Dad is in the cleaning out mood. He's been going through drawers and closets that haven't been touched since you died. And so, yesterday, I drove down to look through some stuff he didn't really know what to do with and to see if there was anything that I wanted to keep.
The contents of the extra bedroom closet pretty much consisted of stuff you had saved from your parents' house when it was sold. There were little bird figurines and old sheets and the things they saved from their big 50th anniversary party. I found a box full of cards and letters, so I brought that home and sat down in the floor to sort through it all. There were a few letters that grandmother had written to grandaddy when he was away in the Navy in 1945, and that was cool to read. And then I found this bundle of stuff held together with a rubber band. So I took the band off and found a small white envelope full of those little cards that come with flower arrangements. Immediately I knew what it was.
She saved it all. She saved every single floral card from every plant and arrangement from Aunt Kitty's funeral in 1978. And there was more... every single card that had been mailed to her, the list of addresses she had used to send out thank you notes with each name checked off in precise order. She saved it all.
It doesn't really get better, does it, Mama? The missing of someone lost. The holding on of certain things, the letting go of others. Finding that bundle made me realize that it will really never feel any better. I have the same collection, you see, of every single card from every plant and arrangement that was sent to your funeral and every single card that was mailed to me. In place of the rubber band, I selected the more modern form of holding things together, the Ziploc bag. They are neatly tucked away, and I doubt I will ever be able to part with them. And, so, one day in the very distant future (I hope) Madalyn will probably find them in the cleaning out of my things, and she will, in that moment, realize what I have come to know. That the missing of people we love doesn't go away.
I opened every single card and looked at the signatures. There were a couple of names I recognized, but most were completely foreign to me. But I could imagine my grandmother receiving each card, opening the envelope, reading the words on paper that really don't make the grief any better, but feeling the support in knowing that someone cared. And I imagine a lot of lonely tears, quiet and heavy. And I know all the years that she couldn't even talk about her daughter that died so suddenly, tragically. I hope I am grieving better than she knew how to do so long ago, keeping your memory alive while showing that it hurts so deeply. My children need to know it's okay to keep you in the present and still miss you so much.
On a lighter note, Mama, I sure do wish you and grandmother both hadn't saved every single sheet set you ever owned. I understand the keeping of an extra old sheet here or there, but have mercy. Please know that the Olivia and Patricia desire to save every single thing that may, may, may be of value some day has been passed on to my Madalyn. The pack-rat gene has been preserved for future generations. I spent four hours in her room on Saturday holding things up and saying, "Keep or give away?" We filled a trash bag full of toys and things to donate, praise the Lord. And we cleaned out and we rearranged and made way for the media cabinet that used to be in your bedroom. When we were down a few weeks ago, dad mentioned to me that he wanted to get rid of the cabinet, and Madalyn's ears perked right up. She wants anything that came from Gammie. Even when I mentioned painting it white or black to better match her room, she said she wanted to keep it "just like Gammie had it." What do you say to that?
So here we are, right in the midst of summer, living it all out. The 4th is Friday. Gosh, how I would love to here my sweet grandmother's voice saying, "Let's barbecue some chicken." And her homemade sauce and sweet tea and pound cake. I hope there is pound cake in heaven.
I love you. Always.