I’m good, I assured them. Actually, I was feeling like the Queen of Sheba, merrily doling out all my mother’s earthly belongings. The car, the beds, coffeemakers, the jewels…. Mom’s caregivers and cleaning lady and their families came by to help clear out her apartment. Take whatever you like, I proclaimed, Take it all before the Jiffy-Junk man gets it. The place was bustling. No time for grieving.
Years after my daughter died I thought I was an expert in grief. That sinking squeezed-flat feeling, the hanging heaviness, the painful emotional triggers…. You have to embrace the pain and let it consume you for as long as it takes, I’d tell bereaved friends. But now I was distracted by people and the long list of things to do. And I had just squirreled away my Mom’s huge hand-painted Italian bird-bowl I’d long coveted. Not to mention other, mostly practical (as opposed to sentimental) things of hers I’d chosen to keep for myself. I was feeling no pain.
Exhausted at the end of the Great Give-Away Day, I went to sleep on the inflatable airbed since I’d gifted away the couch I usually slept on. In the middle of the night I woke on the hard floor, the mattress deflated. Unable to fall back to sleep, I wandered the apartment. Oddly empty, I thought. Not the apartment. Oddly empty was how I felt, myself.
In the dark, the eyes of a flea-market figurine stared at me. It was a dog. A schnauzer. Mom had a thing for schnauzers. Salty. Cozy. Chuckie. OMG, how I loved those dogs. It still makes me cry to think of them. The schnauzer figurine sat on top of a pile of things for the Jiffy-Junk man. With cocked head, it eyed me pathetically, squinting like it was trying to reach through me, imploring me to rescue it.
Rushing out early to catch my plane the next morning, I left the schnauzer. But the expression on its plastic-resin face haunted me the whole trip home, and I knew I’d have to claim it when I returned for Jiffy-Junk Day.
Focus on Mom, I kept reminding myself all week, Mom’s not coming back. I was expecting—no, I was yearning—to be overcome by suffering and uncontrollable keening. I was ready to be consumed by pain. So…. ?!*}(<*! Where was my grief?