When someone you love dies you realize that time is no longer of the essence. It returns to what it was when you were a kid, elastic and often oppressive. It goes too fast or too slow. No one seems in charge of it and so you are swept along in its wake, starting and stopping on a schedule you don’t understand and no one can explain.
Cleaning out someone else’s personal papers can take 15 minutes or 15 years. Both time frames seem reasonable. How much time does it take to decide if it’s okay to throw out the entire family’s report cards? There are cards here from 1942. Do these things matter? Not to me. I threw out my high school yearbooks so I am not the right person to do this. But I am the only one here. Everyone else is too old, too young or too far away. I save every last photograph, pitch the report cards and donate everything else.
No matter how much you get done, there is always more to do. People go away and leave so much paper. They don’t mean to. It’s not their fault and there isn’t anything they could have done to make it any easier. I wish there was someone to make the phone calls and say, over and over again, “This person I loved, this person who loomed large my entire life, is gone.” The people on the other end try to be nice but they have to transfer you and you have to wait on hold and then tell someone else the same thing, “My dad died. My mother has been gone for years. Please help me. I thought I was a relatively successful adult but I think I might be wrong.”
Of course I never say that. I never say what I am thinking. If I did it would go something like this:
The phone company. “My dad died. I need to close his account because he won’t be calling me at weird times of day and night to ask if I know what bitcoin is and should he be concerned.”
Cable company. “My dad died. I need to close his account because he will no longer spend hours a day with reruns of Gunsmoke and Matlock playing in the background.”
Chevron. “My dad died. I found a random gas station credit card in his wallet which is weird since he hasn’t driven in 2 and a half years, not since my mom died. Truth be told, he should have stopped driving 5 years ago but my mom wouldn’t let him since she needed a sense of independence and he…Yes, I can hold.”
On and on and on.
I would throw my cell phone in the trash, but I would just have to go buy another one.
Which reminds me, I have to call T-Mobile and cancel his cell phone. And close his Uber account.
He pronounced Uber “U-bert.”
He had a large murky tattoo on his left forearm. It was originally a skull and crossbones but after he married my mom he tried to have it covered up with an anchor. That just turned it into a big dark blue blob that in the right light seemed to glare out at you.
He thought my younger son hung the moon.
He was sorry he survived my mom because he thought we loved her more than him. We were uncomfortable with the idea that he might have been right. Well, I am here to report that we were wrong.
I love you, pop. Tell mom I said hi.