More apron strings.

After sharing my apron drawing recently, I came upon the journal entry I wrote when I first encountered the aprons two years ago, a pain-filled essay that never made it in to my book, A Kiss B4UGo.

I was aiming to empty out a bunch of bags of stuff that have been sitting on our window seat ever since Patti and Donna filled them during their organizational sprees in early March. One of the bags was full of aprons, the bulk of Patti’s collection.

There is something very Patti about aprons. They are girly, though I occasionally had to wear one like some comic strip husband, some Dagwood. They were nostalgic objects, found in flea markets and thrift stores, but for her they were all functional and practical; because she had to cook (and do most everything) sitting down in her wheelchair, they protected her clothes from splashes of grease and spaghetti sauce. Most of them were handmade and whimsical, sewn with novelty prints of roosters or cows and embellished with frills and appliqués.

I went through the bags, finding one of her many purses filled with breath mints and tissues and little notebooks. There was a bag full of wool and half knitted things. There were lots of gift items, things she had gleaned at sales, full of potential and reminding her of someone. But they sat with the tags still on, and I had no idea who she planned to give them to.

I had intended to be so productive, finally tackling all of the piles of stuff I had been avoiding for the last five months, and suddenly, I was broken down and sobbing. My mind was empty of words but overwhelmed with feelings. Who would ever need all these aprons? Who would ever get these presents? How could I even throw away this box of breath mints?
I recategorized the things in the bags, then put most of them back. Then, suddenly furious, I ripped down the biggest box in the pantry, the one labeled ‘wheelchair parts’. All these broken brakes and axles and inflated cushions filed with punctures, the supplies I needed to constantly jury-rig repairs on her chairs, no longer necessary and taking up space. Cursing to myself, I emptied the box into a garbage bag, then stopped.
Do these things matter too? Will I one day be filled with regret that I threw them away? Should they all go back on the shelf? No, I resolved, I need to throw them away — but I’ll keep one brake mechanism as a reminder of the rest.
I had made no real progress against the thoughts that haunt me late at night, the seemingly overwhelming task of getting on with things by getting rid of things. Instead, Jack and I stripped the slipcovers off the couch and took them to the laundromat, then emptied the fridge and scrubbed its shelves. A minor step against the incursion of chaos, a battle won, the war still to be waged.
—-
Update:  After reading various people’s comments on the above, I realize that I wasn’t clear enough about the origin of my words.  This is a quote from my journal of almost two years ago, when Patti’s loss was still very fresh, too fresh to be doing the sort of purging I was considering then.
But it gets easier. Now, almost three years after her death, Patti’s absence has sufficiently mellowed that I can look at her things and see them more objectively, still bathed in her light but less suffused with guilt and confusion. I still have so much of her in my home, but I am now in the process of being more selective about it all, of choosing the most precious objects and appreciating their power and beauty rather than being afraid of it. I am not the sort to repurpose her possessions into quilts and the like, but I l have discovered that having fewer mementos make each one more precious, more jewel-like.
And I still have, and probably always will, every one of Patti’s aprons.
http://vimeo.com/53197414

23 thoughts on “More apron strings.

  1. Danny. Not to be intrusive, but go slow getting rid of things. There is no hurry. A time will come when someone you love needs something and you can say, “This was my wife’s and I know she would be pleased for you to have it.” As you indicated, each item, even the wheelchair parts, has a story. We are all keeping good thoughts for you.

  2. I think drawing items that Patti had and then removing them from your house is a great way to keep the memories without keeping things you don’t need. I know NYC apartments are limited on storage space, sketching her collections is such a nice way to remember those things and honor your wife your own way! A sketch book is much easier to store than the collections! You could even frame the sketches to display them!

    I’m so happy you are sharing again, I missed you.

  3. What a difficult, painful task! Perhaps in time you may be able to donate some of her treasures.

    As for the aprons, they could possibly be repurposed into a lovely quilt, stains and all. Do you know any quilters?

  4. Thank you for revealing so much of yourself – I love the idea that although you probably need to get rid of some “stuff” (but not all) – sketching many of the items is a wonderful way to maintain those memories of Patti

  5. I can’t even imagine how hard that was for you……thanks for sharing, dearest Danny. xoxoxo and I love the apron pages!! so glad you’re showing us now.

  6. I just have to say something to you because your messages have become very important to me since I found your website over last weekend. My husband just died from a heartattack on 27 aug 2012 He was just 60 and never had any real illness before that terrible night he woke up with chest pain at 4am…by the time the ambulance arrived at 4.20 he was dead. I can’t understand what has happen to us…my 3 children are shattered but are trying to hold it together for me. I just can’t believe that our last 40 years together were leading us to this point. We had no chance to talk and now I am like you just trying to survive all the things you describe in you stories. I have bought a journal today and I am now going to start writing him some messages ..people say this will help me I don’t think it will but I will try. Keeps ending me your messages they have become very important to me

  7. What a gift you give by sharing what you went through. We will all lose someone some day…and have to deal with similar feelings if we have not already…you are helping prepare and pave the way. Thank you.

  8. This is something really special you are sharing here besides your sketches – your grieving process. Thanks as I’m sure it will help so many. I love reading the comments also.

  9. Danny, these are tough times for you. Perhaps advice isn’tt what you are seeking, but you are sharing an emotion too familiar to many of us and we must share back. I am entering my second Christmas missing my mother. I have many of her things from the sublime to the ridiculous. If you have room, just leave things in a box in the closet. They arent going anywhere. When time has passed you may open the box and be touched by what you find inside, instead of devastated. Some things are little land mines for emotion, best to let them lie a bit if they are painful to perceive. A softer emotion later doesn’t mean you love her any less. A friend who had lost both parents told me not long after my mother died that eventually you will come to think of their things as your own. I am finding that is true. Things are taking on a soft memory as I use them, and less of a holy artifact status. This is a good feeling. Get used to the aprons. You are now a giver and wearer of aprons. You could even make some into pillows! Blessings to you. May you be comforted.

  10. Thank you for sharing. it helps me, personally, to read your entries ..My husband died a year ago and I saved 3 of his many golf shirts. (He left the way he said he always wanted to go….playing golf.) And, I’m unable to throw away his 2 toothbrushes sitting in a cup in the bathroom. Thanks again.

  11. The book is so touching, these pages are so touching, so loving, so personal. thank you for sharing, those of us with loss and hurt can relate and see the love surviving through every tear, every fear of each day. I believe it IS better to have Loved and Lost, than to have never Loved at all….

  12. I am very moved by your writings about your wife. I am missing my Mom who passed at an old age in January almost four years ago. I find it hard to believe it was so long, it feels much more recent. My sister, Colleen, gathered my Mom’s brightly colored floral, blue and pink summer dresses and our sister-in-law graciously made a beautiful quilt from the dresses fabric. I love seeing it when I see my sister, the dresses remind me of our happy
    timess vacationing on Catalina Island. I look

  13. So beautiful, Danny. Not sure why loss of loved ones is so awful hard, if we all go through it. It seems like it would be natural, doesn’t it? Thank you for your gift to all of us of your love for Patti, and all the forms it takes.

  14. Danny!

    I just received a copy of your latest book (and of The creative license) here in a very snowy Sweden. Will start reading immediately!

    Best regards,
    Björn Fundberg

  15. I have just finished reading A Kiss b4 you go. It got here this morining and I sat still as a statue and read it cover to cover before I could move. I am touched and moved and humbled by your achievement. I first came across you earier this year, I bought and illustrated life and read every word and scrutinised every picture and then went onto get creative licence and I am going to say it YOU CHANGED MY LIFE. I had not worked for 4 years, hardly left the house and when I did I was panic stricken and paranoid. Seeing you and all these other people communicating thier stories got me doing it. I couldnt write, that seemed too much, too tiring and too confronting. What I needed to communicate was too complicated and harrowing. Thank you for being so brave and giving me permision to come out of myself and communicate.

  16. Hi Danny, I really love your work but I have to say this book has really touched my soul. My sisters husband died two years ago and many if the experiences you write/sketch about in your book and in your recent blog enteries are very close to my heart. I watch, console, listen and try to guide my sister through this process (mind you, I have no direct experience except that I loved my brother-in-law and was with them both through the whole experience of his illness and death but its not the same as losing a soulmate). I think your book may help guide her better than I can so I am contemplating buying it for her for Christmas. Anyway, thank you very much for the gift of your talent and a glimpse into a very personal experience. Take care, Chris

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