The house is finally listed. The cleanup process took a lot longer and was a lot tougher than I expected, not because of the physical effort (although there was a lot of that), but rather for the emotional load it presented. In the course of the cleanup I have gone through every bit of stuff that accumulated over the years, and more often than I expected some piece of detritus would trigger a memory, either one to be savored, or some kind of puzzle, or something that just caused a complete meltdown.
Through the process I have been so busy and so far behind schedule that I let my writing go, and lost some threads I would have liked to ruminate on a bit. Still, it’s been productive. Back in May when I made the decision to sell I originally thought I could get the place ready in a month. It took four. In that posting I mentioned that she kept a journal during the construction of the house. The quote at the end helped me get over the hump of the decision to sell.
That journal opens with what now seems a more interesting quote, from Adrienne Rich’s poem Diving Into the Wreck:I came to explore the wreck. The words are purposes. The words are maps. I came to see the damage that was done and the treasures that prevail.
That’s what I have been doing this last four months, really for the last ten. I have been here, exploring the wreckage looking for clues to what happened, trying to make sense not only of the disaster, but what life was really like before everything succumbed to the maelstrom.I stroke the beam of my lamp slowly along the flank of something more permanent than fish or weed the thing I came for: the wreck and not the story of the wreck the thing itself and not the myth
Sifting through, collecting things to keep: cards we gave each other, photos. I kept looking for something to connect myself back to the people we were, to fix the memories in truth. This was a real marriage, and for thirty years we made it work. It wasn’t a myth, it wasn’t perfect, we weren’t perfect people. But it worked, and we both knew we were lucky to have it, to have each other.
It was in a lot of ways a frustrating search, so much of what we were was spoken every day. There aren’t a lot of artifacts. Finally, as I worked my way down to the lowest level of the house, I found what I was looking for. Four thin spiral notebooks, in the back of a drawer in the desk in my office, the one I forgot used to be hers at the old house. They were from the Engaged Encounter weekend we went on a few weeks before our wedding, two from each of us.
There we were, the two of us right at the beginning. She had just turned twenty, and I was a cradle robber at twenty-four. We were both still afraid of this thing that had taken us by storm and already transformed us into a couple in less than a year.
It was really tough when I started reading hers and seeing the notes she wrote to me about looking forward to fifty or so years together, and in another place wondering if I would still lover her when her dentures fell out at our fiftieth anniversary party. Those caused the biggest meltdown I have had in months.
After going through them, though, it was interesting to see how much we were already the us we would become right there at the start. We went into this with eyes wide open, and we knew what our strengths and weaknesses were way back then.This is the place. And I am here, the mermaid whose dark hair streams black, the merman in his armored body. We circle silently about the wreck we dive into the hold.
Now I am all that is left of us. She changed me, and her loss has changed me even more. She was a creature of grief, and now so am I. There were things about her I never understood even after thirty years that make sense now.
For ten months I have dived the wreck. I carefully collected the artifacts, and brought away the ones I could. It will take time yet to finish learning their lessons, but I think I have gotten all there is to find on this dive. It is time to return to the sunlight, weigh anchor, and head for shore.