Over the kids’ Spring Break, I decided it was time to go back to Houston. I knew Dad was ready to take care of some of Mom’s things and I felt I was ready to help him. So we loaded up the kids, the dog and every electronic device I could get my hands on to entertain the kids on the road and we headed to Houston. Never in my worst fears did I imagine how much of a punch in the gut it would be to drive into Houston. Never in my life had I ever gone there and not seen my Mom. Never. Even in the last 6 months when she was so sick, my first stop was the hospital. Being home meant seeing Mom. It was what home meant. As soon as I hit the outskirts of Houston I began to cry. As I passed the cemetery where she is buried, I began to bawl. By the time I pulled into my Daddy’s driveway, I was a sobbing mess. It was all I could do to get out of the van and cling to him crying. I kept apologizing for it and for not being stronger. (Much to his hushing me for saying such nonsense.) All I could sputter through my sobs was, “But home means seeing Mom. I can’t see Mom. I need to see Mom.” The kids were wonderful. They went in and let the dogs play. The called my sister to let her know that I was there. As my Daddy and I stood in driveway and I let the flood of tears flow and drench his shoulder. I had no idea that going back home would be so hard.
Home is where you go when you need to recharge. Home is where your compass is when you have lost your way. Home is where you get wrapped in the warmth that is your childhood and everything is okay…if for only a moment. But this was this first time in my life that Home didn’t include Mom. And I felt as if a cannon had ripped through my heart.
I got through that first day. I was apathetic and numb and spent a lot of time just sitting with Dad and not talking. Just being there. Just feeling the absence of part of Home. It was feeling her presence and her absence all at once.
As the days wore on, I knew I had to take care of the task I came to do. Boxing up all of Mom’s clothes, purses, shoes etc. My sister and I decided to just jump into it. To take as much emotion out of it as we could and just objectively look at outfits as if we were shopping. It worked for some items. But for many outfits, it would evoke a memory or emotion that we could not separate ourselves from. We made 4 piles. One for me. One for my sister. One for my aunt and cousins. And one to give away. Guess which one was the smallest. The give away. I could not imagine a stranger wearing Mom’s clothes. They were Mom’s. Because I am the same size as many of Mom’s outfits, I would continually put things into my pile. My sister would look at me and shake her head.
“Jenn,” she would say, “That is butt-ugly and out of style. Put it in the give away pile.”
“But I remember…”
“No. You just can’t take all of it. You know you have to do this.” She would gently remind me.
Even so, I managed to come home with 4 full bags of clothes. Many of which I will probably never wear. But for now, I can pull them out and hold them close and still smell her perfume. In time, I will have to go through the whole process again and give many of these things away. But I needed to hold onto so much still. I suppose Dad was ready. It looks like it was the little girl in me that was not.
But if I thought clothes were hard, they were nothing compared to purses. Ladies, are you with me on this one? Our purses hold a multitude of secrets and gems. My Mom’s were no different. So many things in her purses would bring me to tears. Many times laughter through those tears. I found things that I knew would immediately be transferred to my purse and probably not be pulled out until my own children are going through them. And then they will laugh through their tears at the very same items. It was heart wrenching. It was touching. It was hell. It was healing. It was something I would not wish on my worst enemy, yet something I was honored to be able to do. A contradiction in emotions and actions. Getting rid of things and growing closer to her. Finding things that showed me how similar she and I really were.
I can honestly say that week was one of the hardest weeks on me emotionally. I broke. I don’t mean I cried alot and came home sad. It broke me. It shattered me. It immobilized me. It took my sanity and slammed it against the wall to see if it would stick. As I slowly watched it slide down, I knew this was more than being sad. More than being depressed. This was that time in your life when you either cry uncle and get help or you go down in the depths of that darkness and possibly never return.
I cried uncle.
That is the breakdown. I will tell you about that next time.