Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Packing Up

Weekends have become very important to me. I mean, let's face it, I can't remember a time in recent years when I wasn't "working for the weekend" but now they've become virtual life rafts, keeping me afloat after a week of obligations and deadlines have had me going under for the third time. Something something water metaphor.

So when it was "strongly suggested" by my uncle that we start using the upcoming weekends to go through my grandparents' house in preparation for its sale this summer, I wasn't thrilled, to say the least. To be honest, the mere suggestion stirred up a lot of emotions in me - I felt panic at the idea that we were moving forward with the selling of the house so soon, anger that my personal time was being infringed upon by such an emotionally and physically demanding task, and resentment that the only reason I had to do this at all was because my grandparents were gone and my mom wasn't here to take my place. But ultimately, I wanted to help him and my aunt out, and I wanted to lay claim to a few knick knacks, so I agreed. Its times like those that I roll my eyes upward and mutter "See, mom? I'm helping."

I dreaded it all week, worried about the feelings it would stir up, thinking about how the last time I was here was to pick out photos for my grandfather's funeral. When I walked through the front door my first thought was how it didn't smell that strongly of pipe smoke. The scent of my grandfather's tobacco- the rich, warm, almost chocolaty aroma when it was lit, the acrid, greasy trace it left on your clothes - was the most distinctive part of him. It was so bizarre to not have him sitting in his chair, raising that pipe with a "hello, pet!" as we walked in. Almost as bizarre to think that nobody owned this house anymore at all; furthermore to think that I was now technically a partial owner. 

In the end, like most things, it wasn't as bad as I'd thought it would be. We did the three upstairs closets, the upstairs bathroom, a spare bedroom, the closet of Christmas decor, and the master bedroom. It took us 5 hours - 2 more than I'd originally committed to mentally. I vowed to come away with very little, and I think I held (mostly) true to my intentions. I took a few pieces of jewellery, some sewing scissors, a metal music box that cracked me up with a "made in occupied japan" stamp on the bottom, some blankets, some embroidered hankies and small linens, and the suitcase my grandfather used for his honeymoon. I assuaged the guilt I felt over taking these items by throwing out a trashbag and a half's worth of my own stuff once I got home, dredged up from cardboard boxes that had fallen victim to our rather leaky basement.

It felt good, in some ways. Throwing out my stuff and theirs, pairing it down to what was absolutely necessary felt important and cathartic - a way of bringing Spring to the surface even if the weather refuses to comply. I don't think the actual selling of the house will feel as good - my childhood and adolescence are contained within those walls, and the idea of walking away from that era entirely, in so many ways, makes my chest hurt. 

That's the problem with compounded grief - there's so many layers to it, and so much of this time would be made easier if only one of them were still alive. If my mother was here, she would have brought home practically everything. We would have admonished her for her hoarder tendencies and she would have shushed us and packaged everything up in the basement, my dad complaining all the while that "we don't need all this crap!". But she would have told us the stories of everything and she would have bonded with her siblings and she would have provided a buffer between us and our mortality. And if my grandfather was still here, then of course we wouldn't be doing any of this at all. 

I try to avoid introspection these days - I honestly don't have time for it. It so often leads to regret and sadness, a weariness that knocks you out of commission for ages, robs you of sleep and ambition. I have a job that needs me and a house to upkeep and a future to look towards so I keep it to a minimum. But it wasn't so bad being slapped in the face with the past this weekend. I liked hearing the stories I didn't know and seeing what my grandparents deemed worthy of keeping. But as we finished room after room, and kept closing doors behind us, both metaphorically and physically, I couldn't help but think that, while "see you laters" are decent enough, endings never really get easier. 

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