Saturday, January 8, 2011

Adventures in Packing Part Four: Why Am I Doing This Again?

I am to the point where if I'm not at work or asleep I need to be packing.  The van gets dropped off on the 19th and everything:  me, Cheyenne and my stuff leave for Glenshaw on the 24th.  Between now and then there is 30 years worth of accumulated stuff to sort through, pack, sell or discard.  But, for the moment, I can't go anywhere where there are not people asleep.  As I leave, my estranged sister-in-law and her family return to Austin from Arizona.  They rolled in last night and my two nieces are asleep upstairs.  Marissa is camped out in the living room.  The Paper Boy is catching a few hours of sleep before he goes over to their house to help them unload.  So, with no place really to pack without waking somebody, I'm taking these stolen moments to update everyone on the Big Move.

This is a cautionary tale.  Moving sucks.  Moving across country sucks and costs you an arm and leg for the privilege.  Finally, the house is beginning to be dominated more by boxes than anything else, but it's been a bit like walking uphill through quicksand in the snow.  One thing I can say, it's given me an appreciation for my mother's tenacity that I could never have had before.  A year after Dad died she made the decision to move to Pennsylvania herself after living in our Montana home where she had been accumulating things for exactly three decades to a two bedroom condo in Washington, PA.  We all flew back home for a week to help her, and we did do some good work - what she would let us do anyway - but, we also squeezed in an overnight trip to Yellowstone and had some general fun.  Then, only able to take a week off at a time, I left her to tackle the rest of it herself.  She was 77.  I genuinely had no clue until now exactly what she had accomplished until I woke up last weekend, more than a quarter of a century younger than she was, my back sore from carrying load after load down the stairs.  As I had the fleeting thought that I am too old for this, I thought of Mom.  If she can do it, so can I.  I think that first little bit back in Pennsylvania, as she camped out in a residential hotel waiting for the condo to be finished, back in the bosom of her family, were the happiest she had had since I was a little girl.  For one thing, she was so proud of what she had pulled off.  She wore her independence like armor.  Now I can genuinely tip my hat to her.  Mom, you truly, truly were one tough cookie.

So, following in her footsteps, here I am packing pretty much by my lonesome.  Marissa is doing her share by sorting through her own stuff - trust me, that's quite a lot, but Greg is pretty much a bystander in the process.  I am alternately understanding of it and totally, completely pissed off about it.  When he told me he was going to help his sister unload, he got one of my patented looks because my thought process was, "Oh, you'll help her, but your job around here is to hold down the sofa.  Nice."  But, I get it on the one hand because my inner Alpha Dog comes out at times like this.  I want what I want, am discarding as I go, and am determining where things will go in the new house both because I've seen it and he hasn't, but also because that's just how it is.  I'm pretty sure if you asked him, he'd tell you it's best just to stay out of my way.  Of course, if I get to pack on my own, I get to do other things on my own as well.  Like pick the sofa for our basement.  Yeah, baby.  I love the sofa I've picked out.  I'll make you guess what it looks like until I actually get it and can take a picture.  I can hardly wait!  So, if the cost of my new sofa is that he watches me toil from his comfortable perch, then so be it.  Let's see how comfy he is on his new sofa when he gets there.

But, it's a messy business to tear down the material manifestations of a life and collapse them into oceans of cardboard.  I've had plenty of moments where I lose sight of why I'm doing this.  Being close to where Sidney Crosby goes to work doesn't help me if I'm so bankrupt I can't afford to see him play there.  The cost is daunting, the inconvenience almost indescribable, the disruption to friends and family heart-rending.   So, remind me, I ask myself, why am I doing this again?  The answer I always come back to is this:  when you lose a child, whether they are 3 or 23, you literally lose a piece of yourself.  Greg and I are the waking dead right now; hollow, soulless manifestations of who we used to be.  I don't know myself anymore.  Every parent who survives this has to find a way to fill that void again.  Some do it through religion.  Others through volunteerism.  Some have another child.  Everybody has to find their own way, but they have to do something or they will be lost.  And I have to survive it.  I have to be there for Marissa and her future.  I owe it to her to make myself whole once more.  She deserves it, and I want to be wholly present as she blossoms into adulthood.  So, for us, so deeply rooted in the disease that took Kelsey away from us, I simply keep coming back to the fact that if we're going to get past it, we're going to have make a violent break from the past.  This seems, so far, to fit that bill pretty completely.  Let's see what happens to us once we get there and the dust settles.

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