Sunday, April 22, 2012
This weekend Joe's dad came over and changed out the leaky bathroom faucet. When I say it was leaky I mean it was REALLY leaky. The faucet has had a "quirk" since we bought the house meaning that you could never really turn the cold water all the way off without a steady drip. There was a sweet spot (just slightly before the "off" position) where you could turn it for no drips and Joe and I had quickly adapted to doing just that. For 3 years. It wasn't that attempts weren't made to fix it. In fact, with his dad's help there were several occasions where it would be "fixed" for brief periods of time, but we would always lapse back to our routine of finding the sweet spot where it actually turned off. About two weeks ago when I returned from a trip out of town for work, the faucet had taken a turn for the worse. Now, turning it "off" resulted in a flow just as steady as if it were on. Clearly, it was time for a change.
It's been more than four months since Joe passed away, but every time I make some sort of change, especially around the house, I feel a twinge in my heart. In my mind I know that it was just a faucet. I even know that if Joe were still here we STILL would have changed the faucet. I mean, geez, it was REALLY LEAKING. I can even picture Joe saying to me, "Anne, just get the faucet fixed." None of that changes the fact that any disruption to the way things were with Joe tugs at my grieving heart.
Through my interactions with other grieving people, I have come to realize that this is not kooky, but really perfectly normal. It's amazing how people will open up to you when you talk about things like this. It's not uncommon for me to encounter someone who has left a loved ones closet perfectly intact or a stack of mail or magazines untouched. I have plenty of my own examples. In my refrigerator you will find two tiny chocolate bears - one with my name and one with Joe's. They were from Thanksgiving and I just don't have the heart to eat them. At least not yet.
While our bedroom was completely re-done within a week, half of the guest room and a whole room in the basement is still full of his things, awaiting my attention at some point in the future.
I think part of my resistance to going through his things and my emotion over anything in the house that changes stems from a fear that as things change he will be forgotten. It's a fear that somehow, by eating those bears, I will forget about that last Thanksgiving we shared together and how, as I was sitting on our bed and the tears welled up in my eyes, he held my face in his hands and gently stroked my hair. Or how he smiled when my sister Naomi came up from the basement surprising my family after secretly flying home from Idaho the night before. Or how even though he was hardly able to eat anything at all he had turkey and some Boston Creme Pie (a very special dessert to us). Or how he took that precious photo of me sitting on the couch with Naomi.
It's a fear that somehow, by changing that faucet for a new one, I will forget about him giving Domani his first bath in that sink. Or how we would stand there at night with him while he brushed his teeth. Or how it felt when we first saw the bathroom while we were on the house hunt that felt like it would never end.
It's a fear that somehow, by sorting through his things and making decisions about what to do with each precious item, I will lose a piece of him. His clothes, his shoes, his books, his medical supplies. There are powerful memories packed into each item. The sneakers he would wear when he went skateboarding. The Mets shirt he wore to many games with me. The sleep pants my Aunt Joan bought for him when he was in the hospital the week of his diagnosis. These are just the items I know I will encounter. I'm sure there are many more, each with their own stories.
I hope I don't disappoint, but this is not going to be a blog post that resolves. (Not a good story format, I know.) At some point in the future, I'm sure it will. I will sort through his things and I will eat those chocolates. But for now, I will just acknowledge that change is hard. Even when it's just changing out a super leaky faucet.