So, the warning: The following content is not for everyone. I’m sure someone (or more than one) will find parts of this thoughtless, disrespectful, or offensive. Strangely, that is my life right now and that’s what I write about. So, while some will go “eww,” or, “that was out of line…,” you’ve been warned.
I did it! I finally sorted through the giant bin of my mother’s things, that has been sitting in a very awkward spot, since she died five weeks ago. In my last post (Change…Boot Straps), I mentioned starting the job but being stymied by a sweater. That was just the beginning of the discomfort! Two days ago, I finally decided that it was just time to power through it, and get the job done. As I’ve explained before, my mother had already let anything of real value go; there wasn’t anything to really consider, other than which donation pile things should go in. A few small things were set aside, but the rest was destined to go to other women, who needed clothes that were brand new. I’d taken her shopping just before she broke the elbow, that killed her. She never wore most of it, but I’d already put her name tags on everything.
All I had to do was sort the stuff; but that job was just so much harder than I’d anticipated. It wasn’t just the one sweater that smelled like her; everything did. I felt surrounded by my mother’s smell, as I pulled the name tags out of each item of clothing… so that some other woman wouldn’t be walking around with name Carole Q. ironed on to each of her lapels or waste bands. Tearing those labels out was brutal. Watching the little pile of labels grow, and then throwing them away, was awful. The smell of Mom, all around me, was cruel. I kept finding myself holding an item and wanting to just hold her again. Then, I’d pull it together and get through the next pile of stuff. Deciding what to throw away was unbearable. Even the underwear, that no one would take, it felt like a violation to just toss them in the trash. Then there were the silly things that even Mom didn’t really want, but someone else took the time for: a holiday pin that some nurse or activities person made with care. There it is sitting in the pile and no one I know wants it, yet throwing it away seems so callous.
In the end, most things could be donated… but a few difficult things remained: Her remains. Her glasses, which were as much a part of her as her skin and hair, are hard to part with. Then, at the bottom of the bin: her teeth. There they were, sitting in a cup. I couldn’t just toss them, but a search on line of what to do with dentures, was very off putting. The garbage seems so disrespectful. So there they sit… on a counter…where I try to lay mail and other items on them, so we don’t have to look at them. There is the broken vase, that holds the fake remains of Mom’s beloved pug, Meea. There, I said it: the fake remains. The story is a long one, but if I do go to hell one day, it will be for those fake remains. (Or, that will certainly be one of the reasons!) Smart Guy, my husband, came home that night, saw the vase and said, “Well, we can throw these away now,” and I nearly tore his arm off grabbing them back. “No! I’m not ready yet.” He stared at me. “But, they aren’t even real.” I wanted to cry, for the truth in those words. “Well, she thought they were real, and so they feel real now. I can’t just toss them away. I feel like we should mix the
fake remains with Mom’s and then scatter them together.” Smart Guy knew enough not to say anymore. He’s smart, sometimes. (This broken urn holds my ticket to Hell.)
Strange to get to the bottom of that bin and be done with it all. It was truly awful to throw that pile of name tags away, and toss things that at some point meant something to Mom, yet I can’t keep it all either. Yesterday I donated what I can. The Y was very grateful for so many useful things. We’re not all tripping over the bin anymore; it’s not hanging over my head. Mom’s ashes, her remains, are tucked away in my dining room cabinet. She loved nice things, the china had been her’s at one time; it seems a good place to keep “her” until we scatter them. I didn’t have the heart to tuck them in a closet, or hide them away, but I didn’t want them in an urn either. She loved to go sailing, and that is what we’ll do. We’ll charter a nice boat, when the weather gets nice, and combine her ashes with those of her two beloved dogs (one set of ashes being, not real), and scatter them in the Bay. She would love that. But the teeth…what to do about those?
Have you had to sort through your parents things? What was it like for you? What was hard to get rid of, and what was not?
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