Is it healthy and sane and good for my head to live in a cenotaph? To live with all Judy's stuff still as it was, and as it will remain, as a constant reminder?
So many things around the house evoke so many memories, thoughts and feelings.
The memories brought back are cool, because we got up to a load of wonderful experiences together as a couple, and as a family. The thoughts are special, because they are cherished flashes of our life lived as lovers growing two wonderful children. It is hard to describe how precious the feelings are, though.
The feelings are, well, felt.
When I have a go at describing them and use words like love, and pride, and joy they strike me as empty and rather inadequate to describe any aspect of what I feel now, and felt before she left. What I feel of the relationship that Judy and I shared causes my chest to swell, my mind to wander, my mouth to smile, and eyes to glisten.
The hard bit is not being able to share any of those feelings with her again. That leaves my heart rent, torn apart and wanting. An ache. Heartbreak that turns a glistening eye to a smiling, wandering well of tears of sadness and happiness combined.
Those feelings are treasure, though.
So if the things around the house evoke so much, could I bare to part with anything, on the off chance that it may evoke a feeling in future?
Drying my eyes now from the mere thought of getting rid of anything, I avoid delivering an affirmation to myself that these are just things. These are the stuff of life. These are the things that we collect, which mean a lot at the time, but later, are just things.
There are shows on TV about clearing clutter, showing us how to save the things that are special, and meaningful, and dispense with the rest. Yet to me, it seems that everything in the house that Judy touched, or may have touched is special.
The socks and undies lie undisturbed.
The "messy" shelf in her bedroom cupboard has been tidied up to something beautiful by Seb and Al, and remains with a full compliment of clothes.
The Louis Vuitton "Neverfull" handbag is still in the kitchen drawer, along with wallet stuffed with driver's licence, store cards, and probably cash.
Her Passport is in the safe.
Scraps of notepaper, with scrawls of Pitman 2000 shorthand are on the kitchen bench.
There is an Elle magazine at the top of a stack in the bathroom with Jennifer Stenglein on the cover, bearing an article titled "Pube Politics", with the grab “Can you have a Brazilian and still call yourself a feminist?”
I find everything triggers my neural pathways to precious memories, thoughts and feelings. If everything does that, then everything must stay.
There is a mini blackboard on the fridge, which Judy received as a gift from a mate. A small note that came with it read "For you and Stevie to leave cute messages for each other." From the day it was installed, a message war ensued, with scrawlings of “You’re the best” being rubbed out for “I love you sooooo much” being rubbed out for “You make my heart dance” being rubbed out for much more back-and-forth gushiness.
Judy ended the daily fought war much later with one written statement: "Never ever forget how much I love you."
For months the board carried that message penned in chalk by her fair hand, and every time I opened the fridge I replied in my head “Never.”
Her message was eventually carelessly erased by our house cleaners, chalk being a fragile medium, and fridges being occasionally in need of a wipe-down. The cleaning crew are Mandarin speakers and Simplified Chinese readers, so they wouldn't have had a clue about the significance of the message, or the treasure they were destroying. I was gutted. As a consolation, and final posthumous act in the loved-up message war, I re-wrote it as "I will never forget how much I love you", reminding me almost word-for-word of what the message had been.
I still reply “Never” when opening the fridge.
Judy’s original message can still partially be seen, too, if the sun strikes the board at just the right angle in the early morning. Buried treasure.
Somewhat more permanently, there is a bowl of “jobs” in the bathroom. When we were renovating our house about a decade ago, Judy devised a system in an attempt to get me off my arse on the weekends and finish off some of the little things that never quite got finished in the renovation project. These were things like building a door to replace the old weathered one for under-house access, or finishing the letterbox, or painting a fence bit that had been missed.
The system was a collection of folded up bits of paper, each bearing a different job, all tossed into a bowl. The idea was that whenever I had a rush of do-a-job blood I would take a random bit of paper from the bowl and get on with it.
The other day I pulled one of the bits of paper from the bowl, and doing so I remembered sheepishly how shit I had been at regularly working through the folded instructions. Opening the one I held, it read “Make love to wife.”
So is it healthy and sane and good for your head to live in a cenotaph?
You know what? I really like it. I couldn't bear to be without any of this emotional treasure.