Thursday, January 20, 2011
Closets in our hearts
There she was coming down the lift while I looked up from the back stairwell. Gliding down in slow motion. Her caregiver walking down just ahead of her descent.
"Your daughter is here to see you Mrs. L."
My mother looks at me, her eyes scanning down at figures below her. The caregiver says she has much going on today with a previous visitor and what else I do not find out.
"Ellen", she says it clear as a bell. My name. The name I have not heard her say in ever so long. I am surprised and delighted all at the same time.
She reaches the bottom, rises from her seat with the aid of our hands and stands facing me. Her words that flow from her mouth so odd. Her face shows a glimmer of being happy to see me.
I see she is wearing the black pinstripe jacket that she wore on Christmas day and black slacks in need of being taken in as they are too large for her now.
I direct her to her chair that she always sits in at her breakfast table and sit in the chair nearest her. She reaches for my hand and I to her.
"Love you...." those words I understand that come from her lips. My thoughts come to how she says these words to me now so often. Whereas before it was I who would tell her "I love you" at the end of our phone calls or saying goodbye from a visit. A desperate attempt from me to want to have her understand how much I needed to know I was truly loved by her. I had to tell her to let me know. What an odd thing for me to have thought? Does she not love me? Does she love me the way I love my children?
I look at that jacket. How is it that her mind goes to this jacket and the need to wear it? My mom has three very large closets in her bedroom, one being a walk-in. Two other bedrooms have large closets with one room having a walk-in as well. Down on the lowest level of her home she has another walk-in closet. All are filled with her clothes.
When Papa was alive he surely had a closet in their room. I know this to be true, I know he had the two smaller ones though it is hard to see it that way now. I remember after he passed away seeing his handsome jackets, suits, dress shirts, slacks, and sweaters all neatly hanging in one near the armoire. I see his grubby clothes as well. The ones he wore to do "work" around the house. The puttering that men do so well. I see those pale khaki ones that he would wear with an old polo shirt. They were the kind one doesn't wish to let go of because they are comfortably broken in.
When a spouse passes away, while they leave our presence their belongings, clothes, personal items remain. How long does one hold onto the clothes, shoes, hats and such? For my mom is was a bit by bit passing on of his things. A long raincoat to a friend who might use it. His belongings of day to day passed on. Yet in the top drawer of the armoire his watch, wallet, keys and small items such as these remain. I only found this out while trying to figure out where she might be hiding her jewelry before we insured them and put them in her new safe. I wanted to gather them up and put them in my pocket. I wanted to still feel like he might put his watch on. I never noticed, though I know it doesn't, if the watch still ticked. No, I know it has stopped as surely as his heart did.
How long does one leave their loved ones closets empty once they have taken those clothes away? How hollow to see a room still in the living yet a closet empty. Moved on. How long before one chooses to not open the door to see that emptiness? The wanting of it to not be empty of their loved one and the comfort they once had.
I can imagine my mom filling each closet more full to somehow fill her emptiness she had within herself. More items added till it no longer looked like it held a man's life of living. Yet now filled with clothes never worn, tags still on, alone hanging mutely. I have looked at these items remember how my mom enjoyed shopping. She often shopped alone, getting to know the store personnel who kept their eyes open for things she might like. She bought to buy for no other reason except to buy. She didn't need these things. It just was her way to fill the empty spot in her closet. When it became too full she started to give those clothes away only to go and buy more to once again fill the space that to her was still empty. She did not know that while one can fill a space it does not fill your soul of the loneliness that creeps in. No matter how her family tried to help fill in the space we were not what she wanted.
I have clothes with stories. Memories of a time and place that make them hard to let go even if they were out of style, worn out or do not fit. Most are of my children clothes. The tiny layette gown they wore, so small but once worn by my babies with curled up legs that kicked and moved in them. Receiving blankets I made of flannel so soft and cozy. I have a dresser filled with childhood sweaters, dresses, knit baby hats and such. A trunk with baby toys, handmade blankets knit and crocheted. In the attic more clothes of each of theirs to someday hopefully to be passed on to a grandchild. Two of my daughters closets hold boxes of each child's life, school days, drawings, cards, report cards, stories of their growing up. The inside walls of the closets covered with their personal touch of photos, fortune cookie fortunes, magazine pictures. I can't remove them though my Love would like to clean the walls up. Stories, so many stories I know nothing of but they do. Those are my closets, drawers of my heart. Held there that keep me whole as the mother I am. Dreams, sweet dreams. Though I hold these treasures of days gone by my soul is full. I know I need not fill a visual space to know what I have.
The closets in our hearts to keep full, to hopefully overflow. To spill into our arms, hands, fingers, eyes, to softly graze our skin with the life memory of times well spent. A lifetime to fill, to share, to open.