Sunday, July 4, 2010

Buried Alive

I am taking a week off to clear out and consolidate the storage sheds from two into one. I've already done a fair amount of work last week to the point where my back ached from moving boxes. I also find the job rather overwhelming and tedious. The best way I can describe it is that I feel as though I am being smothered by the past. And I have reached a point where I want the past cleared out so I can face the future with more of a clean slate.

The sheds contain a lot of stuff of my husband's (even from his first marriage) and my parent's. When I moved from my five bedroom house last fall into our two bedroom apartment, there wasn't enough time before winter hit to do a major clear-out. So this is it. Whatever doesn't fit into the one storage shed I'm going to maintain, will be donated or tossed. This is a chore and a difficult job. Especially doing it on one's own. No one tells you how much work it takes being a widow. Having to face these tasks even years later doesn't make it any easier. Although I know he isn't here anymore, I do question what my husband would want done with his possessions - the same with my dear Mom's things.

Last week I took a huge step, leap is more like it by taking five huge overflowing boxes of old National Geographic magazines to the used book store. I could barely lift the boxes. Now these were from my husband's office and classroom and they've sat in the storage shed because my youngest insisted he wanted all of them. But I drew the line that they take up too much space. As a compromise, my youngest can keep his dad's large collection of history books (his speciality was the Middle Ages) because he is leaning toward becoming a history teacher himself.

I got $5.00 for the 200 magazines - not very much. But I felt as though a weight was lifted from me. It was difficult to part with the magazines because they were a visual reminder of my husband. He always was reading one and they'd be scatterted around the house with tabs marking certain pages. But it is time to let them go. To someone who may collect them or be able to use them now rather than being shut away in a dank, dark storage shed getting mildewed.

Today, I went through some of my mom's old clothes and old clothes from the boys, sorting them to go to the resale shop as a donation. I was reminded by how nicely I dressed my boys when they were little and certain items brought back various memories. But again, I am so pleased that someone (maybe a young, struggling mom or dad) will be able to use these clothes now.

I anticiapte that it will be a rough week. The boys have committed to helping me with the undertaking. When I'm working in the shed or going through the bags of stuff I just feel so overwhelmed and closed in. It is like the past is burying me alive - all the stuff from my husband's classroom, all the old stuff from my parent's life, not to mention the old stuff from MY life. I went through a giant garbage bag of items that had been in the desk of my husband's classroom. It was a very heavy bag. What was mostly weighing it down were the files my husband had filled with his first son's art and school work. This is my sons' half-brother, age 28 who is now a teacher himself and married. The files were from pre school all through grade school. Of course I am going to pass these on to the boys' brother as soon as they get together in the future (the sooner the better). What struck me was how sweet and dear it was that my husband kept all of his first son's art and school work. He didn't need to do that for his second and third boys because I was the scrapbooker in the family.

It was a nice surprise to come across and reminded me of the good man my husband was. He used to say that he wasn't a wealthy man in terms of money but that he was a rich man because of his three sons. And he'd have tears in his eyes as he said this. I found it kind of ironic that although I am going through the sheds in an effort to clear out the past, these files were pieces of the past that should be saved and passed on.

Today, in a bunch of papers was a darling picture my youngest colored as a very little one. Four stick figures representing a family but they were just huge heads with the arms and legs coming out of each head. Absolutely adorable! It was clear that the dad and mom were my husband and I, and the children my two sons. I set the drawing aside in a safe place. I want to frame it right away and put it up - it's that cute. And I think it is significant and should be displayed. That little family my youngest depicted in his early artwork still does live on in spirit. It isn't evident in the old books and magazines that belonged to my husband. But in the love and the values that do live on within this family unit despite the absence of one.


  1. Good to read that you're tried to get yourself unburied. If we're not careful, I think we can hang on to objects that don't actually mean that much to us and would be better off being re-homed with someone else. However, good idea about framing the drawing, and also about sending the files of childhood art to your husband's first son. I'm sure that it will be very meaningful to him. Those are the kinds of belongings that actually mean the most and should be cherished and preserved. Really, a lot of the rest of our belongings are just "stuff" - most of which we don't really need. I just had my stuff brought here from the locker where everything has been stored for over a year. I did get rid of lots of things before I sold my house, but then had to rush a lot to move the last of the things out when it sold. It was still less than a year after Don's death, so it was hard to figure out what I might feel bad about if I gave everything away, so I erred on the side of caution. Now, I'm looking at a lot of this stuff and thinking, "Arrrgh! Why did I store these things and have them moved out here to Nova Scotia!" But, then I think, I just did the best that I could manage at the time. Now I'm in a better frame of mind for making decisions. That's probably how you will feel too. Anyhow, it turns out that one of my neighbors is in charge of a charity fund-raising table at the local farmer's market, so I've arranged to start giving him boxes of stuff to take to the market and sell. I will feel good about that and know it will inspire me to part with things that have only marginal meaning to me now. I'll try to use the rest of this summer, in between working on the house, to weed out a bunch of objects -- I'm aiming for at least a third of what is left of my possessions. That will leave things sort of lean and mean, but the way I want them. I now think about what a pain in the ass my belongings would be to someone else (probably my mom and brother) if I had an accident or some other misfortune and died. Boy, I sure don't want to leave anyone else with this mess! (-:

  2. Bev - I totally relate to your comments. Now as I sort through all of this stuff I wonder why I too erred on the side of caution. But as you say, we do the best we can at the time. And I am surely in a better, stronger, more realistic frame of mind to be going through everything now. I, too, understand the part about rushing. It was all such a mad rush for me selling the home and moving. In the end, we can only do the best we can with our available time and resources.

    I have images of paring down too. There is something really refreshing, powerful and healing about that. An uncluttered path lying ahead... And I have to admit that I am thankful I am doing this all now so it will not be left to my sons in the future. My folks didn't do any clearing out and it was a terrible strain/burden for us to have to tend to their junk.

  3. A small warning from someone else who has been in your shoes try to sell everything you can / you will need the money later. I donated so much due to time constratits and now no one will help and I need the cash. Get some cash out of everything! You paid some cash for all of it or someone you love did.

  4. This is so cathartic. Congratulations for getting to this point. I know it has been so hard, with challenges galore, and now you will feel so much "lighter" and relieved to have this work in the past. So nice of you to save the special items for your husband's son. That will be very meaningful to him, I am sure.
    So happy for you!

  5. Anonymous - It is hard with the time constraints and living in an apartment to try and get money for my things. What I'm getting rid of are things like old holiday decorations - nothing that can be taken to a pawn shop and not much furniture.

    Cape Cod Kitty - I hope to reach a point where I can feel happy about all this. Right now I'm bogged down in the thick of it.