It was 7:15 p.m. when I decided to go through the laundry room cabinets.
Things I don’t use tend to get stored there because I don’t have enough cabinets in my kitchen and feel guilty when I throw stuff away. Plus, if I store items here, I probably won’t see or think of them ever again. And I’m short, so I can’t reach anything in there anyway…which makes it the perfect location for useless crap.
While I was there, I decided to tidy up the cabinets, and found old picture hanging kits. I don’t use these things. Most of the time I use Command Strips so I don’t wreck my rented walls, but also because I should never have a hammer in my hand because frankly….smashing shit feels great!
I wasn’t built to build things. I’m good at destroying things, but building and crafting furniture was Mark’s thing, and he did so with much precision and care. I don’t know how many tools he had in his shed, now the property of his nephew. Once Mark’s disease got really bad he couldn’t work with his hands anymore. When I say “really bad,” I am referencing a naive time in my life when I had no idea how “really bad” things would actually become.
When Mark moved in, he brought a bunch of hand tools with him, but all his “big” tools and woodworking stuff stayed in his shed, where it has likely gone untouched since 2017. I hope not though. Mark’s nephew owns that house now — and I hope he’s using those tools to make his house everything he wants it to be. Plus, it continues Mark’s legacy of building things to be better.
I drive by that house every now and again, and I’m reminded of the parts of Mark’s life he left behind when he moved in. The fire bowl we’d enjoy on cool fall nights. The saws, sanders, and “man tools” because his hands and body had already begun to fail him. The many pictures in his attic he would have used those picture hanging kits for to mount pictures to walls “the right way.”
While holding these kits in my hand, I thought about the memories Mark never had the chance to share. All the memories I’ll never know because the attic pictures never made it to our house and my relationship with his family is so deeply severed it cannot be repaired. Those memoirs are gone forever — a realization that fills me with sadness because newly discovered momentos, forgotten memories, or unseen pictures are important reminders that Mark was alive.
I take pictures. (Okay, I take a lot of pictures.) Partly because I like to see myself on film and because pictures are tangible trinkets that transport me to another lifetime; a lifetime where Mark was alive and things were “normal.” A time when I was blissfully unaware of the emotional and physical chaos that would eventually infiltrate my life. My heart swells with those memories and I feel deep gratitude for them. I reminisce his time here and wish I had just one more moment with him.
But while the human brain is amazing, it can’t consciously remember everything, so it’s my crazy belief that photos help to unlock metaphorical doors our brains have created to catalog the wealth of memories and experiences we have over our lifetimes. So take the damn picture, okay? You’ll thank me later.
But then I think of conversations I’ve had with others, including men I’m interested in, and feedback from friends about just how present Mark is on our home’s walls. And they’re right…he is. We definitely made a lot of memories together. The large portrait of our family at our wedding, his Schmorrow Strides banners, the framed photo collage I made from photos I found in his safe after he died. You know, the little miracles I mentioned earlier.
He is very visible in our home, but...he was my husband. He is also present alongside the photos of my dead grandfather, grandmother, pets, friends, and many others I have lost along the way. These people influenced myself and my children in so many positive and beautiful ways. They helped shape me into the spectacular gal I am, which helped me raise my children as the awesome beings they are. They are more than deserving of such prominent wall space.
But allow me to say this to anyone considering dating, committing to or marrying a widowed person: you should not ever feel or believe that you are competing with their lost person, or with their memory. You are not, and you will never be. You are the wonderful person you are and that we truly believe you to be.
We will get lost in our thoughts and mourn the person we lost, but I promise those moments pass, and we come back to this lifetime with you, as present as we ever were. Our hearts are fantastic and resilient muscles: they beat both fast and slow, they stop and can be restarted, and they heal after they’ve been damaged. They is room for loving both the lost and living within them.