Saturday, February 24, 2007

Every Little Piece

I dropped off my mother’s things today at Good Will. My kids helped me load the car.

Why are we taking Grandma’s stuff? Zachary asked. I almost lost it. The time I had spent, over the last week, slowly packing her things away, crushed together.

Grandma doesn’t need it anymore, Zach, Jake said. Not nicely, mind you, but with the exasperation only a six year old can muster.

Oh, yeah, Zachary said quietly.

It’s okay, Zach, Ben said, Grandma would want to share.

Folding each sweater into the plastic containers, I could remember so many of them on her. The line of shoes, all barely worn. I placed the few pieces of jewelry into the box of scarves I am taking back.

I kept a few pieces of clothing hanging for me to decide about the next time I’m here. My mother and I wore the same size. Very different tastes, mind you. There was, however, a jacket of mine down here she had placed in her own closet. A suit coat with the tags still on it I thought would look good on me.

Each piece was part of her. I never thought something as meaningless as clothes would have such an impact. My hands started to shake. I took her bathrobe off the hook and folded it.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

And then there were the letters. I finally found the stash of letters my mother kept for years. From her Grandfather. When she died, we all looked frantically for them. Once she showed me a single letter. It was more than important to her. It was something she held so close to her heart. She was not a person who kept much. She kept every one of these letters. There are easily over a hundred of them.

I found them wrapped in two different plastic bags. At a glance, just after her death when I was here, I thought it was a set of sheets in plastic.

Odd, sure, but I was in her closet. Not somewhere I was allowed to be. Looking through things that were not my business. I opened very little.

Yesterday, I knew nothing could leave the house without me opening it. Holding it. Being sure of what it was. Acknowledging it.

Then packing it in a container to be given away.

No, shared. I think Ben is right. It’s about sharing.

I also chose a realtor today. All realtors are annoying. Out of the few I spoke with, she seemed the most competent and least cheerful. Just straight forward. No plastic smile. Not dreary, mind you, but not Doris Day chipper either.

She convinced me the condo should be sold furnished. People want to step inside and know they can be here right away. It’s a second home, you know. Even if they don’t like it, they’ll have something to use for a while.

My original goal was to be savvy and negotiate the furniture. I have bought and sold a lot of houses. I know the deal.

Well, if there is anything they don’t want… I found myself stammering.

She smiled kindly and didn’t say a word.

Let me check with the others, but yes, I understand it should be furnished.

I knew their responses already. Neither wanted anything. A piece of art. Some of the decorative glass.

The thought someone might throw away what she loved was hard for me in the moment. The reality? It’s all brand new. She adored it. But none of it has any history.

Not like the clothes I dropped off at Good Will. Her shoes. Left over hearing aid batteries. The blue cloth sweater with a small flower on the front. Mock turtlenecks. I sincerely believe she was the only person left in the world who actually wore them. The white silk slippers. The long, flowered nightgown.

As I drove away, I realized I forgot to get a receipt. It’s my job to take care of all the details. My head was swimming as the boys helped me load the boxes into the large, gray bin. No tax benefit for any of us.

I’m sorry.

The realtor came by and dropped of the paperwork. Sell it furnished, I said.

Good, she nodded and headed for the elevator.

No plastic smiles. Down to business.

And as I said a few days ago? It doesn’t get any easier.


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