Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More Mary and Tony's house

I’ve been ruminating on the visit to Mary’s house. Each footstep I took was a measured action, a force of will, to accomplish. I was exhausted when we got back home.

The kitchen looked rather hollow. The frig was empty because you can’t keep food fresh for 2 months. The freezer was full and still is. Mary had left in a hurry that morning and dishes were still in the sink and pans on the stove. Danny was still sleeping so she was being quiet fixing her breakfast. No one ate much the next two days so the kitchen was left as it was. Carol washed the dishes the next week and cleaned out the frig. Thank goodness for aunts who know how to get things done. We stood looking at her cookbooks, the pantry with healthy foods and snacks, the Alaska kitchen towels, the hodge podge of dishes and glasses. Mary had pieces of two different sets of my old dishes and a complete set of her own. And a menagerie of glasses she had saved from college along with a memory for each one. Her three trash containers stared at us unblinking from the corner, one for paper, one for cans, and one for scraps for their compost pile.

I went through every drawer, every cabinet, every closet, every space looking for an answer before I went into her bedroom.

Have you ever been to an estate sale where they open the house to the public to go through? The relatives must be out of state because I can’t imagine any relative of mine letting any ole “Tom, Dick, or Harry” go through my personal effects even though I dead and gone. It always felt really weird to go into a strangers bathroom and see price tags on bags of soap (unused hopefully), the shower curtain that was still hanging up, or half used perfume bottles. People’s clothes still hanging in their closets with sizes pinned to them and their used shoes spread out for all to see. Even the desk drawers with old letters and empty whiskey bottles are bared to uncaring eyes. So, you ask, what was I doing there? Looking for furniture. But mostly, watching the remnants of someone’s life displayed on a platter while someone quibbles over the 25 cent price of a measuring cup. But, like Mary says, “don’t judge that which you don’t know”.

These are the things that your loved ones should sort through, or separate, or bundle up. These things are memory generators.

I made it into Mary’s room a few hours later. I laid across her bed and held on to her pillow. But it had been too long since she had slept there for me to perceive her scent. That made me cry. Some of her clothes were still packed in the bag she had brought with her to visit us. She hadn’t had time to unpack. Her jammies were on the bathroom floor along with her slippers. She could have just run out to the store for milk and we could have been waiting for her to return. We could have…. We should have been….

The Christmas decorations that she just took down in the middle of March were sitting in boxes in her closet. The red checkered house coat she wore all through college that Tony made fun of was hanging from a hook. I could go on and on and on….

We all ended up sitting on the floor in the bathroom going through her clothes we found, holding them, rocking back and forth, sniffing them just to see if we could feel her presence. I hope none of us took a picture of us. Between cries of sighing and hysterical laughter and moans and just plain sobbing, it was quite a sight to witness.

Almost everything was just as it should have been if she was in the garden weeding. I kept expecting to see the telltale “incense burning in the ashtray” or “tea kettle whistling on the stove” telling us she’ll be right back. She’ll be right back….

I found the case for the Jewel CD she was playing that night. It was the last thing she heard……..I hope, I really, really hope it was.


I didn’t know you long enough to appreciate your beauty.

I didn’t see your smiles enough to comprehend their message.

I never could see the world through your warm brown eyes.

I only caught a glimpse of my life with you in it.

I didn’t get to hold your hand long enough to hang on.

I didn’t get to walk with you through the trails of a lifetime.

I never had a chance to dance with you on your wedding day.

I only caught a glimpse of my life with you in it.

Sorrows stain the promises of what could have been.

Regret distorts the memories spinning in my heart.

I didn’t get to hum with you while you were sewing.

I didn’t get to fly with you across the cloudless skies.

I never heard you say a word that wasn’t filled with kindness.

I only caught a glimpse of my life with you in it.

I didn’t get to help you make that dinner we were planning.

I didn’t get to visit you across the ocean blue.

I never saw your dream come true, making handmade treasures.

I only caught a glimpse of my life with you in it.

I only got to see the beginning of what was to be

the wonder, joy, and sharing of love with the girl named Mary.

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