The Middle… Anyone Know How to Recycle Teeth?

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.

<– This very full bin, and a few odd bags, has haunted me for weeks.

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.)

<– I keep Mom next to some of her favorite things. For now.

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?

Stop! Really. Read this.  Please note:  If you enjoy these posts hit “Like” and make me smile. It also helps my blog grow and that is the point. Go back and hit Like.  Thanks. Then, be a good dooby and “Share” them with others; it’s nice to share. Better yet Like them; Share them and then do something nice for yourself: “Subscribe.” You won’t get any spam, you can sign up with an anonymous name (I won’t know who you are, unless you tell me),  and you will get an email each time I post.  Think of it as a free gift to yourself.  You know you want to. Go ahead, make my day (sorry about the gun, but this is serious business).

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
This entry was posted in Awareness, Blog, Daily Observations, Death, Death of parent, Honest observations on many things, Life, Mothers, Musings, Personal change, Women's issues and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Middle… Anyone Know How to Recycle Teeth?

  1. Maryann Dib says:

    Dawn, Each time I read something you write I am touched deeply in some way. Thanks for sharing this gift of writing you have. I appreciate it.


  2. OK, so you know I’m a symbol girl (considering my marriage ended with a literal brick, it was an inevitable side effect): But I love the fact that her teeth remain.

    There’s something so fundamentally strong, so tenacious about a person’s teeth. And given what we know about your mom through your beautiful writing, she was stubborn and tenacious … especially at the end. So the fact that her teeth are presenting you with a conundrum is a beautiful image to me.

    I hope you find some small joy in that. And also find joy in this: My mom has held onto her mom’s “things” for three years. I just had lunch with her two days ago, and once again she brought up my grandmother’s “bins” in her garage, filled with items that smell like her, and the fact that she can’t bring herself to go through them. Yet.

    So, Dawn, you’re far along indeed. You’re doing beautifully…

    Now you MUST share the pug story.



    • If I were in a twelve step program, I guess I just did some step in acknowledging that the remains are fake in the first place… oh, the burden of carrying that for the past 4 years or so! Telling the whole sorted tale may take a while longer.

      I do like your analogy about the teeth and tenacity. One could then argue that they aren’t her real teeth…but, I do get what you mean and it does make me smile.

      I hope your mom is able to do this at some point (can you help her?)… there is a true weight that’s lifted in letting go! Even if I’m still letting go challenged. 😉 Thanks for reading and sharing Mikalee!


      • Well good for you for undertaking step #2. Or perhaps it’s 4. Maybe 8?

        And yes, I’ve definitely tried to help my mom with this task. She’s not interested. I think it truly remains a burden because she still sees herself burdened by my grandmother. This is her emotional baggage, and she is the only one who can release it. This is funny (in a bizarre way), as Brett and I were just talking about this very idea this morning…how my mother perceives herself as enslaved in many ways, and this is how she feels needed/wanted/appreciated.

        She’d make a fascinating case study.



        • Hmm, that sounds like a blog post in the making… names changed of course! I know that case, I know it well. We must be from the same family, seriously! I’m always hearing about marriage that were secret; we could be cousins! BTW, I’m going to Vegas in March… man it would be fun if you were in town too. I’m going w/girlfriends, to shake things up a little 😉 FUN, will be my bitch.


  3. I’m going to disagree with Mikalee on this one. (Don’t worry, she’s use to it.) Dispose of the teeth. There is no way for them to be reused and although you might be able to sell them for a few dollars for any metals, it’s not worth the effort nor the mental anguish. You have memories of your mom and other keepsakes, you do not need her teeth. In addition, they’re not really her teeth, are they. They were something she had to use, but I’m betting they were nothing more than a necessity to her. Finally, if you don’t throw them out, you will be looking at them for years and each time you do, you’ll think to yourself, I really should throw those out. Just my thoughts on the matter since you posted about it. HF


    • We definitely don’t disagree on this — I see no value in holding onto them, I just think it’s adorable that the teeth themselves are presenting an emotional obstacle.

      Although we probably all know that I’d hold onto them — because I am an odd person and laugh at odd things. Like dead squirrels and the like…



    • Your thoughts is indeed what I asked for. I particularly love to see is Harper, Mikalee and Eleanor all chatting on my page… about lil’ ole me! Makes my day for sure. Yes, indeed, the teeth should go. Agree H, not worth sending them in for any $ (did you google that too? Please tell me you didn’t just know that fact!) and Mom would hate that they’re sitting out. Yes M, it is adorable, in a way. And yes, you would probably keep them. I’m picturing a stuffed squirrel with my mother’s teeth (now, who’s the sicko around here?) And Eleanor, dear Eleanor, of course I kept some jewels! And yes, she would be appalled!

      Thanks blog friends, for making me smile… more than once today. 😉


  4. etomczyk says:

    Dawn: What a vivid and emotionally gripping story. I don’t know you or your mom but I felt I was right there with you sorting through her things. I think I agree with Harper. How would your mom want you to remember her? Those are the things I would keep. I bet your bottom dollar that she would be appalled that you kept her teeth rather than her favorite necklace or pair of earrings–things you could wear and carry her with you whereever you go. You can’t do that with her teeth.

    Now tell us about that pug! That must be some story. All the best. . .


  5. Pingback: Houston, I Have a Problem. « Tales from the Motherland


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s