The Sticky Note That Nearly Broke Me

“The Room” (I’d already cleaned up the front end before snapping this photo.) — Author photo

I’ve written much about my dearly departed husband’s penchant for keeping things — not throwing anything away, that is. But color me surprised to find a yellow sticky note with directions to my house.

Bob’s friend, Randy, offered to help me clean out the room over the garage. I reminded him today that he was responsible for “this mess” when he got Bob involved in rummaging through estate sales for treasures to sell online.

To be honest, some of the stuff is pretty interesting. For instance, I read a handwritten letter from an unknown fellow to a girl, dated 1940 — he affectionately chastised her for not writing him. I felt a bit like a voyeur. But more than that, I coveted his gorgeous penmanship.

My husband also wrote down things, in lovely print

Then I found Bob’s note — blue ink on a three-by-three-inch square of yellow paper. It was stuck to another piece of paper of no significance. My address, two street turns, and my phone number was all it contained — in beautiful printed letters. Randy remarks often about how nice Bob’s handwriting was.

“Oh my goodness,” I uttered. Randy looked over as I held the paper in his direction.

“That’s your…?”

I interrupted him, nodding, “Directions to my house for our first date.”

Tears threatened. I took a deep breath.

“You should frame it,” he said. “That’s cool.”

“If we had any doubt that Bob didn’t throw anything away!” I responded. I took it to my bedroom for safekeeping. I couldn’t lose that, as we were steadily tossing things for trash, recycle, and resale. (Randy will be the reseller, not me. Once it’s out of my house, I plan to forget it. Little of this has any connection to me.)

The next few hours went by as they had the day before. We chuckled over the things Bob had accumulated, the odd things he’d chosen to keep. Amusement about it all keeps the resentment at bay, I am finding.

And then there are those pesky store computers

Later, I had to collect a prescription at CVS for our dog, Pepper. They asked for a birthday.

“For the dog?” I asked.

“No, yours.”

I gave mine, but it didn’t work. I sighed.

“It’s my husband’s then. He’s deceased.” I offered that detail in case it mattered because of the sedative drugs I was getting.

The dark-haired girl’s expression flickered, and I sensed her sympathy. She entered the information, and it went through.

While she did all the things she had to do to get the doggie drugs, I fought back the day’s emotions that were slamming around my heart and my head. When she concluded the transaction, she said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

I was grateful for her words, and sad that my loss affects others in such random ways. Yet, I must embrace this somewhat sordid kind of community because death is a part of life, and we’re all in this together, right?

I left the store and headed home, pondering this grief. I cannot detail for you the moments I have cried or felt pangs of loss. They’re too numerous, too fleeting, and occasionally undefinable.

How do we experience the sense of a person we’ve lost — their life, their absence, and the reminders that take on surprising forms?

I wonder about all the theories about grief. I had believed I’d go through some seven-step process and get a certificate at the end. Clearly, that is not going to happen. Nearly two years into widowhood, and I still get mail addressed to him. His name appears in the CVS computer, and I make the staff look sad. And the threat of tears burns my eyes nearly every time.

Bob is literally everywhere because he built this house. And because it was his house before he married me, the room over the garage was never part of my wifely domain. Indeed, after 2012 or so, I’m not sure Bob spent much time in there. Behind the door at the far end of a hallway there lives a treasury of his past, and a repository for many things he didn’t need (or want) to deal with. I stuck a thing or two in there as if it were an attic. And there’s an attic in this house, too!

When this room is emptied and has had a little facelift, the house might be ready. Ready for what, you ask? I’m not sure. For more life, more grandkids (please?), or whatever I eventually decide.

In the meantime, I expect to get a few more emotional surprises in this messy room. I suppose I could make this room my new writing spot. And write about memories of a lovely man and the strange surprises he left behind for me to grieve over.

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