My husband’s last earthly endeavor was doing something I call “the tub shuffle.”
He spent hours in our basement storage room, organizing the myriad pieces of our lives acquired (mostly by him) into grey Sterilite storage containers. New visitors to our home always received the basement tour, and were amazed at the organization of this room, with neatly labeled containers of 60-watt florescent light bulbs, car cleaning supplies, family photo albums and so much more – all neatly labeled with a black Sharpie.
“Wow,” would be the initial reaction from our guests. What they did not take in at first glance was the sheer amount of “stuff” that was indicative of the fact that my husband was an organized hoarder.
He never bought one of anything when three would do. He had assigned an almost mystical quality to the number three. We had to get married on a date that was divisible by three; at the grocery store we had to check out from aisle three, six or nine; dinnertime might be at 6:36 p.m.
After he died and I started the slow painful process of going through items in the basement (he had died while in the midst of going through the voluminous stuff of two combined lives) I realized how far his obsession had gone. I truly must have six tubs of various sized light bulbs still in their packaging. One large tub is filled with old wallets he did not want to part with. Another is chock full of new C and D batteries. Each trip to the basement felt like I was on safari learning about someone I had not fully known.
I won’t lie – it comes in handy to go to the basement and say out loud, “James – where are the air freshener refills? ” or “I need to find the tub with the Command Strips.”
I invariably find what I need. It’s a bit like having a mini Home Depot.
Sometimes I think that was the point of all of the acquiring and keeping. He wanted to ensure when he left me that I would not run out of things I might need. Why else did we have a year’s supply of toilet paper and paper towels? It was in hindsight, a blessing not to have to shop for many basics during the first year he was gone.
But the basement is also laden with booby traps. I have been trying to continue his legacy and also separate what I should keep from what I should get rid of. But then I come across a gray plastic tub filled with every birthday and anniversary card I ever gave him. I found one tub with brand new greeting cards of the “To My Wonderful Wife” variety that he had yet to give me. This unhinges me and so I must walk away.
James was working in the basement the day he died. He took a break to take our cat to the vet which is where he suffered his heart attack. I think sometimes, if he had not had that appointment it could have been hours before I found him.
So another small blessing, yes?