The 60-pound club chair that Alberto stored to make room for my vintage L.A. furniture. A tattered French boudoir chair of his that I never asked about. Tennis rackets I never saw him use. Boxes of polos and swim trunks that never saw Summer 2009. All of these things—along with my own share of unused artifacts—no longer live in the basement storage units of my building.
This week they went home with strangers from Craig’s List, to the Salvation Army on Eighth Avenue, and to the rubbish room. There isn’t an impending move to a new apartment. No boyfriend to thank (or blame) for the purge. Just a gradual awareness that these things no longer define Alberto or obligate me. And that the monthly storage expense could be more wisely spent.
My mother’s timely visit to NYC means not only a pair of helping hands, it means hands belonging to someone who understands if I stop and sob now and then. Or share the story that goes with that gallon of paint before tossing it. It also means I have a witness when a plastic storage bin suddenly starts playing a Sinatra song.
Ssshh, Tré—listen! Do you hear that?
I do…it’s ‘Night and Day.’
Is it coming from your phone?
No, it’s coming from…that box.
We lean toward the sound, absorbing lyrics.
Night and day, you are the one.
Only you beneath the moon or under the sun.
Whether near to me, or far,
It’s no matter darling where you are.
I think of you.
Wow, she says, wiping her eyes.
For a moment, I see this scene as Mom is seeing it: music strongly associated with her daughter’s late husband is inexplicably coming from a 20-gallon bin during the clean-out of said husband’s storage unit.
I kinda wish I didn’t know the source of the sound.
Wish I could pretend it isn’t coming from a motion-activated Christmas ornament, which my Dad gave to Alberto and me.
But I do know, and so I confess.
Well, Mom says, that Christmas ornament’s got good timing. You’re keeping it, right?
All afternoon, as we sort and shift and stack, the bin serenades us. By the ninth or tenth rendition, I find myself humming along, mixing around the words until they sound less like a sentimental track from my past and more like a present-tense affirmation:
Near or far
No matter darling
Where all our things are
I think of you.
Just found your blog and memoir, and wanted to thank you for all that you write about. I have been incessantly searching the word ‘grief’ on Tumblr to find some words of wisdom since someone I loved died in February.
Although I’ve dealt with sudden deaths of close family and friends, I had never coped before with terminal illness in someone with whom I am in love. His death has affected me more than any before him, which seems to bring along extra feelings of guilt.
Your writing is already helping me, and I’m so glad to see it’s helping countless others. Also, you’ve inspired me to start using Tumblr again.
A somber day spent with Dad deep underground at the 9/11 Memorial Museum, a place that felt more reflective than exploitative (excepting the Museum Store, which left us with all the icks).
We reached our emotional saturation point inside of three hours, and stumbled up to the plaza in search of the Survivors’ Tree. This callery pear (upper left tree) survived the towers’ collapse with little more than its trunk, but was nursed back to health for nine years in the Bronx. It now stands tall, scars and all, in the foreground of another symbol of resurrection: the Freedom Tower.
Loss sucks, but it can also be transformed into supernatural fuel. Have you run your first marathon, published a book, created a foundation, run for office, started a business, etc. as a direct result of losing someone close to you? If you’re under 40, reply below or PM me by July 18 for inclusion in my next Modern Loss column. Feel free to share with Tumblrs or others who fit this profile.
here’s to good grief,
“I thought you’d look worse” wasn’t the kindest thing I heard in the months after my 40-year-old husband died of a sudden heart attack, but it wasn’t the most cringe-worthy either. In that first year, I was neither able nor willing to control my tears, but I worked in a NYC office where it wasn’t feasible to hide my puffy eyes behind dark sunglasses.
I tried cucumbers, tea bags and cold spoons, but these remedies were no match for eyelids so swollen, they actually hurt. I experimented with a ton of product, and found three that allowed me to cry all night and erase the evidence the next morning.
If you’re grieving a death, break-up or scary diagnosis, these three secret weapons can let you experience the healthy benefits of catharsis — without insanely puffy eyes or mascara running down your face. I’ve shared them with every mourning woman I know, but I have no affiliation with these brands nor am I being compensated for including them here.
Between 2009 and 2012, some pretty inexplicable shit happened in this apartment. That blazing candle when I returned from Cuba? Mystery strands of gray-and-black chest hair on my late husband’s laptop? His broken speakers that got unbroken? That 200-lb. armoire I was able to move?
The last inexplicable thing in this apartment happened in 2012 and lasted a few months. It was so simultaneously cliché and specific that I mentioned it to only a few girlfriends. It involved the remote-control lamp in the living room, which Alberto installed and was terribly proud of: Turn the house lights off without ever leaving bed? I am brilliant.
The lamp isn’t on a timer or an auto sensor: it’s controlled by a remote that lives in a container on my nightstand. There’s no reason the light should’ve been turning on and off—often while I was in the same room—but things like this happen when you remain in the apartment your husband died in, right?
Things like this haven’t happened for two years and while a part of me has missed those electrical hellos, the louder voice in my head reminds me that hey, I’m progressing through grief. And if doing the emotional work means I’m haunted less often, I’m OK with that.
So coming through the front door tonight, five plus years since his death, I am not expecting the remote-control light to be on. It’s neither his birthday nor deathiversary, but seeing this lighted lamp is the posthumous equivalent to seeing your husband’s keys on the foyer table: oh, he’s home.
Unlike a few years ago, I do not check the other still-dark rooms for further proof of the supernatural. I just smile, drop my keys on the foyer table and slip out of my shoes. I look around the apartment, trying to see it like someone who hasn’t visited in a while.
Setting aside science and reason for a sec, what would he have encountered if he stopped by tonight? A place setting for one on the dining room table. A day’s worth of dishes in the sink. Flung over a chair, the outfits I rejected before heading to tonight’s birthday party for Tumblr Lomalomarevamped. But also…the newly color-coordinated bookshelf. The rearranged foyer. Framed pictures of me with the daughter I met two years ago. A nearly completed To-Do list scrawled on the bathroom mirror.
Is it ridiculous that while I’m brushing my teeth, I allow myself no small sigh of relief that the light wasn’t on last Thursday night, when I did not come home alone? Is it also ridiculous that when I change out of tonight’s clothes I half hope that a pair of hands will inexplicably cup my breasts from behind? And that I’m disappointed when it doesn’t happen?
Ridiculous or not, I’m headed to bed shirtless and with that living room light still blazing. Because not-science.