Months To Years Spring 2018 Months To Years Spring 2018 - Page 7

courthouse with about 40 pages of forms and documents you. This death work is hard, but you’re making it as I’d examined, consulted about, researched language of, manageable as anyone could have.”   filled out, copied, and curled up in a ball and sobbed in   frustration and resistance over during the course of these When I began the work of cleaning out my mother’s weeks, and was amazed to be allowed to file these papers apartment, and of working through finances, insurance, for probating her will. On that day I also transferred her and other legal matters, I started with the easiest things car title, loaded my car with more things, went again to to let go of or figure out, and set aside anything that the Goodwill, took down glass shelves in the kitchen and made my stomach clench. I’m finding that as the easier washed them, vacuumed, went through more papers. That things get done, ones that had seemed too hard are was just one day of all these days since she died that I incrementally moving up into their place, little by little, can still feel concretely connected to my mother solely by everything somehow seeming to organize and resolve “taking care of things” for her.  itself. Once in a while, early on, I’d steel myself for a   harder emotional decision, or a more mentally taxing As I move through these chores, I always try to keep her chore, then retreat back to a more mindless job. This home looking as neat as possible, even as surfaces fill up hand-painted tea set was given to my mother on her with everything formerly in closets, cabinets, and drawers, engagement, she told me when I lifted up the delicate because that’s how she would have done it. During these gold-trimmed porcelain tea pot and found her note inside. days, I’ve cooked meals in her pots and pans, eaten in her So it was nearly 100 years old—not anything I’d ever use chair at her table, watered her plants, gazed at her view or even display—but what should I do with it? How about of the Hudson. Like a little girl, I painted her nail polish if I just go dust some shelves right now? This bowl was on my nails, tried on her jewelry, sprayed her perfumes made by Beverly’s father. How should I assess the value of on my skin. I read her baby books, in which she noted a piece of art or a candle holder, not the monetary value of me at 22 months what she could have said as truly but the importance of it in her life? Its giver, its occasion, today: Alice likes to play by herself and Alice likes to walk its beauty, its usefulness? Does it still hold her aura? Or long distances. She was always paying attention to things, the love that may have brought and kept it here? When is always observing; it’s what made her a good research an object full of meaning and feeling, when is it empty? I librarian and a good conversationalist. Our relationship think I can go ahead and dump these rusted paper clips. was by no means perfect. We clashed sometimes,   disappointed each other sometimes. But she would have People have expressed sympathy or even horror to me done anything for me. And she knew me, too; she saw me. about my “having” to do almost all of this by myself.   But th e truth is, as overwhelming as it is—and it is In my travels through her things, I’ve found dated notes overwhelming—I feel a fierce attachment to doing it. The that she had attached to the backs of frames, or had act of touching and examining and distributing every secretly tucked into cups and pitchers, sometimes decades single thing in my mother’s life is an honor and a privilege. earlier. Often these notes directly answer specific questions It is more important to me than the actual things, though I’m asking: “Where is this from? Why did you save this? of course I am keeping some of them. I’m keeping my What should I do with it? Who should I give it to?” We grandmother’s tea set. I kept family documents, and the are doing this together. This print is for Joan, she says. This Japanese koto I played when I was a little girl. Photos, a picture is for Janice, these are for Cobb. I bought this plate few books, some of the art, some practical items, some in Turkey. It’s a conversation. She always knew what was pretty ones, some scarves that smell like her. Cleaning out needed, and took care of it graciously, and now even in her home one thing at a time, each thing, one by one, is death she hasn’t stopped. Sometimes I laugh or speak out the best way to be close to her, to care for her, to keep her loud to her: “Mom, you’re amazing. You’re so organized there with me, and to start getting used to her being gone. and capable, you’re so efficient and thoughtful. Thank To practice letting go. 7