Tender Things

by | Aug 24, 2012 | 8 comments

Today I started packing- and it felt…surprisingly- nice.  I was at that point before you move where I knew I had a move out date, but it still felt completely unreal that I was actually going to pack up everything I own in the next week and move.  To see a few boxes helps.  The amount of “stuff” that needs to go in boxes is a bit overwhelming, but I think the start of the packing also reminded me- packing for a move really is such a small thing- on the scale where you’ve buried your husband and listened to your daughter scream out for him at 3 am.  Quite small to pack belongings in boxes and seal them with packing tape.  I will do a little each day.

I had planned on meticulously cleaning each room and then taking photos of our apartment as it was before dismantling everything, but I never got around to it.  I think about taking the photos today and realize I don’t even feel the need I thought I would.  This place is quickly becoming just an apartment- and one we lived in longer without you than with you.  You are certainly not a condo built in the 80’s with popcorn ceilings and old wall to wall carpeting.  Still- I do take some photos- just incase I regret it later.

A young widow friend who already made her own move a long time ago tells me to rip it off quickly- like a band aid.  This sounds good- it feels like it’s dragging now.

I go through some files in my file cabinet- planning on purging what I no longer need, but finding out quickly that the weight of all that paper and living is too much to bear sorting through right now.  I sift through just a few folders- one that has all of the information for this apartment so I can leave any of it for the new owner.  In it I find all these yellow slips we had to fill out for maintenance requests, and I’m  caught off guard to find so many of them in your handwriting.  Already I find, I don’t remember a time when there was someone else who did these things.   I put a few of these in the recycle pile, and then I take them out of the pile and put them back in the file folder.  “Bath tub drain is clogged.”  “Toilet keeps running.”  “New filter for heater.”  All in your neat printing- you told me you never learned cursive- but you were so proud of your printing- always joking that you should write the thank you notes or the sign for our stoop sale.  “I have better handwriting than you.”

I think a lot lately about how methodical I am when it comes to this move and everything else.  Everything is done thoroughly.  Closure is important.  When I leave jobs, I write notes and make presents for favorite co-workers.  When I close my freshman college dorm room for the last time, I take a photograph in my mind of the door knob.  Before I get married, I write letters to my parents and my new in-laws.  Is it any wonder that it is taking me a while to work through your leaving- when I must do it with no warning and alone- without you here?  It is almost comical how mismatched this tragedy is to my personality- almost.  

The thought, “My husband is turning over in his grave,” comes into my head sometimes lately, and I can’t believe this is a valid phrase for me in my life talking about you- a 33 year old.  (You are still 33- that is so strange and inconceivable- how much more so when I’m fifty) It happens when Audrey tells me she wants to be a Broadway star, (you disliked Broadway) or when she’s eating bread with too much butter or too many sweets.  I shrug my shoulders at your imaginary disdain.

I have strange dreams.  Last week that you and I are forced to live in this dream-like tenement slum.  The dream is in shades of grey.  I keep asking you how we might get back to our old life- the one in the regular city where we weren’t in rags – the one in color.

I am invited to a new offshoot group on Facebook specifically for those who have lost people to sudden deaths.  I join.  I usually don’t do much on any of the groups I’m in, but in this group- everyone is introducing themselves- sharing their story.  I read a bunch of them and share mine.  Did you know that people die from electrocution on their jobs?  Or from getting hit by an Amtrak train he didn’t see coming while crossing in his car?  They do.  I don’t know these people and I wish I didn’t know these people, and yet we’re on this same plane.  I do feel less alone reading the posts- how can my old friends possibly relate to what life is like now?

Since you’ve died I’m pretty sure every one of my close friends has been pregnant again.  In the past month, I’ve heard two new announcements.  It is hard, to put it simply.  Hard not to ask why others get to choose how many children they’d like- or why some seem to be “blessed,” and given gift after gift.  It is hard to see families growing while mine was cut off and we lost a member and will not have any new ones.  It seems unfair.  I wish them congratulations with an exclamation point.

Still- I come up with a logic that helps me sidestep self-pity- at least in large or permanent doses.  It is irritating to me when people complain about very small things or trials now.  I remind myself though, that there are, have been, and will be, many people in our world that suffer much worse atrocities than I have, and if I indulge in self-pity- I am disrespecting them and their suffering.  It’s just not right.  So, I tell myself, I will not do this.

Today I decide to get rid of some of the dozens of IKEA frames that held your photos at the display at your funeral.  I don’t want them.   I take out the photos though and stare at one of them.  You appear to me the way a woman does when you’re slightly surprised by her appearance but can’t quite figure out what is different- when she usually wears make-up and then isn’t.  I wonder if this is how it will slowly happen.

“He is gone.  He is not coming back,” I tell myself quietly tonight while the sun is setting and Audrey dances to a band in the marina next door while wearing a princess gown she has named her “dancing gown” for the evening.  If I keep telling myself that – will I finally understand that this is not a test- that you are not witnessing how valiantly I brave forward, only to surprise me and tell me I’ve handled it all very well.   “He is gone.”  I am left with the slips of paper in your handwriting- the running toilet- the clogged bath tub drain…and your signature.  Trying to get things fixed for us.  This is what we keep.  These are the most tender things.


August 24, 2012


  1. christy

    Love you, my sweet friend

  2. megan

    so much of this. ***

    Sorting and purging, I did manage to get through the "box of death" – all the paperwork, condolence cards, all of that, that I had stowed in a closet. Now what is dragging is not knowing when I can actually leave, complete this.

    Sorry to be so long getting cake instructions to you. I'll work on them today. If you think of it, can you mail me the fb group info? Bizarre as it is to say it, I feel like I don't "know" enough of us. Wow, that is creepy to say.

  3. dk

    writing notes is a lost art..
    hey audrey, your daddy dan was marvelously stupendous at making art and joy out of something lost on others. i speak of him in the past tense but presently i do miss him. he is gone and i miss him.

  4. Anonymous

    I have been following your blog and although I don't know you personally I find myself thinking of you and your posts.
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Anonymous

    Please don't stop posting, Julia. I've just found you and I'm reading every single post. (I'm still in Dec. 2010.) Please. You say it so well. My boyfriend drowned, suddenly, obviously, unexpectedly… in April 2012. He's never coming home. Is he? Never. No. Never.

  6. Jo Julia

    To the last person who posted a comment- I just moved but I'll try to get back to it…please feel free to email me at the address on here if you need someone to talk to or if I can be a resource to you at all- I'm so terribly sorry for your tragic loss.

  7. Anonymous

    "I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along." -Eleanor Roosevelt

  8. Anne D

    Thinking of you as you settle into the new home… May happiness surprise you there.


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