The Next Phase

It’s a fallacy, this notion of “closure.” You often hear about it, particularly on television news…the worn faces of grieved parents searching for missing children…”we just need closure.” But there is no closure, even when you long anticipate the loss of a loved one. What happens is that the grief burrows in deeper, like a tick or a splinter under your skin. It goes deep beneath the surface, so it doesn’t make its appearance as often or as acutely. But it does not “close.”

That is where I find myself, as we approach six months after mom died. The world is still a little dimmer for me. The laughing is still bittersweet. I think of her every day, sometimes all day. It all just sits in the background. Sometimes I am still struck by the reality of her absence, like a shock of cold water on my face. Oh, yeah. That’s right. She still gone. Still.

I’ve read a few grief books—didn’t want to be overwhelmed by them, but a couple of them that I found helpful. Neither addressed the practical realities of clearing out a person’s belongings and what that means emotionally. It means the slow chipping away of evidence that person existed. It means the waft of the person’s smell as you hand over a donated bag of clothing. I can’t go through too much stuff at once before I become overwhelmed. And I can take my time, since I’m keeping the house.

This leads me to the actual topic for today’s post.

I’m keeping the house.

My mom was so proud of her house. It symbolized her independence. She worked so hard to maintain it, doing much of the hard labor on her own. One year, she used her vacation time to paint the exterior of the entire house—alone. She would climb up on the roof, and crawl under the house to make repairs. She had her rain gear ready during the winter and would go outside in the middle of the night during downpours to clear debris from the gutters so the garden would not flood—alone.

The house needs updating, being the victim of someone who was getting older and tired. In her later years, she decided she would spend her resources on traveling when she could rather than investing further in the house beyond basic repairs. She used to say, “I’ll leave it for the next person.” That person is me.

I’ve started collecting ideas and thoughts on how I want to upgrade this little 900-foot-square cottage in the wine country. The first priority is the garden, as that will be the key feature of the home. I envision outdoor grilling and dinners under the grapevines. I met recently with a landscape architect, and hope to interview a couple more, to help me plan something. This winter I will start on the project and hope to have a the big “reveal” in spring 2014.

Indoors, the kitchen will be the first phase.

So the focus of this blog will change slightly now. It will transition (slowly) from the raw grief of loss to the excitement of creating a retreat in the wine country. At no point will this transition mean that somehow there is “closure,” because there is no such thing. It simply means that I am going to move a little closer to the next phase.

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