The stuff she carried

Thanks to Cynthia Schildhauer, getting rid of Janice’s clothes was easy—I gave them to Cindy, and she and her friends divvied them up. The rest is harder.

I think I know what I’m gonna do with her art library and art supplies and easels and canvas stretchers and whatnot. Actually I’ve thought of what I could do with everything she left, mostly giving with some selling around the edges. I know what to do; I don’t know how to do it.

Things that I know are just things, and that Janice thought little of, have become mementos of my dead wife. That phrase looked a little odd at first when I thought that a dead wife, or a late wife for that matter, is not a wife at all, since wifing often requires breathing deeply. We said till death do us part, so you’d think it’d be all over now, but no. My second thought was that a wife is a wife is still a wife, dead or alive. That feels right.

A friend who lost a partner 10 years ago still has boxes of her stuff in his apartment, labeled and familiar. He senses the energy her things still have for him, and trying to deal with them scrambles his emotions while the stuff itself puts women off. I feel him. Some of Janice’s things I can’t even touch.

For three and a half years, until we went on Enloe’s hospice program, Janice looked for ways not to die, generally avoiding corporate approaches and otherwise keeping an open mind. She did a lot of research and accumulated stacks and folders full of paper. I suppose I should pitch the lot as a bad job, but I bet somewhere in there is information that could be useful to somebody. I don’t know where or who, though, so I’ve still got all of it.

I recently found letters to her mother she wrote while she was at the Rhode Island School of Design in the early ’70’s, and she already sounds like my wife. I can’t get rid of them. I also found a journal from late 2010, one of scads of journals, and read about her experiences with the treatment she was trying then and remembered what things were like with all of us. I can’t get rid of that either.

Impossible to think about even giving as presents are the little things—rocks and shells and treen and feathers and beautiful ceramic bowls and crystals and ornate cloth bags. I’ve figured out exactly what to do with her earrings—I wear them.