The end of an era. Seventeen years and some months after she discovered my father lying still and silent in his bed, him having eased out of this world with a peace we’d never dared hoped for, my mother has finally consented to sell his car.
This is not a small deal for her, letting go.
Too many years of being a caregiver for a man who teetered between vitality and the verge of death, between sudden cardiac failure and suddenly deciding to buy a new boat – it wore Mom out. When death finally did manage to catch Dad napping, the residual stress, heaped now with grief and solitude, turned my formerly organized neatnik mother into a hoarder.
I based a play on it, and turned it into a film. She didn’t much care for either one. Go figure.
Now, we have this widow thing in common. I know it has to drive her crazy, the clutter in her house. My own mess drives me nuts, and I have never been organized or neat. I am the woman who drove her husband crazy leaving shoes and bras all over the house.
I get the clutter, and I get the hesitancy to face it – much less dispose of anything. Every time something of Mark’s leaves the house, I am relieved, and worried that I’ve just let go of something really important. A friend had to talk me out of an emotional meltdown after I gave away a box of Mark’s clothes – ones that didn’t matter, the size “small” pants and shirts that he had to buy after radiation turned his throat into a mass of sores and he dropped over 70 pounds. (Mark: “I’ve been on the cancer diet. Highly effective, but I don’t recommend it.”)
So, I get it. The hoarding. The holding on. And the letting go. I understand the need to finally move on. And I look at that pile of stuff, papers and to-do’s and must-do’s, and I worry about everything, about money and health, about losing my mother, about whether or not I’m doing right by my kids, and whether I’m doing enough to help them move on into their adult lives.
And there is a car in my driveway, a 1997 Honda Odyssey. It smells like him. It smells faintly of sweat. It smells like sawdust. It smells like our dog, who died, whose collar he stored in the console between the front seats. The car is quirky and old, but still driveable. It’s a worthy first car for a couple of teenagers.
Now, I just have to give it to them – the car, and the freedom. Minus the clutter.