Early on, everything reminded me of Mark because I needed everything to remind me of my late husband. Touch, move, or clean something that he touched or moved (he rarely cleaned) and I could feel my muscles tighten as I asked to please not take his coat off the chair because that’s exactly where he left it; to please not put his water glass in the dishwasher because his lips touched it; or to please not put his newspapers in the recycling bin because those were the last words he read.
Family and friends had to enter the Mark Pittman Hall of Fame at their own risk.
My mother was one of them. She tried to help by doing our laundry which upset me greatly. I needed to smell him, not Tide Fresh Ocean Breeze.
No, I didn’t think it was weird to wear his 6’4” sweatpants and his XXLT (extra, extra large tall) tee shirts to bed. (I didn’t dare tell her I was wearing his underwear to bed too.) I know it’s been a month, Mom, but I can’t bring myself to sleep in our giant bed alone yet. I prefer the couch so I can press against its back. And yes, that is his box of ashes strapped to my chest. The weight keeps my heart in rhythm when I am lying here traumatized and alone at night questioning God as to what in the hell he was thinking.
It’s now been almost five years… And while I remain the independent, emotionally-solid type, it took a while to comprehend that death meant he was truly gone– as in forever and never coming back.
They were gradual at first, the “lettings go.” Perhaps it started with the parting of his Rossignol skis, the ones that clocked him in the nose on a miscalculated mogul the previous year. A Salvation Army truck picked up his clothes, including his wedding suit and my dress, which I added for good measure. That was really hard. Sorting through his paperwork was not an emotional feat. I figured they’d come and get me if a bill became past due which was easier than trying to figure out his system. That’s what bonfires are for! There were also a lot of tools that I’d put to good use once the girls and I moved to a new house– one where he didn’t die, and one where I didn’t cry every time I walked in the door.
A year and a half and a lot of “lettings go” later, there I was, using his crowbar to pull up the floorboards in our new house while our young daughters sledgehammered away at the walls. Downsizing to a cute fixer-upper made a lot of sense. It would make life a whole lot simpler and these days, I am all about easy living.
My mother gently mentioned replacing our marital bed once I got into decorating mode at the new house.
But it’s certified by astronauts as being the most comfortable on earth!
What about the sheets?
We slept on them every night for 15 years Mom! They’re ours. We bought them at Bloomingdale’s together!
“You can’t hold onto Mark forever, honey,” she said.
It wasn’t like I lit candles in my bedroom for any mystical Ouija Board pajama parties to summons my husband from the dead. I just liked our bedding.
Still, my mom made a gentle point.
As I watched the garbage men load the bed into the truck from an upstairs window, I wept for our love. But like that one pair of underwear, I kept the sheets.
I recently got one of those 20 percent off coupons for Bed, Bath & Beyond — the kind that suck you in and prompt you to buy things you never knew you needed. I ended up coming home with the intended coffee maker, plus all new bedding for the girls and me.
Without much thought, I took the sheets out of the closet, walked outside, threw them in a garbage can, and hauled it to the curb for garbage pick up.
It was my daughter who had the initial reaction, not me.
“But don’t you think they are kinda sentimental, Mom?” she asked. “Are you really sure you want to throw them away?”
“Yes, I am sure,” I said with confidence, but as I saw the garbage truck coming our way, I found myself madly reversing the car down our street just in time to save them.
The sheets are now back in the closet where they will stay, possibly forever, which I know is a really long time.