The day after my mother’s funeral, Handsome Husband, the Brother, Handsome Husband’s youngest son and I cleared the bedroom in the nursing home. We’d brought bags and cases, but we had underestimated Herself. The nurse brought us several huge boxes, and we filled the lot.
Clothes, shoes, scarves (a whole case of scarves; she’d have enjoyed the bafflement of the men), toiletries, and any amount of stuff. We dumped the many toothbrushes and brought the rest back to the house, placed it all in the back bedroom, and closed the door.
In the intervening months, I’ve gone in and looked the odd time. Eventually, I stopped feeling nauseous when I saw a blouse that suited her, or her glasses, or a photograph of smiling grandchildren carefully framed with glitter and stars.
So the other day, once the school holidays started, we set off westwards. The anxiety I’d been feeling all week meant that it was wise to take a tablet- relaxing the tension in my jaw and letting me sleep on the journey. We were delighted to see Handsome Husband, looking well, and equally pleased to see us. He couldn’t name us, of course, but he knew who we were. He went out, and we made a start.
Black bin bags. Several piles- rubbish, charity, keep. The auntie came round and was persuaded to take a coat and some handbags. Bags! Oh, my goodness, so many bags. All shapes, sizes, colours. Some with matching shoes. The girls have bags now too. We like bags. We were well trained.
I’m glad we started. I’m glad we don’t have to finish, as Handsome Husband still lives there. It’s a smaller job than it could be, but it’s huge to me. It isn’t done yet, but we took a big step.
And with every step, there’s a discovery- we found the originals of some pictures that Herself had mounted and displayed in the kitchen, the ones that the cousins are hoping for copies of. Now, we can do that.
We go on, all of us, with starts and little steps.
We had a Month’s Mind mass last weekend. Just over a month since Herself died on us. A time to do more praying, for family and friends to gather and support each other, to catch up with people who hadn’t made it to the funeral. People who’d been on holiday or who hadn’t realised the extent of her illness showed up to be with us. I didn’t howl and bawl, so my system still recognises some of the proprieties. I cried and snuffled in the house- the first time I’d been there since. That was harder than I’d expected.
The Handsome Husband worries me. He is so lost, so anxious, so resistant to help. That was harder than I expected too.
The fun bit was the discovery of a new-to-the-family photograph. It was probably taken in the late forties. Herself was tall and smiley and poised, with good hair. We were all entertained that the style was in evidence over 60 years ago.
I took another picture from the house, one from 40 years ago. The amazing thing is that the Brother and I could be replaced now with Lightning McQueen and Girl 2 and the picture would be remarkably similar.