Empty and Fulfilled

The other day I did a thing. It was something that hadn’t even really been on my radar as potentially emotional or difficult. Yet, it turned out to be both, which ultimately threw me a curveball.

After much internal debate and occasional discussion with S, we came to the decision that it was time to clear out my storage unit and move the remainder of my things in with him. Essentially, I was just throwing money away each month for no reason.

You see, I’ve been living with S for several months now (sorry, Mom… this is exactly what you warned me about from my first date with him when you said “don’t move in with him!” It was as if she could see the future.). My stuff remained in storage almost as a safety net. The more things I had with me meant the more I had to remove and return to storage again if things didn’t work out.

I wasn’t ready for that. When S would quietly bring up the possibility, posing it as a wise financial decision (which it was), I would just as softly push back with non-committal responses. Until one day recently when he brought it up again, and it just made sense. (Or maybe I was just finally receptive to it.)

Of course it made sense budget-wise; I’ve been spending in excess of $150 a month for my belongings to sit in a storage unit about 45 minutes away. It’s not that I had so much; when I gave up my rental townhome and took my sabbatical last year, my kids scattered to the winds. (Not really – they do all three live in their own apartments now, although they are in about a 1-1/2 mile radius of one another, and only a 5 mile radius from me.)

They each took their own belongings, and I was left with essentially my kitchen items, books, and photos and other memory items. Most of my old furniture wasn’t worth keeping, and what I kept consisted of some dining chairs, a foyer table, a small night stand, and the rocking chair my children gave me the first Christmas after A passed, an emotionally-charged repeat of the first Christmas gift he had ever gotten me as a married couple. It literally took two trips in an SUV to collect it all – not much when you consider it represents 25 years as a family.

I did the loading and packing all by myself, and had looked at it as only a task to be completed until one box popped open and an old greeting card fell out. The front said “To My Amazing and Beautiful Wife on Her Birthday” and he had signed the inside with only “I love you” – no name, nothing else. I have no idea when he gave it to me, but it didn’t matter. I began to sob right there. My tears were short-lived and I was able to shake myself from the grips of grief without too much difficulty, but from that point on, everything I touched brought with it a slew of memories.

Like the giant mirror – about 3-feet by 4-feet – that used to grace our entryway in nearly every home we had. We bought it for our first apartment in Florida almost 20 years ago and it has moved with us everywhere since. When we arrived at the townhome that would be the last home we shared, he proudly called me over to inspect his handiwork in hanging the mirror for me. I walked up to it to see only my eyes and forehead. He had centered it for his 6-foot frame, forgetting that his wife was only 5’5″. It still makes me laugh thinking about it, yet the memory is now tinged with a bit of sadness, as well.

When S returned home in the evening as I was unpacking the remainder of Trip 2, he looked around at my things and made a really lame joke about “all this crap”. Being emotionally raw caused me to tearfully snap “this crap represents my entire life!” He apologized and gave me a hug, saying his attempt at humor had fallen short and he wasn’t thinking about it like that. He later told me he “should have been there” during the moving, but I reassured him that even I didn’t realize how emotional it would end up being. If I had no idea, how can I fault him for not knowing!

When S and I talked about it later on, I said the whole commingling of our belongings seemed so permanent somehow. As if it made it final that my things were only my things to do with as I see fit. Even though I collected most of those things with A, he would no longer have an opinion as to what I did with it, and with whom. (Scratch that – I’m sure he does have an opinion, but there’s little he can say about the matter anymore…)

It’s really somewhat strange. Every time I think I’ve passed the point where his death has become a definitive, solid, irrefutable fact in my life, something later comes along almost as if to say “no… that wasn’t the point. This one is.” I wonder how many more of these there will be in my life?

In any case, my things and I have been reunited. S says they’re “where they belong” with me, a variation of what he always tells me – that me being with him is where I belong now. He doesn’t try to diminish my life with A, and will occasionally admit that he knows had things happened differently, I most certainly wouldn’t be here but that he’s grateful I am, even if he regrets the circumstances.

There are days – my most irrational, emotional, neurotic ones (and they occur much more frequent than I – or S – would like) – when I wonder why he’s so happy that I am here. I test him. I truly do, even though I don’t mean to. And yet he still wants me here, and tells me often. And so, while my storage unit is now empty and ready for its next tenant, my heart is full, and my life fulfilled.

© Many Faces of Cheri G 2019

“If there’s empty spaces in your heart,
They’ll make you think it’s wrong,
Like having empty spaces,
Means you never can be strong,
But I’ve learned that all these spaces,
Means there’s room enough to grow,
And the people that once filled them,
Were always meant to be let go,
And all these empty spaces,
Create a strange sort of pull,
That attract so many people,
You wouldn’t meet if they were full,
So if you’re made of empty spaces,
Don’t ever think it’s wrong,
Because maybe they’re just empty,
Until the right person comes along.” 
― Erin Hanson, Reverie

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