What We Leave Behind
Posted on April 22, 2013
I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at my father-in-law’s house cleaning, sorting, rearranging, playing Tetris with the furniture and generally making myself useful. That’s pretty easy to do since if I wasn’t doing it, it wouldn’t get done. I consider it my full-time job once dad leaves for the day. Fortunately, the hubby is coming for a few days this week and he’ll have his work cut out for him. The funny thing is if I thought he putzed doing things around our flat, he does even more so at the house since that’s where he grew up and that’s where all his memories are. And truth be told, I’ve been rather intrigued with what I’ve come across.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m not a snooper. Well, I am, just not a bad snooper. Or a serial snooper. I snoop, but I’m particular about where I snoop and who I’ll snoop out. I snoop like a mofo where my husband is concerned. He knows it, too, and it amuses him. I tend to know more about him than he does, which I naturally rarely ever admit. It’s a rule that one does not show up one’s Asian master. That’s what he tells me. He just neglected to read all the fine print because it specifies “in public.” I read it, too, and his ass is mine in private, only any knowledge I have tends to come out in gentle, persuasive suggestions.
I’m totally screwed if he ever catches on to this.
So, I’m over at the house and emptying out a few stands to move downstairs into the one bedroom that’s set up and I see a long white envelope. It’s on its side along the edge of the nightstand and I can’t help but wonder what it’s doing there and why it looks to be in such pristine condition. There are two postcards inside it in equally pristine condition and I look at the dates. They’re from the 1960s. I’m astounded. The 60s! My friend and fellow author Patricia Logan was just moving on from the middle age segment of her life back then, but enough about her. He’s taken loving care of these two postcards for a reason, so I look at who they’re from; his mother.
She has to have written more than the two to him, so there may be a few more around or perhaps they were lost over the years. Either way, she was writing to her son during his being stationed in Texas for a short time. As he was later in life, my father-in-law apparently wasn’t good about saying much earlier either because she politely chastises him for not having written the family in a while to let them know he was okay. If there’s one constant in the universe, it’s mothers. They’re the caretakers. They’re the ones who help you keep your head on straight. And his was no different.
I wish I’d brought them home with me for a night so I could type them in, but I left them there. Perhaps another time. They really were quite lovely.
One of the other stands I moved downstairs had to be cleaned out, too. Okay, can I just say that I now understand why my husband has a thing with clothes? He must have clothes, lots and lots of clothes, some pieces of clothing more than others. His father apparently liked socks. Man o’ man did he like socks. Suffice to say that he had lots of socks. Dr. Seuss could write a book on drawer of hard knox of socks. Don’t get me started.
Another drawer had a little box with various military regalia in it, mostly things that went on dress shirts. The box was surrounded by buttons. Lots and lots of buttons. The man didn’t throw much away, another lovely habit his son picked up. We’re talking about someone (my father-in-law) who once dismantled a DVD player that no longer worked just so he could save the little feet on the bottom of the machine. Did he need them? No. Did he think he might ever use them? He might. And when I questioned his doing that, he looked at me, smiled and muttered “Shut up. Who asked you?”
It’s really been fun to discover the little details of my father-in-law’s life. And I’m doing it respectfully. I’m not walking in to a room and seeing what I can open and look through. What I do is functional and serves a purpose. This room has this piece of furniture and I need to have it emptied in order to move it. This makes sense and I’m careful with how I’m taking things out, plus where I’m storing it all until the hubs can come home and go through it.
Of course, I’m now thinking ahead to when my own time is upon the world. I need to make sure I leave lots of incriminating things in certain places that people can find when they go through my belongings one day. It’ll be my last chance to have fun, so I want it to be good. Admit it, you’d expect nothing less from little ol moi.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
13 Responses to “What We Leave Behind”
April 22, 2013 at 9:21 am
Odd how one’s memories and associations with certain objects largely become only the objects themselves when the person dies. You’re on something of an archeological dig with your current project, and I’m sure you FIL would be pleased with the respect you’re showing them.
April 22, 2013 at 9:32 am
All too often we see television shows and movies with relatives plunging into drawers and going through items like it was a treasure hunt. They are treasure chests, but only in terms of what the items meant to the former owner. You and I are very much aware of this.
In any case, because they meant something, they should always be handled with care and respect. I actually still have a small old time music box in the form of a record player from my great grandmother. I always loved the melody, but I haven’t played it in twenty years maybe. Perhaps it’s time to let it breathe a little and play today.
And if I hadn’t said anything about it in a comment, who would ever know where it came from or why I had it?
Lloyd Songal says:
April 22, 2013 at 9:34 am
A very Happy Monday yo you Kris. I would be doing exactly the same as you; being that I am not a particularly inquisitive or nosy person. There are drawers that I have never opened at our home in A2 and we have been together for 30 years. The funny thing is that my husband could care less (he is a very open & sharing person) obviously either could I care less. Even though he is 15 years my senior in real time; we are like two little kids in our life together. Best wishes for you both and i hope all of your effort and had work do not go unappreciated.
April 22, 2013 at 8:08 pm
Whenever my guy comes home and starts opening drawers, he’s bored. And if I don’t get him to stop, he’ll spend hours looking through them and asking what each friggin’ thing is since I remember. The object then becomes getting him to STOP looking and CLOSE the doors before we’re there all day.
Patricia Logan says:
April 22, 2013 at 11:18 am
A lovely post. When my mom died three years ago and we cleaned out her house to gather what my father considered precious and move him in with us, it was like walking down memory lane. I understand Ralph’s need to go slow with all of it. Every little bowl holds a special memory. I still use a yellow pyrex where my mother taught me how to make apples for the apple pie filling. I have warned my children that if any harm comes to that bowl they will all pay with their lives. In its day, the bowl probably cost $1.50 but it is precious to me. Those are the kind of things you find at times like these. I’m happy that you have taken this project on with reverence and I’m certain that Ralph approves. Good going, baba
April 22, 2013 at 8:12 pm
The hubs hasn’t actually gone slow. I have. I’m very, VERY careful I don’t change too much and I tell him everything I’m doing. It’ll become what it does, but I want this to be a gradual change and one he feels a part of so that it doesn’t become something foreign to him. That would be bad.
April 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm
Three days after my father died everything, and I mean everything of his was out of the closet and down to the thrift store. My mother was the least sentimental person I ever knew. His death devestated her (he died a few weeks after their 60th anniverasry), and she was never the same after, even though she lived another 15 years. Oddly enough she did keep his tool shed intact and for years, every time I would go in there, I could smell him. He lingered there for a good 10 years.
Tom Webb says:
April 22, 2013 at 11:37 am
It’s funny, Kris, those little pieces of a life we find cleaning out things after a person dies. When my mom died, we waited several months to take care of her belongings, because my dad couldn’t face her things not being where she left them.
What was amazing was watching my sisters going through her jewelry boxes. Now, Mom didn’t have much that was valuable, but the stories I heard about certain pieces, and what they meant choked me up even then.
She had been married to her high school sweetheart, and they married when she was 17 and had their first child. Then another, then she found out she was pregnant with her third at age 22 when her husband was struck ill and died in a matter of days and she never got to tell him she was carrying their third daughter. Eventually she remarried and my dad, who was divorced, had three kids already and even though they didn’t plan to have any more, they did. Me and my brother, who is a year younger. So eight of us. Yours, mine and ours.
I am going a long way around to make this point-the more we looked, the more I found out about my mom as a woman, as a person. Remarkable.
Love to you and Ralph.
April 22, 2013 at 8:19 pm
I’m amazed at how much we don’t know about the people we spend our lives with or who had a hand in giving birth to us. Just a month ago I found a grade school year book of my guy and he’d drawn little hearts around the guys he thought were cute. It was adorable! He turned a little red, which is a feat for him.
I wonder how many stories he and his brother know about their father versus what they don’t know. It’ll be an interesting week when he comes home on Wednesday and we start going through some things.
btw, you have a HUGE family!
April 22, 2013 at 9:26 pm
My cousin is in a yours mine and ours marriage. One of hers married one of his.
Martha Swartz says:
April 22, 2013 at 9:30 pm
Oh damn. I think I need to get rid of some things. I mean I know my kids already know I’m a perv, but yeah, I think it’s time to get rid of some stuff! Thanks for reminding me with this post. The sex toys & porn need to be hidden really well!!!! Hahaha
April 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm
Or you need to share. Going with one of those two.
Martha Swartz says:
April 22, 2013 at 9:41 pm
Hahaha. Share my toys & porn? Never!!! LOL