Yesterday, the kids and I went through most of Peter’s clothes. We emptied out the closet and his dresser drawers. It may seem early for some. For others, it may seem late. Grief doesn’t have a timeline though and it was the right time for us, for me. It was getting harder and harder to look at Peter’s clothes every day hanging on hangers in a cruel tease of another time. I wanted to, needed to, rip the bandaid off, feel all the pain and move on. I still have the clothes in the basement to go through, but for now, the clothes in Peter’s closest and dresser are gone.
The kids kept the most meaningful to them items of clothing. I kept others – one even still had his scent. And, I gave some to my sister for a project she’s doing. The rest of the clothes, his clothes, are sitting in my car, stuffed in plastic bags, waiting for their new home at the Goodwill. I could have donated to a local resale shop, but I didn’t want to see them anymore. Not now anyway. Not while the scab has been ripped off.
With certain t-shirt, PJs, robes and button-downs, the kids and I remembered a story. This was the hoodie he wore when he was sick, or this robe when he was really sick. He wore this to that one jazz concert. Remember when we got this at the Chicago Bluesfest? I remember this t-shirt from when we pulled beer together at an event. Oh, and remember this one I got him this for Christmas that he never wore? We would laugh with the story, cry telling it or became quiet, almost out of respect in telling a story of when Peter lived.
During our afternoon of taking Peter’s clothes off of hangers and out of drawers. we discovered other things. We found old photos of friends from college, papers giving a glimpse into his teen years, momentums he kept from vacations, notes and cards the kids wrote to him or scribbled their names on, and, the hardest discovery for me was the old love letters I wrote to him. Peter had kept them all. All of them we found on the bottom of a box in the back of the closet. They weren’t tied neatly in a bow, just clumped together in a random pile.
I read them to my kids, editing out the ‘juicy stuff’. For some reason, I needed to as if they needed to hear about our past, our life before them. Some of the letters were from a time during the six months Peter lived in Portland. We were in the middle of our dating period, and we already confessed our love for each other and we only saw each other on weekends. We did long-distance and we made it work…before cell phones and Facetime/Skype, whatever technology.
The words I wrote, especially during the Portland time, had a ring of familiarity. I wrote about my deep love for him, how I would love him forever, and how much I wanted to be with him again. I went on, in endless paragraphs, describing, not my everydayness, rather about my desperate longing and physical ache for him and how I needed to see and hold him. My newly-in-love self of thirty years ago captured my widowed-self of today. I hold the same ache, desperation, longing and love, only deeper, today. I want Peter back, so much, to see him and hold him. And even though Peter is dead, I know my love for him will always remain. The letters weren’t my best writing, but boy, they were prophetic.
It also hugged my heart Peter kept all my letters and cards. Through the years, he eventually threw out birthday, Valentine, anniversary, and Christmas cards. (Once he suggested for Valentine’s Day we go to Walgreens and pick out a card for each other, read it and put it back. He was kidding…I think.) I understood keeping a card only for a time because there would be so many over the years, and we said all we had to say in our years together. To be honest, Valentine’s Day and Christmas were no longer celebrated with a card. But he did keep the letters and cards from the beginning of our life-long love affair and to know this, to reread them, felt like Peter was with me yesterday, assuring me of his love from the beginning.
I texted my girlfriends about the letters. I told them I kept all of Peter’s letters too, which meant I kept two of them. Peter wasn’t much into writing them. Which was okay. It wasn’t his love language. He, obviously, appreciated mine though. And in his drawer, I found a watch he gave me on our first anniversary I long have forgotten. On the back was inscribed “E .A. T. (my initials at the time) P. D. D. (his initials always)” with the date of 3-18-90…our first anniversary of when we dated. I wondered where the watch went. I’ll have to get the battery fixed.
Yesterday was a necessary afternoon spent going through Peter’s things and it was not easy. Hurt, sadness, nostalgia and deep grief were unwelcome guests on a long weekend. Afterward, wanting alone time, I laid on the bed, hugging a hoodie still carrying his scent, and cried and talked to Peter and cried some more. Yet it wasn’t all bad. Really. As my daughter said, it was hard to go through his things, yet there were happy moments in remembering. Those were the moments where Peter was alive for us, if only for a memory.