Breakdown Among the Stuff

tool set on plank
Photo by on

I had a meltdown yesterday.  I had a good old fashion pity-me meltdown right in the middle of my basement. I was getting clothes from the dryer to fold and I lost it. There are boxes of memories labeled “Peter” I need to go through in one closet of the room. And there are so many tools stacked up along the side of the laundry room and I have no idea of their purpose. There was a box in a corner, never opened, addressed to Peter. When I opened it, I saw a part for some sort of thingamajig with a packing slip from 2013. And this was only the basement. The garage still holds chock-full of mysterious objects so foreign to me, I’m thinking Peter led a secret life as a space explorer. The Mars Rover might be missing some of its devices. There is an amazing amount of Peter and his stuff packed into this house and the enormity of it all led to my meltdown.

I have no sentimental attachment to any of his junk, I mean, stuff. I don’t even remember any use for half of it, maybe a three-fourths of it.  I don’t see an object and say, ‘aw, that was used in the 1996 flood’. It’s more like, “What UFO biopsy was that use for and does the government want it back?”.  And even if the tool was used for something I remember, I still have no emotional loyalty to it. You served your purpose, thank you, let’s keep you around to see if we need you again in a few years, and then maybe, bye-bye.

I’m not saying all his stuff is like that. I understand keeping the table saw from his father, even the other tools handed down from his dad. Peter loved and respected his father.  His father taught me a lot. His father’s tools will definitely end up with my son and my daughter. They are part of their history, their connection to Peter’s ancestry. I’m not a total tool bigot. I just question what I am going to do with the replacement hose to a sump pump removed a few years ago.

As I looked around the basement yesterday overcome with one single question of where do I begin, I can hear Peter’s voice saying ‘it’ll come in handy one day’.  I mean, he did find uses for the object from 1993 or the whachamacallit from 2003. I’ll give him that credit. Peter truly was a genius when it came to fixing things and recycling the old to repair the new. He was an amazingly gifted handyman. I always said I break it, he fixes it. Another part of our Yin/Yang flow. (He wasn’t always happy about that flow. Sigh.) However, most of the stuff he kept just piled up resembling a corner of a junkyard, and now, I look at it and think, where the hell do I begin.

It’s overwhelming enough to deal with sudden widowhood. Nothing was discussed. No good-bye, no here’s what I want, no last outpours of love and no inventories. Just alive one day and a knowing eventually, things will be sorted out. The next day, your world collapses and everything in it, including small, large, confusing objects. I was not told to save this, get rid of that, these are important, those can go. I wasn’t told the sentimental attachment he had to some of these tools, these objects. I don’t know their value or importance. I don’t know for sure the real reason why he kept this or that,  even if there was a reason. Those stories and explanations were being saved for the eventually which never came. And now, I stood in a basement filled with his stuff and without him to help me sort.

I know this isn’t a race. There’s no finish line for me to cross in the victory of getting my house, my life, in order. I get that. And I also know there will come a time where I need all this stuff to leave the house. Oh sure, my kids will want to keep a chunk, maybe put them in some storage unit for a further day, like their father. They’re both brilliant like that too. Hell, I may want to keep a lot of it. Maybe I’ll face an alien one day.  But I will still have to sort and go through it, deciding what will go and how to let it go. I will be releasing the part of Peter, his inner Fred Sandford, which I teased him about, adored and admired in him and loved so much.

I am sure some will suggest hiring someone to help me sort through all of this. And maybe I will. My kids may or may not help. I hope they do, but I hesitate to ask. Oh, don’t judge. I want my kids to grieve and heal first and foremost. Yes, I am protecting them and coddling them. Their father was killed. Your point? I probably could ask friends to help. Asking…what a concept. I know these suggestions will help ease some of my feelings of being overburdened, yet they won’t take away the overwhelming feeling of letting go.

The future sorting, the letting go, the amount, it all overwhelmed me yesterday and I broke down. In the middle of the basement, fits of tears and screams asking how Peter could have left this all for me, I broke down. Realizing I will never have any answers from him because he’s not here,  made my sobs come out harder. They increased by the awareness I was alone in this decision, this task, once he left this world, he left me, with the suddenness of a minute. It is one of those moments of widowhood, of grief, that bitch slaps you to the ground. And I fell yesterday…among all his stuff.