Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cleaning up, packing up

This has been an unsettling day for me. I almost called it bittersweet, but that's not really accurate. For over a year, my yard has been the disgrace of my neighborhood. My late husband was a compulsive hoarder. For years I was able to keep things in check, but during his last few years, when we had no clue why his behavior was deteriorating, I couldn't keep up, and the mess spilled from the house to the garage and finally to the yard.

After he died, some relatives pitched in to clear things out, but some big stuff that required more muscle and hauling capacity than I have remained. Our riding lawn mower needed repair when R. died, and I don't remember who said they'd fix that for me, but it's gone. It may have been past the point of repair, but I don't know what happened to it. Somewhere along the line, our push mower dissapeared as well. So did our chainsaw and electric hedge trimmers. I have no clue where they've gone.

I've done what I could to keep the yard decent without the tools I've really needed, but frankly it was looking like a meadow. I've hated it. I've been ashamed of my own home, and that's a miserable feeling. Today, that changed. All but one load of stuff has either been taken to the street for the city to remove or has been hauled away. The yard has been mowed, the shrubs trimmed, and I'm planning on mulching the beds along the driveway and around the house next week, as well as replacing some frost killed azaleas.

I feel almost respectable again, but getting rid of the last of the junk has had my husband on my mind all day. I can't help wondering what happened to him. What makes a person change so? He was never the most ambitious person around, and I knew that when we were dating, but a few years ago, when he lost a career of 17 years, he seemed to lose his bearings as well. He just gave up and didn't work at all for a little over two years. Worse, he didn't seem to care about the effect this had on his family. His hoarding grew out of control. He became increasingly solitary and withdrawn, and while, never concerned with outward appearances, he became increasingly disheveled. He admitted to problems with confusion and memory. He was only 48 years old, but looking back, I really wonder if he was dealing with early onset Alzheimers. The big question for me is was he sick or did he really just quit caring? The former makes me feel like a real bitch for some of the things I said. The latter breaks my heart. I'll never know, and I'm still nowhere near closure.

Later, this afternoon, the womanchild came home with a friend. She's moving in with her for the summer and plans to move to another city in the fall where she plans to attend another college. She's barely lived here at all this last year between the dorm and staying with relatives when she couldn't stand being in the house where she found her father the day he died or being around me. (Both were definitely options.) Still, this feels like It, the big move. The one that really says, I'm on my way now.

I've always thought the job of a parent was to prepare their kids for adult life, and I've tried to prepare myself for years for this. I always made sure that I had more in my life than just family responsibilities. I had my job, volunteer work, my church, a social life. Then, when my mother died, my father was ill, C. became ill, it seemed there was no room for anything else. I kept on working, but I can't really call the business writing I've done much of a career. The same goes for my stint as a mortgage broker, and I look at the past few years as just striving to get my feet back on a career path. The volunteerism fell by the wayside. I have to be honest, I threw church and my social life away.

I've become another damn cliche' -- the empty nester. I worked to avoid this, and it happened anyway. I look back at the choices I've made over the last few years, and I definitely see some I'd like to change, but the big ones -- taking care of family, those would stay the same. Today, with the yard work, with boxes being packed and discussions of what should stay and what should go, I've been reminded that the past is truly over.

I'm tired of turning the past over and over. I'm hoping that a clean yard will help me, without the constant reminder of the mess my life became. I lost the enjoyment of my home and yard, and I'm hoping that getting this back will be one more step on the road to getting my life to where I want it. It's past time to move forward.


Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I've been following another blog written by a woman about your age who has gone through a painful divorce. Her husband betrayed her, dumped her, and then tried to make sure he got the most he could possibly get out of the divorce. It has been brutal, but she has some amazing insights about starting over and rebuilding her life. I know being widowed and getting a divorce are not the same, but...well, I can give you the link to her journal if you want. :-]

May 29, 2009 12:28 AM  
Blogger emmapeelDallas said...

I believe the clean yard will help you. Cleaning up my yard and my house, "nesting" and making my home my haven helped me so much after I got divorced. Working in my yard is always therapeutic for me, and I can't help but believe it's that way for most of us. Congratulations on all your hard work.

May 29, 2009 1:12 AM  
Blogger alphawoman said...

I found this post terribly touching.

May 29, 2009 5:01 AM  
Blogger gigi said...

I think it's marvelous that you've cleaned out the disorder in your yard and taken control of your environment! The nest may be empty of your baby bird but it is not empty by any means. You have your own pleasures, needs and future to fill it with, with an open door for the baby bird's presence, but most importantly your own. Plant, garden, fill your home and soul with light.

We have grown to expect closure for all things in recent times, I think ~ I'm not sure such a thing truly exists. Every loss marks us. Crucial questions go unanswered. Regrets, sadly, we all must have. I am finding that the key is to learn to live with them, to grow and still find joy. As you say, the enjoyment of your home and yard are an essential element of that joy...

What I'm trying to say in a very windy way is; job well done! :)

May 31, 2009 4:01 PM  

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