The Things We Find

Dearest Rachel –

Another day of cleaning the house today, honey Thought we might curve around the wall and dig out the television pedestal (and stash a pile of VHS tapes and DVDs in the process), but it seems Jan would rather we excavate the dining room table instead.

Actually, that probably makes more sense. It’s been so long since we’ve been able to eat a meal that wasn’t on our laps as we watched whatever was on the screen. It’s precarious and dangerously messy to eat in these recliners (if admittedly more comfortable than in a standard dining table chair)

So we started in, carefully, because as with the sunroom, there was – and still is – a tricky mix of scrap paper, junk mail, documents of varying levels of importance (although most are so out of date as to be indistinguishable from junk mail – “Throw away your old bank statements; keep your old love letters,” goes the old commencement speech, and I really can’t argue with it), and holiday cards and letters. Jan still does her little happy dance when she finds money, but now, more often than not, she’s been finding a whole host of gift cards:

I vaguely recall us wondering about having received and lost the Cheesecake Factory cards in particular.
At the time, we shrugged and decided “Well, they’ll turn up eventually.” Well…

I don’t know if it bothers her when I don’t exactly share her joy at finding these things. It’s not that it isn’t cool to find all this stuff (and presumably, to look forward to going to these places once our masters in Springfield and Washington see fit to let us – although it’s already too late for the Kampai, in particular). It’s just that you don’t get to enjoy any of these things with us.

I mean, I’m pretty sure we found a Taco Bell gift card in amongst all of these, which I’m pretty sure was for you specifically. How are we expected to enjoy that, especially considering we know full well you would have enjoyed it more than we would have?

Then, there are documents like this: a letter I wrote to you while you were away. I’m thinking this might have been one of those extended weekend ladies’ retreats. I don’t think it was for longer than that; it wasn’t until your dad had his first stroke at the tail end of 2016 that you began to make a habit of packing up and heading downstate to be with them at least once a month for the better part of a week. To be away from you for more than a night at this point, I considered traumatic. And yet, past me, despite being a bit whiney given the short span of time you were gone, was prescient to the point of being frightening:

Well, other than the fact that I utterly dismissed the possibility of my outliving you out of hand

Past me was not wrong about the emptiness of the house, and he would have been scared witless about how it feels to live in a house now quite devoid of most of the stuff that I was so used to dealing with even then.

On the other hand, I really don’t know when this was written, and what precipitated it – the letter trails off early on the next page, and I may just have decided not to send it in the first place as I couldn’t finish it before you came home. Wonder if we talked about it at the time. Wish I could remember, and specifically how you reacted.

People tell me I have an incredible memory, but it’s just not true. There are so many gaps in our story that I wish I could relate, but I’ve lost so much of it. Even now, part of why I write so much is to remember the times we had together – and although I keep dipping into what I’ve (we’ve? I suppose Jan counts here, as we’re working side by side on this) done just today, even that is necessary, because I’m going to forget what it was like to go through this before I know it. I can feel it; maybe there were times when you could too? I know you were painfully aware of the fate that awaited you in your old age (and which you have managed to avoid this way. I’d ask if it was worth it, but given my understanding of how wonderful heaven is, I think I know the answer). I don’t know much about this letter other than that past me did understand, in that very small way, what widowerhood felt like. Just take those few days, and stretch them out. And keep stretching them out, for the rest of your life.

We threw out a lot of paper today, darling. Some of it, I know you would have had us keep, because they were from your family and friends. But I have to tell you, most of these people I don’t know from Adam or Eve, and when they’re writing to your parents, the connection becomes that much more tenuous. We’re talking a third-hand connection at this point, so there’s no point keeping them.

Except for Aunt Ellie. We used to stop by her house in Toledo every year, either on our way to or from the island. Even as she was growing dottier over the past few years, she always seemed to look forward to seeing us… you specifically. In fact, just this morning, barely before Jan arrived, her daughter-in-law, Mollie, called me (us?) to inform us that she is suffering from colon cancer, and her prognosis is not good (well, what kind of surgery would they perform on a 93-year-old?). I told her that you would be waiting to greet her, and it took a while before the penny dropped – I think she thought I was reminiscing about you greeting her during our visits – she didn’t realize I meant that you had beaten Aunt Ellie home.

Well, now you know she’s on her way. Best be prepared to say “hi” when she arrives.

Finally, by the end of the day, we had worked our way across the buffet and most of the tabletop, and discovered (well, not really – we always knew it was there, but we just haven’t been able to get to it for… oh dear, how long has it been?) Daniel’s piano:

Dusted off, and ready to go whenever he is.

Which I don’t know when that will be, but we have the floppy disks to input into the thing. Now if only I could move all the .midi files I’ve gathered up since then onto floppies for this thing to use. At least we seem to have most of the instruction books for it, but we may need to look up information on how to upgrade its data capabilities.

Anyway, yeah. We’ve been finding – or rediscovering – so much over the past day or two. I just wish you could have seen it, and been able to appreciate it. I don’t know if you ever have the time or opportunity to look down and observe what we’re doing – or if you’d even be interested in the events of this world anymore. It would have been nice if you could have seen and appreciated all this.

But we still have a long way to go, and probably plenty more to discover. As always, I’ll keep you posted on our progress. For now, Jan’s work week is done, and everyone is gearing up to prepare for the Easter season: this may be quite the experience.

No, I’m not making an ‘egg’sperience pun. Dad jokes are for dads; I’m your husband.

Look, I’ll write you later. Take care, honey… I love you.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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