A version of this piece was in the Pathfinder's Magazine last month.
My husband used to say, “If it’s a Kodak moment, we don’t need a Kodak.” If that’s true, as long as our memory is still in tact, maybe it's not all that crucial to hold on to mementos.
What we widows/widowers keep or easily toss is as individual and intimate as our marriages were.
That said, at some point I needed more closet space. My wardrobe was expanding because no one was there to sarcastically remark, “Do you really need another pair of black pants?”
I know. You'd think a man who was married for over 30 years would know that women can never have enough black pants or black anything, actually!
Here it was a year and a half since Jimmy died and the closet was jammed with black everything. My daily habit of bringing my morning coffee into the closet and reading Jimmy our horoscopes while I sat cross-legged on the floor, was reduced now to on average once a week.
I noted that my visits weren’t social, anymore. Our closet - my closet was turning into a closet again. I’d go in and take my clothes out. Period. Sometimes I’d blow a quick kiss and mumble, “Hiya, Jimmy, love ya.” More often, I’d come and go and I didn’t speak to him at all, just like in real life when we were mad at each other.
The day when I was fresh back from Bloomingdales with no room to hang my new outfit convinced me that perhaps I was being much too sentimental holding unto my husband’s clothing and the much-needed hangers they were on. Let’s face it; it’s easy to hang onto stuff when you don’t need the hangers.
Cleaning out the closet to make more room for poor widow me was not as traumatic as I was afraid it would be after my friend told me about memorial quilts, sometimes called memory quilts.
The memory quilt was a wonderful idea because I wasn’t really getting rid of his clothes. I was condensing them into a blanket for snuggling.
I took all of his shirts and pants and even ties, ones that my husband wore most frequently and had them cut into four-inch squares and sewn together with a backing. Voila! A forever quilt!
Jimmy really wasn’t much of a clotheshorse, so that quilt could have been the size of a napkin or a potholder. Okay. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration.
I made one for each of the kids. They were thrilled. For an idiotic second, since it was such a magnificent thought and deed, I imagined that that year I could get away with making their “Dad Quilt” their one and only Christmas present.
Who am I kidding? popped into my head. After the gushing stops and the tears dry next would be ‘What else did you get us, Mom?’
My daughter has her quilt over the back of her couch in her family room and my son has it spread on his bed. I visit Jimmy each time I visit them.
I almost made one for myself, but I didn’t. I thought ahead. I wasn’t dating yet, but I knew at some point I would and what if ‘new guy’ sits on my couch next to my late husband’s entire wardrobe?
And, what if ‘new guy’ happens to be wearing the exact same pattern shirt as one of those little squares? Talk about a mood changer...
In my first bereavement group the one and only widower announced to us widows that he “got rid of” his wife’s entire wardrobe the day after her funeral. If ‘stunned’ could make a noise the room sounded stunned.
Collectively, we knew not to be judgmental, but our silence shouted, “What the hell is wrong with you, Mister?”
Cold widower melted right before our eyes, though, as he struggled to express his needs to eliminate all of his bad memories. Her clothes represented the four years that his wife had suffered.
“There was not one blouse or pair of pants that gave me a good sentimental feeling,” he explained.
“When I looked at her orange top it made me sick inside. She was wearing that the first time she sat in her wheelchair and she called her jeans and blue blouse her lucky chemo outfit. Obviously, not so lucky...” His voice trailed off and he had tears in his eyes.
Our leader smirked as if to say, “I told you to wait and hear him out.” I guess she was relieved that she didn’t have to break up a rumble.
The next week nine horny widows brought him in a casserole.
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