Being a cook in the time of a Global Pandemic doesn’t really afford me the opportunity to take much time off of work. Heck, in June I took two days off to go see my mom… and still got overtime! Luckily, I work with some amazing people who picked up my slack so that I could celebrate my Wedding Anniversary the way I wanted to… by taking four days off (six in total!)… and going through mine and Kateri’s shit! The one thing I absolutely knew that I wanted to do was to go through all the bins of Kateri’s clothes on the day of our Anniversary… September 28th. I know… such the romantic!
It was a productive time off. I had a plan. There was an order in which I was gonna do things to hopefully get to a place of feeling accomplished in reaching my goal of sorta getting my house and garage to a starting point… a point where I could feel a little more rooted in “My Life” while still holding onto the things that I loved about Kateri and “Our Life”… which I guess is still “My Life”… ugh… you know what I’m talkin’ about. I simply came to a place in time where my life felt cluttered with these two different chapters of existence and I’m simply learning how to combine the two in a way that is… healthy… for me. Today is day six of my time off and once I’m done with this little blog thing… it’ll be Mission Accomplished!… for at least another month or two.
Saturday was all about the garage and going to the dump. I had originally thought about getting a dumpster, but after realizing I didn’t actually have that much stuff to throw away… and finding out it would’ve cost me $650!… I decided against it. Since the town dump (not my town’s dump… shhh) is only open on Saturdays and Wednesdays, it provided me with a little guidance in the order to do things. So I woke up, walked around with coffee looking at things in bathrooms, mudrooms (I’ve only got one), kitchens (still only one of those, too), the garage, and potting shed to assess the situation. I’m sure there was a bit of procrastination there, as well, but I finally just started pulling things down and out and began creating piles. Two runs to the dump later and my home and garage no longer had old humidifiers and air purifiers hanging out, or broken DVD players, little TVs we had in lofts 17 years ago, fans, toaster ovens, huge metal lazy Susan discs from cabinets we tore down 6 years ago, lotion bottles, bottles with stuff in them for hair… or the adult diapers from when Kateri was sick. It was a purge… and it felt great!
Sunday and Monday was time for going through boxes that were hidden in closets and to go through our art. Kateri and I loved picking up little pieces from our travels to remember them by. We loved it even more when they were given to us by friends and family and I just wanted to have them out to remember the people… the stories… and the memories. So after rummaging through a few boxes, going out and buying frames… and then figuring out how to fit paintings and pics in frames!… I hung our art on Monday night. On a side note, Amanda (my Lady Friend…!) went with me on Monday to donate a few things and to get the frames, but wasn’t there to help with the hanging of art that night. Although it would’ve been helpful to have someone else there, she is an amazingly wonderful and supportive person who understood that I kinda wanted to wake up alone on Tuesday… my anniversary… so she went home after dinner… and I kept sending her pics of how I hung shit.
Tuesday, September 28… it would’ve been our 10th Wedding Anniversary… 20th year together… 23rd year with Kateri in my life… 3 years 5 months without her by my side… and I woke up crying. I haven’t been very emotional about my widowhood as of late… we widowers kinda learn to live with the loss… but the emotions had been building up as Tuesday approached and they simply needed out. It felt good to release a little. I mean, the crushing sense of loss and the thought of Kateri being dealt the cancer card… with mutations… didn’t feel good, but it felt nice to have the time and space to let them flow out of me. In a strange way, it felt good to feel that pain once again. It reminds me of how wonderful of a person she was. It reminds me of how much I love her. (Now I’m crying again… that wasn’t part of the plan!)
I didn’t know what I would feel, how I would react once I started opening all of those green bins (I thought Kateri would enjoy the bins being a bright green!), especially after the first hour and a half of my morning, but I needed… and wanted… to get the ball rolling. So, I went into the spare bedroom, stood there for a few moments, pulled a bin down… and opened it. The process was actually a lot less emotional than I expected. I think it’s because I was a bit more mission/task driven and I was ready… READY… to do it. I was tired of living in this state of, “I’ll get to it… one day.”. Well, today was the day! (two days ago). As I got further into it, I just kept looking at shirts, t-shirts (which I kept all of them), sweaters, pants, comfy clothes, swimsuits, the blouses still in bags from when Kateri practiced a little “Retail Therapy”, scarves, hats, and thin hoodies (I kept all of the hoodie hoodies) thinking to myself, “They’re just clothes.”. But I also realized that they’re not “just clothes”… they are how I picture Kateri. I mean, we don’t just remember our significant others naked all the time! We remember them wearing this t-shirt or that dress or those overalls. Our clothes are an extension of our personality. They tell stories of our life… which I think is why I kept all of her t-shirts with shit on them advertising friends’ businesses, trips to NY, or to the Shakespeare Festival in Boise where we ran into one of Kateri’s childhood friend… from Vermont!
It was a process… and took longer than I expected, but it felt good once it was all said and done. It was fun looking at the little pile of things I placed on her grandma’s dresser of things I found in pockets. She would carry a little blue flashlight around that was smaller than a book of matches she had gotten in Wyoming… I think… which had come in useful when looking for particular keys that fit particular doorknobs… in the dark. There were only two articles of clothing that sorta hit me. One was a pajama top that has been in my entire life with Kateri. And the other one was a short sleeved V-neck shirt with no real particular story behind it. I just thought about how nice she looked in it. It was soooo her… and it simply made me miss her.
Love Strings…. ya. I guess that was one other moment where I had to pause… when I noticed a strand of Kateri’s hair… which she called her Love Strings. Damn Love Strings! They get you every time!
When all said and done, on Wednesday I had one more trip to Listen with eight bags of clothes to donate and one more trip to the dump with two bags of ratty and worn clothing… along with two bags of concrete mix that had turned into 160 pounds of… concrete. Wednesday evening I finished tidying the garage, brought up art that is gonna hang in the spare bedroom, and… well… cleaned the house. I was exhausted. It was five days of being fully immersed in my personal life. Past, Present, and Future. It was definitely daunting at first, but being on the other side of it feels pretty darn good. It was a task, a process, an experience that has been taking up mental… and physical… space for years now. This was the time… these six days were the time… to remember Kateri, to remember my wedding and my wife, and to take new steps towards the rest of my life.
Widower Notes n Thoughts:
- So… I wasn’t alone during this whole experience… I had/have company. A friend of Amanda’s and mine went into the hospital on Thursday and we were asked if we could watch her dog, Xander. Since I had six days off, live in the country, wasn’t going anywhere, and Amanda had to work… I offered for Xander to come and hang with me at The Schoolhouse. Now… having a dog around was nowhere near my radar as I thought about my Wedding Anniversary Staycation, but I gotta say… it’s been wonderful going through this with him. It helps that I’m pretty sure Xander is the most well behaved and chill canine out there, because it would be a different story if he was a ball of energy and/or destroyed my shit. The one thing that sorta sealed the deal for me was on Tuesday, when I woke up crying, he was basically by my side for about an hour and a half. For one reason or another… he was there for me. And I’m pretty sure that after he goes home his Love Strings will be there for me for quite a while, too!… all over my couch.