We’re at Mama’s this weekend, cleaning out her house. It’s a hard job, physically and mentally, but it needed to be done. It makes it easier to know that we’re doing it for a reason other than her death. A friend is moving back to the area and needed a place to stay, so she is going to be living in the house for a bit with her family. I love being able to do things for people, so it gives me something to focus on other than the sadness of being at home but not being with Mama.
This week has been a lot like that. Pecha Kucha gave me a outlet for my gratitude, not my sorrow. I was able to focus solely on the good parts of her life, instead of the bad stuff right there at the end. That’s what I’d been concentrating on all winter.
I thought it would be easier to pack things away, but the problem is that I’m not packing up things. I’m packing up memories.
There’s the plates we ate off when I was a child. There’s the cookie cutters that I used to cut out biscuit shapes with Mama every Sunday. There’s the curtains that we had back when we had shades, not blinds. There’s a box of Mama’s clothes. There’s her quilt.
Someone stole the table where we ate Sunday dinner and rolled out biscuit dough and blew out birthday candles and where I took a bath in a old metal washtub when I was a baby. They also stole my lawnmower and tiller, but at least that didn’t make me weep. I don’t have such fond memories of cutting the grass.
It’s nearly impossible to get through one task without crying. Everything took twice as long as it should have. I’m still not done. Bill helped me get all the furniture moved; I’ll go back tomorrow to pack up the small things. My friend that will be living there for a few months will clean.
It’s good that we had to do this now. It’s been long enough that I’m in a better place, and it’s not unbearable, just hard. Any longer and it would be one of those tasks that just never gets done, that I just couldn’t bring myself to do. One more day and this part will be done. Maybe that will give me some sense of closure in a way. Maybe it will help me continue to move on with the good memories and leave the painful ones behind.
Every time I think I’m better, I’m through it, I’m mostly done with my grief something new comes up, though. I wonder if I’ll ever be done, even mostly. I realize I probably won’t. I still grieve for my great-grandfather and my grandfather, especially days like today. They’ve been gone years- decades in my great-grandfather’s case. I grieve for my parents, even though they’re still alive, because I realize I’ll probably never have a healthy relationship with either of them after many years of trying. Sometimes I feel like an island that’s coming apart bit by bit, until there’s not much left but a chunk of rock, bobbing alone in the surf. I wonder if this what getting old is like- you watch your family die off one by one until you are all that’s left. Sometimes it feels like it’s just me, a family tree without a trunk or any other branches. A sole remaining limb just lying around waiting to become firewood. Or rot.
Thank goodness at the end of this we have a road trip to look forward to, a sort of family reunion, even. It’s a good reminder that I’m not alone. Even though I’m not close with my parents, I’m close with their families. I don’t have brothers and sisters, but I’ve got tons of cousins. I don’t have all the people I love around me still, but I have plenty of love. I’m lucky, despite it all.
Because of it all, even. I only grieve because I love and was loved so much. When I look at it that way, grief seems a small price to pay.