Friday, June 26, 2009

Emptying Closets

We sit on her back porch for a half an hour or so talking about her recent medical history, and now she admits that Ackerly and Hitchcock are probably better at what they do than the doctors in San Diego she hasn't yet met who will fill Ackerly's prescription for the radiation she was refusing to believe she needed here. She says Ackerly wasted three weeks he could have been treating her. I remember it well and start to remind her and then realize that there is no point now in going over the recent past. She was barefoot the whole time I was there. I thought she looked good, her hair freshly brushed, a bit of color in her face. But she insists she looks half dead. Truth is, in the past several years I have seen her look much worse. Grey and bone thin, hair in a tangle, knotted, skin hanging from her bones. But there is no point looking back. I am here to empty closets. We will go through all her upstairs closets so her son and his girlfriend can move in and put their stuff away. They will put their furniture in storage. She is leaving everything behind but doesn't talk much about returning, though she has said she will come back. This is good that she has stated her intention to come back.

Out of two packed closets she has a small pile of things she will take with her to San Diego, a larger pile she will store in the basement and a huge pile that goes to the Junior League. She has made a pile she believes her new granddaughter's mother can sell. I have a feeling the young woman will just take the whole gigantic pile of once nice clothes to the Junior League drop up the street and be done with it. While we did the sorting I noticed how many things were once mine or my mothers. Z has several once lovely pieces that belonged to her long dead mother. Only two of her mother's beautiful things survived the moths: A perfect little black dress and a good winter coat. We both love the little black dress, too small for me or her or her son's beloved. And so off it goes to the Junior League. The good winter coat is in very good shape and actually fits me quite well. I am now about the same age her mother was when she bought the coat. Or so I guess. It will be warm and dressy enough that if I do go out and wear the new dressy brown dress, the coat will find a warm body inside it once again. It's a long shot. But without the clothes to wear there is very little chance I'll ever venture out again, after dark, dressed for an occasion, so long as I live. Anythings possible I guess.

When I left I turned to see Z drift out to the back porch. We blew kisses to one another. And the two grandchildren, and the young woman were alone in the mess of Z's drifting life, the house undusted since her only daughter left almost a month ago. I have offered to do such things as dust, but we both know it's not high on my list of priorities in my own house, so why would it be a priority of mine for her? Well, it just is. But she has put me off and I have let her. I feel guilty that she has been so reluctant to let me do those kinds of things for her, but she has had her middle son taking care of her for at least a couple of weeks, and it's just not something he would notice or do. I wonder who dusts for him?

Z leaves alone Sunday to fly to San Diego. Nothing will ever be the same again. This is the first time I have ever thought that, though I know things change moment by moment never to be the same again ever. You can see the shape of the mass under her skin, strangling her. They will start Radiation Tuesday.

Now I am cleaning my own closet as if my life depended on it.

8 comments:

Fran said...

Clothes closets are such a personal part of your life. I know its just stuff, but last year we dismantled my Mom's house. Mom is still alive, but we had to take her things out of the house. I was clipping along on the project but in the midst of the clothes closet part, I just lost it.

So I know the range of emotion that comes from such a project. It is "stuff" but stuff that was a part of a life that is changed forever.

I hope you are able to cherish this time together now.

I hope you are able to just share a moment together. Ice cream. Tea. Just a reflective time to cherish a little shared time that is two friends connecting from the heat.

Paul C said...

You are and have been a wonderful friend to this woman.

sunshine said...

Paul's right! A really great friend. :)
I can remember after my Dad died (like the next day!!!) one of my sisters and brother rummaging through his closet and grabbing stuff like their lives depended on it.
It's been almost 13 years and it still makes me sick.
It's probably better that she's doing it with you. As Fran said, closets are so personal! At least SHE was in control over that.
I'm praying for Z.
Love you,
Laura

MadMike said...

I have been putting off cleaning my huge closet for about three years. I have actually reached the point where I brought up the garbage bags in preparation for the event, but simply left them on the pile I was supposed to be cleaning up. Sigh......

The Peach Tart said...

You're a good friend

Gail said...

Hi Utah-

You are a very good friend - and may I add, that the two of you together, was a gathering and truly a gathering in and of love in the most profound sense.

Love to you
Gail
peace.....

Suzan said...

Thanks for the soul-searing inspiration, Utah. We're dealing with an extended family 90-year-old's death now and trying not to get too overwrought as his grown children try to wrestle their family treasures from his wife-girlfriend of more than 20 years.

Heart's with you, girl!

S

thepoetryman said...

I'm reminded of lines from my play "Debra's Ashes"...

STEPHANIE: Dad?

JOHN: What, baby?

STEPHANIE: Are you sure you’re feeling okay?

JOHN: Yes. Really, Steph, there’s no need to worry about your old man. I'm fit as a fiddle.

STEPHANIE: Dad?

JOHN: What?

STEPHANIE: Nothing.

JOHN: Come on. Out with it.

STEPHANIE: (Beat.) Mom?

JOHN: Oh.

STEPHANIE: I miss her, Dad.

JOHN: Me too, baby. Me too.

STEPHANIE: Fucking cancer.

JOHN: Fucking cancer.