Tuesday, April 9, 2013
The Memory Bomb
It's happening now like it happens every spring - I find myself cleaning out and cleaning up, getting ready for summer and usually needing some sort of a change. This is usually the time of year I buy a new slip cover for my couch or new placemats or something equally frivolous just to make a room look a little fresher. And it's the time of year when I look at all I've stored since last year and wonder, "Do I really need all of this junk?"
So it's no surprise that I decided to tackle my garage...again. Seriously, this is about the fifth time I've tried to clean it out since my husband died. And each time I do, I find myself feeling a weird mix of nostalgia and irritation at what was left behind by my loveable - yet packrattish - husband.
I've been through the tools several times, always wondering do I need that gigantic air compressor and four drills? I've hauled out boxes and boxes of stuff and each time I feel kind of sad, but a little lighter...knowing that moving forward at a pace I'm comfortable with is okay.
But on Sunday morning, I started digging into a corner I don't think I've looked at since we moved into our house almost nine years ago. Actually, I know I haven't because as I opened the boxes...I found things that I hadn't seen since 1996.
For you young widows out there...that was a loooong time ago.
That was the year my husband and I were married and that was the year I apparently packed a box filled with the letters I had written him during our year-long engagement while he was in Florida and I was in Colorado, some old sorority mementos, and all of the stuff that was bestowed upon me during my bachelorette party before our wedding.
I think it was the moment I pulled out the purple sequined bikini that I said to my kids, "Go inside. Mommy needs to go through some stuff."
Almost six years - six years - since my husband's death and I am still experiencing the bomb that is boxed up memories. We think we've been through it all - have purged, donated, trashed, and cried through mountains of stuff - only to find random things that have been left behind.
It didn't hit me as hard as it used to, but I did feel that slight sucker-punch. That quick intake of breath and that moment where your mind tries to tell your heart, "It's okay, it's okay." I think it was when I found all of the stuff that he had packed away from his first love - his Trans Am that he bought when he was at the Air Force Academy - that the lump in my throat began to form.
This is the impossibility of widowhood, isn't it? The knowing that there are some things - some hurts - that will always be there. It's such a sneak attack. And even though those attacks don't feel as harmful as they once did...the sheer surprise of it is what gets to me.
I thought I had been through everything. But I sometimes wonder if that's ever going to be possible.
I guess the good thing about being a more experienced widow is that by now I know it's okay. It's okay to be sad for that minute. It's okay to take a beat and hold those things in your hands as if you've just uncovered buried treasure. And it's okay to put it back into the box and wait for the day that you're ready to either put it away for good, in a more permanent place, because you know that it's something that will always be important to you.
Or decide to let it go.
Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014). She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.