"Grandpa wants to know if there is anything you might want."
How do you decide what it is you might want after someone dies? I have heard so many stories about how families become divided over money when someone passes. Or how someone's great aunt promised them a special vase and then their sister-in-law suddenly said she was promised the same and the person telling the story decides it just isn't worth it even though she was the only one in the family to come over each Saturday with daisies to put in that vase for her aunt. You know these stories.
The funny thing is though, when you have distance, when the fullness of the missing sets in, you realize all you want is one more minute with that person while they are breathing. Heck you would even be fine with one more minute with them in the funeral home. It is a strange thing to deeply understand that previous sentence.
So, when my mom called me in December of 2006 while she was visiting my grandpa and asked if there was something of my grandma's that I might want, I paused and immediately had this thought: I just want something that was really hers, that she used, that she touched, that she lived inside. I said that all I really wanted was something she had worn and wondered if the grey sweatshirt with the chickadees, the one we gave her years ago for Christmas, was still in the house. By the time I finished trying to explain, worried that I sounded so odd only wanting an article of clothing, my eyes were blurry with tears and I couldn't say anything else. The deep truth that I would never touch her again, hear her voice again, see her wear that sweatshirt again had taken over.
My mom said that there were a few things in the closet and she would check.
She called the next day. She had found the sweatshirt.
She had found the sweatshirt.
And a few other things and she was going to send them to me.
What I haven't said is that I promptly put everything into the trunk that we use as a coffee table where we keep sheets we use on the couch when we have more guests than the little guestroom holds. I could not handle looking at all of it. Seeing those clothes rocked me for a while last January. Last summer, when we started the (not-yet-finished) great cleanup/organization of 2007 (and 2008), I opened the trunk wondering what the heck might be inside it.
Right. The clothes. For some reason, I took out the grey sweatshirt and moved it to the bottom of my pajama drawer. Then, I quickly closed the trunk. Moving on.
In October, when we moved the dresser to the family room in anticipation of the new bed with under the bed drawers (the one that pottery barn screwed up the delivery of so many times that we finally had to cancel the order and hence the stalling of the great cleanup for the last few months) and I had to clean out the drawers, I moved the sweatshirt to the top shelf of my closet.
Yesterday, I noticed it again.
Today, I took down the grey button-front sweatshirt with the chickadees on the front and put it on. I put it on and went outside to investigate what spring had brought into my world today.
I put on that grey sweatshirt that my grandmother wore whenever she was around me and my brother as if to say, "I remember. I see you. I know you love me. I love you too." I put on that grey sweatshirt and I went outside with Millie. And, I walked around the yard.
Like she would do every morning.
I walked around the yard to see what had happened since yesterday and if nature felt any different because she suddenly lived inside spring.
I put on the sweatshirt and went outside to visit with spring and to feel just a little closer to someone I will never see again.
I put on the sweatshirt to remember that she lives inside me.
This weekend, Jonny is going to put up the new hooks we bought a few weeks back to put just inside the front door. Hooks where I will hang this sweatshirt so that I can put it on each morning before I go outside to see what gifts nature has brought overnight…so that I can put it on and move forward just a bit while holding onto the best of her.