Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Cleaning out Ken’s closet presented a significant challenge. It's amazing how much clothes he accumulated over the years.
It became obvious to me that before I met him he liked seeing an overstuffed closet because it mean he can put off doing laundry one more day. Actually, Ken rarely shops, but when he does, he always end up buying more clothes than he can wear.
As I was taking each item out, I cried and was blind sighted by grief. It is because I find mementos of things we did together in the pockets of his shirt and jackets - ticket stubs, handwritten notes, receipts and toothpicks. Yes, lots of toothpicks. As I went through each item, certain memories came to mind. I savored these memories and allowed myself to drown in whatever feeling it manifests.
My tears turned into sobs and smiles into laughter. And it felt perfectly okay.
I knew I have to give away his clothes, shoes, and other personal item because seeing them in his closet was more than I could bear. They gave the impression that he would be back. But of course, he won't.
By the way, when I say “cleaning out the closet,” it is not just the bedroom. It included his work office, the garage, the basement, the shop and the pile of papers that have accumulated since he died.
I started boxing up his belongings. Every shirts, and pants, and vests and jackets. I packed every bit of his that remained.
Or so I thought.
When I looked at the basement closet I saw an organized chaos that comprise the packed spaced room. More work clothes, boots, more jackets. It was evident that he had not accessed the basement closet in years. And yet Ken had held on to these things because he was trying to hold on to pieces of his past, much like I was attempting to hold on to pieces of his.
I did not start small. I hauled everything all at once because this is something that must not be repeated. It is an action of permanence. Once these items are removed, they are removed completely. Whether I decide to have a garage sale, donate them to charity, or give them to a friend, they will immediately be put to use by those who need them.
But there were things I couldn't, and wouldn't, part with. The no-brainers were the books from his childhood with inscriptions from his parents. Personal correspondence stayed, and so did name badges for events he attended and old greeting cards. The army jacket, now hangs in my closet next to my own clothes. Very occasionally, I bury my nose in it.
I did not realize that sorting through tangible memories can be more difficult than grappling with the intangible ones. They can shape and reshape memories in my head.
I guess objects, in their very concreteness, tell a more relentlessly truthful story.