It was about a day after my Dad died that I witnessed my Mom looking through drawers in her and Dad’s room to find something. She opened up my Dad’s T-shirt drawer and let out a heartfelt wail that brought tears to my eyes for her.
While I used to have dreams about Dad after he died, in which he would appear in his yard work sweater, it was only after I had lost my first husband that I found out for myself the extreme aching and sadness you have when you open the closet or the drawer for the first time after they’re gone. It is just one of the many cruel reminders that you will never see them again on this earth.
Does that mean you should dispose of their clothes right away so you don’t have that heartache? Some people may think so, but the answer is: Whenever you’re ready.
This is what I remember telling Ace, my sewer guy, who lost his wife right before I lost Bruce.
Ace ‘n’ Shit
I don’t know if the guy is still around, but his name wasn’t actually Ace. It was his sewer company that was called Ace, with the tagline: A Straight Flush is Better Than a Full House. This, I thought, was humorous and kind of brilliant as far as advertising goes.
What wasn’t humorous is the fact that Bruce and I had to call Ace a lot because our place, the bottom floor of a house that was converted into an apartment, included a basement that would regularly flood with crap. Yes, poop…turds…sewer sludge.
What also wasn’t humorous was that this would be the result of tampons that someone upstairs would flush down the toilet even after we asked them repeatedly not to do so.
It was one of those times, a few months after Bruce died, that I, with a basement full of shit, called Ace. He cleaned up after just having stuck his bare hand down the drain to remove another clump of tampons, which usually went like this -
“Is this yours?” Ace would ask as he lifted a handful of sewer sludge and “plugs” in the air to show me as the sludge rolled down his arm.
“No,” I would say holding back an urge to vomit, “I don’t put them in the toilet. It must be someone in the upstairs unit.”
“This causes the problem.”
“Yes, I know. I will talk to them again.”
Then he sat on the basement step to chat.
Still grieving, he became teary-eyed as he told me that someone had suggested that he get rid of his wife’s clothes and asked me if I still had Bruce’s. I told him that I still had Bruce’s clothes and that sometimes I wore his shirts. I said that I didn’t suggest he wear her clothes necessarily but that I thought he should remove her clothes only when he was good and ready.
Don’t Tell Them That
I don’t know why someone would suggest to someone else that they should “get rid of” their loved one’s clothes. I would say that someone asking – and I emphasize asking - if they could help by boxing the clothes for them could be a better way to go.
That way, when the grieving person can mentally handle it, they can go through and decide what they want to keep for awhile longer, or forever, or decide what they want to take to the second hand store.
I hope this doesn’t freak out any second hand store shoppers out there knowing that you may be wearing a dead person’s clothes.
But I digress…
I believe it wasn’t until the move to my condo that, in a way, finally forced me to condense most of Bruce’s clothing items, but again, I was careful not to give away every piece.
With Tom’s passing, I had to make some different decisions, but again, it was my call.
What Happened This Time
Due to unforeseen circumstances, my sister needed a place to live around the same time that Tom passed. So, we decided that she should move in to kind of help me take care of things around the house.
Because she had had a household herself, she brought quite a lot with her, even though she reduced her contents quite a bit. Being a girl, though, she had a lot of clothes. Since Tom and I had things throughout the three closets in our house, this caused a space problem.
I decided that I would put Tom’s clothes in some plastic bins until I could go through them later. My sister, thank goodness, asked if I would rather she do that for me. She kept out most of his T-shirts, because I like to wear them, and, of course, his robe.
All-in-all, it was a good decision.
So almost two years later, I am now finally taking on the task of sorting Tom’s clothes bins. Some of his clothes, the T-shirts that people saw him in the most, I am using for a shadow box project to give to his daughters and siblings, which forces me to take the scissors to them (not an easy task mentally). Stop by tomorrow if you want to see the memorial shadow box project.