“Relics are the objects of memories past, evidence of fragments remaining in the physical world. Vestiges of something sacred.”–Deborah Garcia
Three weeks ago, the boys and I cleared out most of our origin home in Long Island. I moved so much stuff in 53 hours, my lower back fisted into spasms for days. It’s amazing how much stuff we have. Despite standing in visibly vacant rooms, there are pieces of of us, hidden in unseen spaces. In every closet, there are baskets and boxes flanking the top shelves containing objects of what we can no longer carry but cannot discard. Every cabinet has items I combed through and chose to leave behind in the previous visit. In addition, on this trip, we cleared out the garage. This included rear shelves filled with some of Dave’s power tools; a Milwaukee electric drill, a Makita radial saw, a Porter Cable reciprocal saw. Also sleeping on the sandy plywood floorboards were rusty cans of of paint thinner, mineral spirits, carburetor spray, and a can of DW-40, faded black fingerprints marking the sticky blue cylinder. Under a drop cloth, tucked in the far-right corner, was the red tricycle with fat tires we bought for three-year old Davin, from an Amish market on a family trip to Bucks County, PA. Davin’s love of trains when he was small, inspired our vacation plans around scenic train rides and museums in the Keystone State. The trike was an object encapsulating this happy still-life locked in a past lifetime. A time when we slept at a country inn and Davin collected the eggs from the residence chicken coup for our breakfast, and spent the afternoon gliding up the Delaware Canal on a mule barge.
Both Dylan and Davin individually recognized this house clearing must have been a difficult process for me. Perhaps they discussed it amongst themselves. It was not surprising that Dylan would express this level of sensitivity, but it felt refreshing to hear Davin bring it up. I said, “Well, somewhat. I’ve been doing this for twenty years. I’m not one to hang on to too many things, but it can become overwhelming to dispose of things from my past life, in large purges. So I have to binge and purge. I don’t force it. Over time, the items inform me when it’s time to let them go.”
In the beginning it can become overwhelming to think about anything more than putting tokens aside so you can direct all of your energy into holding onto yourself in the mourning. In the early days of pain and sorrow, the objects left behind feel like security blankets. I liked to spread them all around the house, in dark corners that were not as easily known to others; a shirt in each closet, a pair of shoes under a bench, the aftershave in the medicine cabinet. In some ways those objects provide a sense of safety in belonging, by validating he was real. They are relics of memories’ past, evidence of fragments remaining in the physical world. Vestiges of something sacred. By touching them, I’m touching a surviving trace of his soul. Because in my mind, he is still around, somewhere, a sense of him remains, a phantom memory of an extremity, dismembered.
On a Tuesday, at 6:30 A.M., he was scarfing down a bowl of Cheerio’s with the kids while I packed him a lunch bag. At 7:10 he was hugging us goodbye, putting his eight-year old on the school bus that pulled up to the curb at our front door before running up the street to catch his own bus. At 9 A.M., nothing. Sometimes I needed something physical to touch, or see to assuage my need to feel his spiritual presence. Like a bridge. As time lengthens the distance between us, I look back and realize I’ve crossed a few bridges. Not by plan, but by design.