When my daughter Elizabeth called me yesterday morning to ask if I’d like to go to city-wide garage sales in a nearby town, I hesitated. On the one hand, I knew she’d been looking forward to going to these garage sales for weeks. She needed some “normal” fun in her life~ She’d spent the last week in a hospital room with her little Jacob, who is undergoing cancer treatment and suffering with some kind of side effect that involves intestinal bleeding, nausea, and lack of appetite. She hasn’t even been able to mourn her father properly, having spent most of her time in the hospital since the day after his funeral. While Jacob wanted only her during his hospital stay, he was willing to part with her presence while she went to garage sales. Little Jacob is a garage-sale aficionado, himself, so he totally understood his mother’s keen desire to attend some. And besides, she’d promised him she would find him something, and what child could resist the lure of cast-away toys? Surely not Jacob.
But for me to go to garage sales, less than a month after the death of my husband? It felt wrong to do something so…normal.
“There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or, perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting.”~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed (page 1)
I have noticed this feeling, too; I’ll be sitting at a table, laughing with my sisters, or seeming to participate in something “fun” or “normal” and there will be this sense of sadness over everything, a blanket of grief that separates those who have not yet lost a spouse, and me. Walking around the grocery store, I’ll think surely everyone can see, surely they know I am the walking wounded.
Happiness and joy, with an underlying sadness. Maybe this is what it will be like from now on, I have considered.
That underlying sadness is far better than the sharp stabs of pain and anguish that come, unbidden, at both the expected (outside of Hy-Vee where we shared so many cups of coffee) and the unexpected (while hanging up laundry).
So it was with some trepidation that I made the decision to attend garage sales with Elizabeth yesterday; Made the decision to do something entirely normal and once fun.
This, of course, is the reason I have not been going to garage sales or book sales as much in the last year or two as I used to:
Because, after all, bringing more books and more “stuff” into the house means dealing with all of it once it is dumped in a pile in my office.
I was thrilled to find a set of brand new soft flannel queen sheets (sheets that our legs never entwined on) for just $3.
Valances for my newly painted kitchen. $5 for the set.
A fun tote bag, brand new, $2.
A purse for me, $2.
And a purse to sell at my sister’s consignment store, also $2, because even if it is a fake Prada, and it most likely is, she still can get a decent price for it that will more than cover both splurge purse buys.
A fun pair of earrings, 50-cents.
Baskets for my workshop drawings.
And of course, some books priced at a quarter.
Because one can never have too many books, even though one shopped the library book sale just the day before.
Notice how many of these purchases were “fun” ones for me? The only thing that would have added to the delight of the day’s hunt for treasures was a box or two of stationery.
And maybe some shoes.
Yes, I had fun. Yes, there was an underlying sadness. (I avoided looking at the tables full of men’s clothing, turned my back on anything Iowa Hawkeye, wished away the presence of so many husbands helping at the sales, and ached with sadness when I spotted books David would have liked) There was only one moment of anguish; when Abby brought a small ceramic bird to me and asked if she could buy it for her Daddy’s gravesite. What? I had a moment of panic, a momentary desire to run away and never stop running. My eight-year-old daughter is now reduced to shopping for a patch of grass in a cemetery?
I thank my oldest daughter for encouraging me to go to garage sales with her. We had a few hours of “normal” fun before she returns to the hospital this morning where her son faces yet more days of isolation in the hospital since he did throw up twice during the night in her absence. She faces the hospital, girded by the strength of a box full of toys she found for Jacob. And I face more days of…what?
Facing life without my partner?
Momentary blasts of anguish, followed by lingering sadness.
And a tiny inkling of what God might have in store for my future; small pleasures in simple things, the continued writing and speaking that David was so proud of, companionship in the form of family, friends, and a daughter who shares my interests, and perhaps, someday; moments of pure, unadulterated joy in life again.