Yesterday I shoveled snow for the first time this winter. I’ve always liked shoveling snow in the past. I still do but since last January, when Don passed away, I’ve gotten more careful about wearing a coat and boots when I’m outside. I’d been in the habit of shoveling a path for the dog in the mornings while wearing just my nightgown, robe and slippers. After Don died every time I’d do that I’d scare myself by remembering that old people living alone die of exposure when there is no one in the house to call 911 if you fall and don’t come back inside. I find myself basing too many decisions, now, on what the coroner would think and on trying to avoid making the 6:00 news for the way I eventually pass over to the other side.
My good friend since grade school says she refuses to think like an old person. Since becoming a widow I’ve done enough of that for two people so she’s off the hook. I have another good friend who put ‘skydiving’ on her ‘To Do List’ for 2013. But they both still have their husbands. Living alone is different. For one thing I still have too much widow-work to do, reallocating the space in the house that my dearly departed and his stuff took up, before I can plan the next chapter in my life. I guarantee, though, I will never, ever have a desire to go skydiving, climb a mountain or any of the other activities that have become a fad in the geriatric set to prove---what?---that you’re still young at heart, adventurous? Adventurous in my world means going to the grocery store on Tuesday instead of Monday. Well, I’m not that bad but you get the idea. When I do pick my rite-of-passage-back-to-spirited-living it’s more likely to include a recumbent bike, art classes and getting dressed before noon. See, I do have a plan.
As a widow living alone, along with purging your husband’s stuff from the house you also can’t help thinking about all the hidden ‘treasures’ in the back of your own dresser drawers and who will find them when you die. Will they recognize the importance of those Mardi Gras beads you’ve kept for 20 years? Going through your spouse’s things you know the back story on every single trinket you find which, of course, is what makes the job of sorting through his life’s accumulation of stuff so difficult….yet strangely comforting at the same time. He's not here to dry tears or laugh at jokes but his stuff still around me reminds me that Don was once real, not just a figment of my imagination. Not just a dream that comes in the night. He was more than just a line on the coroner’s ‘To Do List’. Sign death certificate. Check. He was more than two dates on a cemetery stone with no explanation for the dash in between. His stuff proves it. So I feel compelled to do right by it all as I purge, making room for my own future.
I’m near the first year anniversary of Don’s passing and I’m doing better than many other widows in the purging department. All but a few shirts and some hunting clothes I forgot to sell in the fall are gone from the closet. The wheelchair friendly vehicle, the medical equipment and assorted wheelchairs are gone. His garage full of gas station collectibles and the classic car are gone. But Don loved his smaller collections and I still have more purging to do. ‘Sort’ and ‘purge’ are words that I hope will appear crossed-off on my ‘To Do List’ often through out 2013. And by 2014 I want to write finish the last of the purging then immediately draw a dark line through those words and proclaim myself to be the very best good girl in the whole Kingdom of Widowhood! TWO gold stars for you. ©