Thursday, August 28, 2014

Conscious Avoidance

At some point in this whole adding another member to the family process, we realized that we were going to have to rearrange almost all of the house. The kids have moved rooms, we've walled in the loft, regaining some of the spaces we had lost to them before. It's been a long undertaking, and it's almost done.

One of the final bits of it all involved moving the entertainment center and television back into what should be the family room, but has mostly been wasted space for five years or so because it was beneath the loft...the loft that we were using as a bedroom even though it didn't have a wall. Consequently, we always had to be quiet after the kids went to bed and the room became the place old toys and furniture went to die.

Somehow in the process, my husband sweet talked me into a new tv. Which we needed, and I know that we needed. The old one didn't have the proper connections for any of the devices or blu ray players we use these days, so it really was a rapidly aging dinosaur.

We got a new one. The enormous old tv that doesn't work with anything anymore is still sitting in my family room until I can figure out a way to get rid of it. The other tv that had been down here, even older than that one, migrated up to our room.

We finally have a grown up tv in our room. We've been married for 16 years. Not in a hurry around here. Nope.

The problem with moving it up there is that it was too big for the space we had in the armoire. To make it fit, my husband had to take out the shelf that was in the armoire.

That shelf.

The one that collected all of the things that I couldn't deal with.

Some of them had been there for a very long time.

This shelf, full of things that I put there because I couldn't read them or sort through them or look at them, it's sitting on my floor at the moment. The contents piled up in the cradle because he had nowhere else to put them.

This shelf, it was full.

There are the trinkets the kids have made over the years, tiny baggies of lost baby teeth. Notes from friends who'd been in the places I'd been, carrying words of wisdom and understanding. Containers of things my mother sent when she was frantically cleaning out the house after my father passed away, when she was in this bizarre phase of purging and buying and purging and buying. Every bit she discarded or mailed to me was replaced and then some, so she never made any actual progress. Containers I haven't opened in over three years.

There is a stack of cards from when my father died, some of which I still haven't been able to read. The rough draft I hand wrote of the eulogy I gave at his funeral is in there. Notes from the people who came to the funeral tucked into my hands as they said their goodbyes. Boxes from his dental lab full of random pieces of who he was. A gift bag stuffed with pictures...

The bag of pictures.
Moments like this make me so insanely
grateful for the existence of digital photography.

Leaking out little pieces of the things that happened, I am. Bit by bit, it comes out.

When he was in the last days, we all sensed it, him more than us. We followed his lead. We let him sleep when he needed, we made him all the margaritas he could have wanted. Ran to get whatever food sounded good to him. We rearranged furniture almost constantly and adapted medication schedules every single day. We knew the time would be soon, though I don't think any of us had any real idea of how close it was.

Mom, though, she was lost. Manic is really the only word that could describe it. She couldn't deal with the fact that he was dying or that she couldn't dictate how it was going to happen. Perhaps if we hadn't been there, things might have been different. I don't know and guessing about things like that does me no good.

She compulsively had to occupy her time in whatever way she saw fit, even if it wasn't productive or useful. Even if it was destructive.

In those last days, she became very destructive.

There are moments from that last week that I've tried to block from my memories because they were so awful.

This bag of pictures, part of it all.

At some point in the last month of his life, she decided that she needed to make a scrapbook. I'm not sure who it was for, honestly. He could not possibly have cared less. He was too busy dying to be bothered with anything like that, and he knew that he wouldn't be around to ever see anything completed anyway.

She said she was making it for him, but I think that's just how she rationalized it all.

We all knew she was doing it for herself. To stay busy.

In the process, she was making a huge mess almost constantly. Scraps of paper everywhere. Tables completely taken over by it all. I don't know how many of you have scrapbooked, but it's not a contained and tidy hobby. Combine that with a house full of medical equipment, people coming and going, a dying father, and the general chaos of all that she wasn't pleasant.

We tried, oh how we tried, to just let her be. Clearly this was her coping mechanism, even if it didn't make any sense to any of us, and so we tried to let her be.

We tried. We tried until one night when we saw what she had begun to do in the construction of this scrapboook. She'd started to disassemble all the photo albums in the house and cut up old pictures.

She was cutting up wedding pictures and the only remaining copies of pictures of them from when they met in high school. She was cutting people out of pictures, destroying the images left from our childhoods. She was even, gasp, cutting polaroids. You can't cut polaroids without completely ruining them.

We all stood there, shaking our heads in disbelief.

And so when she went to bed that night, we sorted through what wasn't glued into the scrapbook already. We chose carefully, selecting the most important pictures to us, taking enough but not too much. We didn't want her to realize that some of the pictures were gone, but we had to try and salvage some of it. We couldn't let her ruin it all.

Those pictures. They've been sitting in that bag ever since.

I'm not even sure what I grabbed anymore. I have never been able to bring myself to look in the bag.

And now it is time.

I have to sort through it all, I can't avoid it anymore. The shelf that used to hide all these things from me is gone, and they're filling the space that I need to clear for the baby to come home.

I don't have a choice anymore.

I can't avoid it.

This has been bothering me since the weekend, bothering me more than I realized. Last night, several vivid dreams of everything that happened back then. It's coming back and I have to deal with it now.

Conscious avoidance has served me well thus far, but I can't do it anymore.

Confronting the past is awful sometimes, but right now it's my reality.

These are the things the living are left with when the dead are gone.


  1. Yes, I have this shelf. Well, and a box. But you know...

    In a way I'm glad this happened to you now and not later. xo

  2. My heart understands your pain and I'm sending all the love and light I can. You are strong. You can do this. As difficult as it will be, I believe it will eventually bring you peace. Big, big hug.....xoxo


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