After my mom died, l quickly learned everyone grieves differently. There are those like Grandma Gene, who busy themselves, afraid to stop moving for even a moment for fear that their emotions may catch up and tackle them to the floor. She basically took over planning the funeral, brought over the most disgusting casseroles every day that neither me nor my dad ate. I dug a hole in the backyard and dumped the contents into it each day, so we wouldn’t hurt her feelings.
There are those who feel their emotions are like a blanket to wrap themselves in and dissolve into a puddle on the floor in anguished cries, outbursts of anger, and even laughter. This was like my mom’s sister, Aunt Tracey. On the day of the funeral, she would find me every hour, burst into dramatic tears, and drape herself over my shoulders while I awkwardly patted her shoulder. At sixteen, I didn’t feel qualified to offer counselling sessions.
Some box up, sell, and give away everything that even remotely reminds them of their loved one while others insist that everything remain as a shrine to the deceased and act like their loved one had only gone out for a moment and is expected back at any time.
This last type was my father or so I thought. Two years after she died, everything still looked exactly how my mom had left things. She had gone out for groceries and never came back home. We buried her the following week. After the funeral Grandma Betty, (my Mom’s mom) had come over to help pack up her clothes.
“Don’t touch those!” Dad shouted as he grabbed the box from Grandma Betty’s hands. Startled, she started fluttering her hands in front of her, stuttering incomplete sentences, and batting her eyelashes like a surprised frog.
“You are not to touch anything. These were Denise’s. Leave them be.” He grabbed an armload of empty, deflated boxes that slide sideways out of his grasp. He crashed through the doorway dropping one of them in his anger. He stumbled over it and left it crushed on the floor before crashing down the hallway.
“Alright, dear, I say we call it a day,” she said to me, blinking away the tears that had filled her eyes.
After she left, she refused to come to the house anymore. Instead, she invited me over to dinner once a week insisting that a growing boy needed a good home-cooked meal. Thankfully, her food was eons better than Grandma Gene and I happily accepted.
But like I said, it’s been two years and my mom’s clothes are still hanging on her side of the closet. Her make-up bag is still sitting on the bathroom counter. I used to sneak into the bag when dad was asleep and practice.
Today, I had finally had enough. It was time to accept that mom was gone. I picked up boxes from the grocery store and snuck into the house. As per usual, Dad didn’t even look away from the TV.
I had filled two boxes when my dad came up the stairs. “What are you doing?” he glared at me.
“It’s time.” I said. “We need to move on.”
He tried to grab the box I was working on, but pulled I it back ripping it from his fingers. “This is ridiculous. She’s gone. This isn’t healthy.”
Rather than get angry, he gave a great sigh and sat down on the edge of the bed “You don’t understand. Leave it. She’s coming back.”
“What?” I asked, staring at him incredulously. “No she’s not. She’s dead.” Harsh, but the truth. Things were worse than I thought.
“You don’t understand,” he said again. “We faked her death so she could get away. But, the danger will be gone soon, and then she’ll be back.”