her that I was missing a talk by Carlos Wayne Anderson at Unity of New York that day, who used to tour Unity churches in the eighties with music as Carlos & Johnny with Johnny Earle, who announced in his last visit that he had A.I.D.S. I later heard that Carlos went on for forty minutes, but that the recording messed up, which tends to happen the rare days that I miss the service. Kathy loved to talk about Carlos’s hands whenever he was brought up. Kathy strongly advised me to move back to Indianapolis (although most of her job suggestions ignored the cane I had on my person the entire time), talking about how cheap the house she shares with Steve is, but also encouraged me to talk to Bettie’s daughter, Susan, who has similar occupational background but is now the office manager at Unity of Indianapolis. She said ultimately only I can know what is best for me.

Today, what would have been Dad’s 76th birthday, the property I have at Mom’s house was moved into a nearby storage unit using money from Mom’s life insurance policy. Her house is worth more than half the estate, which she divided evenly between me and my brother, who believed he was the last to see her alive. She gave him the clear for his business trip to Memphis over the weekend, her oncologist having told her than she had 2-5 months to live. She had told me, after initially resisting it, that she would pay for me to come out to see her before she went. Instead, my brother returned from his trip to find her on her deathbed, and he believes he was the last person to see her alive. Her last e-mail to me has a strong hint of finality to it, as though she knew she was going to die before all our grievances with each other were resolved, but saying goodbye and wishing me the best, anyway. I dreamed that she was helping me organize my CD collection the night that she died, but haven’t gotten any other hint from her, though she promised to visit if I thought loving thoughts about her. Of course, I started off as a biology major to please her and Dad, but she was oblivious that I had done so, so she may be as hard to please on the other side as she was on this side. I miss her–I even miss arguing with her–and have barely had time to mourn making the arrangements with my property. I have a dedicated checking account to the unit on auto pay which should last me for the next twenty months on its own.

Carlos is doing a three-part workshop at Unity of New York. I attended the first two parts, and the third is next month. While I knew that Mom really loved his music, when I told him that she passed, he was struck with shock. At the first part of the workshop, he detailed Mom’s relationship with him. At the memorial service, her friends noted that she claimed to be more of a listener than a talker but that she was in denial. When we were young, my Dad would take us places after church because Mom would spend three hours or more talking to people at church, and when Carlos visited, he was one of them. He had had quite long conversations with her about spirituality, and felt more impacted by her death than I had been aware. He reminded me what a blessing my mother was. there is mutual understanding in all of this. People are complex, and when you are someone’s offspring, there’s always a mix of good and bad. We tend to talk more about the bad because it’s what we want to change, while what we don’t want to change goes unmentioned. Consequently, many people perceived that I had a worse relationship with my mother than I believe myself to have had. I haven’t always said the kindest things about her in my blog, but as her friend said, if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t talk to her, and I wouldn’t talk about her.

9 Comments
  1. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA you pissed yourself? HAHAHAHAHAHA I suppose that was also completely not your fault. Every single time I think you can’t be any more moronic you lower the bar even more. Don’t ever change you orange-toothed loser.

    • No, it was diarrhea from eating tainted food, you imbecile. If you were intelligent, you would have picked up on the context clues so that I didn’t have to spell out what happened for you.

  2. A Friend permalink

    Sorry to hear of your mother’s death Scott. Moving to Indianapolis sounds like a good idea if you decide to pursue it.

    • The only real reason I can think of to go there is to be a real uncle to my niece and nephew, and that’s really up to my brother. Most of the job growth there is in warehouse work, so I’m not sure how I would support myself there. an investment advisor told me that even if we got the most my brother expects for the house, he doesn’t see me getting more than $10,000 a year from low-risk investments using my inheritance. That’s below poverty in all fifty states.

    • I just saw an e-mail from my brother telling me not to send cards or presents or any other communications to his kids. So now I see ZERO point to returning there other than to get the property I have in storage.

      • Anon permalink

        That’s some cold s*** mate. Sibling cutting you off like that.

      • The closest thing I got to an explanation was references made to “my brother” on social media, which mostly weren’t even negative, anecdotes and stuff.

  3. well take one of “my jobs” plus 10gs a year…. and you got it made in the shade.

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