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Monday, December 12, 2011

Cleaning House

"I got off the phone with Blue Cross Blue Shield today, " he says, collapsing into the sofa. He rubs his forehead.

"And?" I place my nook on the armrest, attempting to give him my full attention.

He talks of forms and figures, furrowed brows and forgotten details. For months now, he has helped his father sweep up the debris and fragments of his mother's life.

Insurance. Medical bills. Retirement. He works the gnarls from the knot. He tries to be gentle, but he still must tug. Strain.

Last Monday: "I had to tell them she's deceased,"  he said, spooning spaghetti in bowls.

Yesterday: "The hospital sent a postcard to Mom today, inviting her to a Bone and Joint Health Seminar."

I forced a smile, "I guess she's not going."

He shook his head, "Yeah."

I hold his hand and try not to study his features too intently. I annoy him with my furtive glances, as I scan his face for crumbling.

I want to dump the bucket, and let the water flow into every corner of her house. I want a flood. An outpouring. A release.

But he needs containment. Checks on paper, and creased, crisp envelopes.

He is mourning. He is cleaning house.

And I am trying my hardest to let him do it his way.

21 comments:

Jenna said...

oh my heart. reading that felt like a physical punch to the stomach. so hard for both of you. sending you endurance to give him space, and for him to let you in when the time for containment has passed. a huge wall was put up in my marriage when my ex didn't ever let me in when his grandma (who raised him) passed away. He never let me in after that, either. so i truly hope there is connection when that time comes. thinking of you both.

Banker Chick said...

I have done this myself and now with my husband. It is hard, but gets easier as you get on with it. Eventually the mail stops, the belongings get sorted, which can ber theraputic, and get replaced with the fond memories.

Jenny said...

It's so hard not to try and micromanage a loved ones grief.

I'm sorry.

This has to be so painful for you all.

NC Narrator said...

I can understand the need for containment - the fear that if you let something escape, everything will be washed away...good and bad. It seems especially difficult these days, when reminders of the person you lost pop up in the most unexpected things.

Betsy said...

I have difficulty dealing with my own guilt and, so, am horrible with helping others. It's like trying to balance on a string.

Karen said...

Sometimes it's so hard to support someone else when their process is so different from our own, but you were right there, letting him contain his grief.

In the third paragraph, I can really feel the effort to stay busy and the exhaustion that comes from all of it.

TKW said...

Oh. Obviously, I've missed something, and I'm so sorry. Thinking of you and your husband.

Melanie said...

Beautifully written, and so hard to let our loved ones grieve in their own way.

Thank you for your encouraging words on my post. Treasures and new skills -- I just completed my scuba diving certification this morning!

Galit Breen said...

I love the way that you captured "married talk." We fall back on our instincts when times are hard, and then we maneuver around each other's ways- so very tricky.

{So sorry this going on.}

giddysap said...

You did a very fine job of capturing the nuances of grief in just a few words. I enjoyed all of this, but my favorite was: "Insurance. Medical bills. Retirement. He works the gnarls from the knot. He tries to be gentle, but he still must tug. Strain." The speaker empathizes with him, yet at the same time she has her own strain in having to deal with it. Fantastic!

Cameron said...

The bit about watching for crumpling... I have done this with my husband, and it is almsot unavoidable.

Your light touch with heavy topics continues to amaze me, you know.

Krista said...

Beautiful. I can so easily understand your husband's grief and yours from your writing. And the way you show how it's a part of even the simple things in life. It's so pervasive.

A flood or to contain it...gorgeous writing.

HonestConvoGal said...

Very nicely rendered. I like your use of detail--the checks, the furrowed brow, to show us how hard it is for your husband. And yes, it is so hard to watch loved ones grieve, and so helpless.

Not Just Another Mother Blogger! said...

"I want to dump the bucket, and let the water flow into every corner of her house. I want a flood. An outpouring. A release."

I got the true sense here of your fight to contain what you wanted, to allow your husband to grieve in his own way.

Powerful writing, indeed.

Green Goose said...

One more reader who finds this powerful! I'll just add this...you've captured the masculine & feminine tendencies with grief management in your description of pouring vs. containing the water. Well done, and warmest comforts. xoxo

Erin said...

Grief is one of the hardest things, but it's so nice to know that the people we love the most are right there waiting to be there for us!
So honestly written!

Paul said...

Achingly gorgeous.

Julie said...

...and yet. The way you describe his containment?

It overflows with all the unspoken emotion.

Your words are both sparing and loaded at the same time.

An amazing accomplishment. Always.

Coby said...

Painfully beautiful and honest. "...I am trying my hardest to let him do it his way." Isn't that so hard sometimes? Especially with grief and other difficulties life throws at us. It's such a delicate balance.

Alyca E said...

Very well done. I know that containment. I've lived it. It sucks and you managed to capture the realness of it. *applause*

Ash said...

It's the lesson I take away from 2011 - each experience in mourning is as unique as a fingerprint.

You're a good wife and soul for understanding and embracing that.

Love, me