We used to have a house with a huge closet off the master bedroom, big enough to be a bedroom on its own. I had the first half, and Jerry’s half was around the corner, where I never had to look at it, except to put away his clean laundry. When Jerry’s cousin Suzie came to visit, she exclaimed, “Your clothes don’t touch!”
The large closet was in our last house in Virginia, a custom-built log home on twelve acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge. We lived there 14 years, and hated to leave it, but we needed to downsize and wanted to be closer to two of our kids and two youngest grandsons in Raleigh. Our new home in North Carolina had few of the features we wanted, but the price was right. A new kitchen, deck and patio made it much more livable for us, and now it has been home for eight years.
Our closet in the master bedroom is technically a walk-in. I can walk into it, just a few feet, with clothes rods on either side and along the back wall. I can fit only my warm weather or cold weather clothes in it, so twice a year I have to switch and schlep clothes to a closet upstairs.
For those who are grieving the loss of a spouse, the time comes when the closet needs to be cleaned out; somehow you just know when it is time. My time had come. My friend Diana offered to help me, and she showed up ready for business, boxes and all.
We had a job to do, so I didn’t allow myself to get sidetracked, but I could picture Jerry wearing everything we packed. He wore that Hawaiian shirt at the “luau” we attended at Attitudes, a nearby pub, last year. A picture of us is displayed on the fridge. Such fun! That was the last time we danced together. He had a lot of very nice golf shirts, and more khakis than he could ever wear, but he mostly was a jeans guy, and jean shorts in the summer. T-shirts in the summer, sweatshirts in the winter.
We had packed several boxes when Diana turned to me. “Was he a guy who left stuff in his pockets?”
“Oh,” I replied, “All the time.” We pulled his pants out of boxes and removed the usual items from his pockets: dental picks, change, tissues, scraps of paper. As I reached into one pocket, I found a small stone I had brought back for him from a spiritual retreat I was on last year, when Jerry was in full remission. Hand-painted on the stone were the words, “Believe in miracles.” I didn’t know that he had been carrying it around.
I remained upbeat throughout our work session, so grateful for Diana’s help. In less than two hours, even with an occasional lapse to reminisce, I could see the space developing in my closet and drawers.
I still have some items remaining, like ball caps and a few coats. When my daughter Stacy last visited, she found a red plaid quilted jacket of his that she wanted to keep, and my grandson Michael Paul took some ball caps that were on a shelf in the coat closet. I have some more hanging on pegs on the wall behind the laundry room door, which I forgot to show him.
Jerry was definitely a hat guy. I took one floppy hat he frequently wore fishing, washed it and claimed it for my own. It does not look any better on me than my other hats – I am just not a hat person. But I will keep it for sentimental reasons, remembering Jerry and how we bought that hat on our trip to Maine a few years ago.
Jerry’s undershorts and socks will be donated to a lady who distributes them to those in need at local nursing homes. I am happy they will get good use. I took the rest of the boxes to the Salvation Army that same day.
Jerry’s clothes are gone, but the man who wore them remains in my heart.