Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Changing the Channel...

It's our last day in New Hampshire and I am so sore and achy and depressed that I literally cannot get out of bed. I just lay there til almost 10 AM--an obscene hour to be sleeping in, especially since we've been getting up around 5 or 6. Eventually, Her Lovely Self tucks the Éclair in next to me and she is irrepressible. She keeps plucking the hairs on my arm and cooing at me until I finally open my eyes. Whereupon she fixes me with the world's most beatific toothless smile, jams her Tigger doll in my face, and I feel a small drop of joy begin to melt my insides.

It's been almost a solid week of sorting closets and boxes and rummaging through the drawers of furniture and still we've barely scratched the surface. I will almost certainly have to return again in the fall or early winter and the thought of it is almost more than I can bear. For the first time, I am aware of just how much psychic energy I've expended trying to keep myself moving forward, especially when BB disappears on some stupid and circuitous errand and leaves me in an attic or crawlspace for hours by myself.

We've accomplished so little, and I'm not just talking about sorting through the house. I had hoped to take a little time to see some relatives--my mom's sister down in Boston; my poor uncle David, still grieving from the loss of his wife, my aunt Barbara; my dad's surviving siblings. But each day passes at speed and so little seems accomplished that in the end I've gone nowhere, seen no one. Seriously. I've been out of the house exactly once, to go to the bank one morning in order to start the process that will enable BB to buy the house from the estate. The rest of the time I've been absorbed with trying to make the house more livable for BB. He needs to begin to make the place his own, not live out his life as a housesitter for people who are never coming back.

But in this regard, he is his own worst enemy. He fights me in just about all of my efforts to throw things out, turning the week into an exercise in tooth-pulling. In the morning, he'll be gung-ho to clean house, but then a run into town for donuts and coffee--a run that takes him four hours--gives him time to reconsider and feel guilty and by afternoon he's retrieving boxes from the trash, stuff we agreed had no value to anyone, not even to my parents, if they were still alive. He's so conflicted, it's painful to watch.

On this last day, though, he seems to have an epiphany. While I've been lying abed, he's spent the morning going over his mortgage application paperwork and realizes that if he's going to spend his own money to maintain the house and stay in it, then by God he ought to enjoy it.

"It's going to take a long time to get rid of everything you'll ultimately need to get rid of," HLS sagely observes. "We never meant for you to do it all this week. But you know, you ought to make your mark some way."

BB decides that the mark he'll make will be to pitch out my Dad's recliner. I bought it for him 9 years ago, when he helped me build a home office in my basement and he sat in it every night of his life from then on. It's badly sprung and since his death no one has sat in it except the cats. It smells badly (I suspect the cats have done more than sat in it).

The amazing thing is BB actually DOES get rid of it, carting it right outside. And I am so impressed by this act that I have an idea of my own.

"Maybe instead of throwing things out, you'd feel better if you added something to the house, something that's just yours," I suggest. "Is there anything you've been wanting to get?"

BB nods emphatically.

So, my last night in New Hampshire, we drive off to a store over near the Vermont border, and have a look. BB suffers more doubt and hems and haws for a while. But then he sets his gaze on his prize: a really nice, wide-screen television.

Driving home, BB and I have one of those brotherly psychic moments where it occurs to us at the same time that this is actually the first new TV our family has ever owned. When I was growing up, we started with a color TV and that was a second-hand job with a broken channel knob (you had to change channels with a pair of pliers). When that crapped out in the late 70s, my folks got a used black-and-white job, and then my Dad brought home a color TV that was a gift from a departing roommate from his years of living away.

More recently, my parents had made do with my late grandfather's TV, which died about a month after he did. Then I gave them a really fine color TV that I bought for $75 from the guy who lived upstairs from me in Chicago. But the picture was failing and the volume was bad and it was on its last legs.

So here we are at 11 o'clock at night, chucking the old TV into the seat of the recliner and putting it all into the back of the trailer BB will drive to the dump. Inside, we push aside furniture and cats to make room for this 46-inch wide-screen monster. BB brings his Xbox down from his room, where it had been hooked up to yet another used TV, and plugs it in. My mom hated that game console and would never let BB have it hooked up to the TV in the family room, so it all feels highly illicit. And therefore just the thing to do right now.

The $500 and change the TV cost is just about all the money that's left of my parents' insurance payout (after covering the cost of the funeral and the wreck of their car), which was given to both BB and me as joint beneficiaries. Of course we should be using the money for taxes, or bills--something sensible.

But you know what? Fuck that.

Watching BB excitedly plug in wires and fiddle with the new remote, watching him sit back on the sofa in what I will now think of as his living room, I realize that this was exactly the right thing to do.


Nothing says "Home Sweet Home" like a big fucking TV and a Xbox!
Thanks for the story. Cleaning up another person's lifetime worth of crap is NOT fun. Hope BB enjoys making his home his own.

BTW, where has Blaze been this whole time?
Yup, I think the TV will make BB feel like the house is his own more than anything else you could have gotten. Hope your trip home went well.
Seriously. I love BB.

Getting that TV was perfect.
I think I'm going to keep the last two sentences of the first paragraph with me for a while. That was just wonderful.

Big t.v's and men, go figure.
BB deserves that TV, and he deserves to have his XBox in HIS livingroom! I suspect, mingled with the drop of joy, there will be some guilt.

My husband lost his parents young (3 yrs. when his mom died, 20 when his dad left the mortal plane), and I'll never, ever forget how tangible the weight lifted off his shoulders as he rightfully put his own stereo and entertainment system out into the livingroom was. You could almost see him straighten up. It is not healthy for the living to hang on to their grief so long that they forget to live.

You know, everytime you talk about your brother, I get a picture in my head of Nick Frost (of "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" fame). Don't know how acurate that is, but it's who I'd cast if you decided to make a movie out of your blog.
That was the perfect idea - helping BB to make the house his own - I can just picture the two of you in front of the giant TV and Xbox...

Maybe he needs his own chair now... Christmas is coming soon :)
The positive of adding a tv rather than the negative of getting rid of things... You are too wise...and too wonderful.

Mom and Dad, I suspect, would be proud of their sons.
I'm glad your wife was there to keep the peace. I've done what you're doing and I feel for you.
It was *exactly* the right thing to do.

Hang in there. It takes time, but I promise, it will get better.


With time there is a season~ I think it's football next, right? I don't know but I hope BB enjoys his new toy, throws down a couple of bear skin rugs and makes a comfy home for himself.

This has got to be so hard on everyone. I wish you all well and happy once again~ soon.
I love, love, love this post - from the heartwarming Eclair to the beginnings of the Man Cave!

I saw that same look on sons face when I brought home the projector and he realized he could play XBox & Halo 3 (coming out next month) on THE BIG SCREEN!

Now, where exactly was this store that you got a 46 inch wide screen for $500 and change?????? Is it an LCD or plasma?
Great choice of the big TV to make the house BB's. That can be such a hard thing to do. Good on you and HLS for helping him and each other through all this.
MM, it sounds like you, BB and the rest of the fam are foing the right thing to (stealing from Thim here) "creep toward normal." I'm sure it's hard and will be for a long time, but it definitely sounds like you're all doing it right.
This is one of my favorite posts.
You may kill me for asking:

Would a C.R.A.P. giveaway of NH stuff make thinsg easier or harder for you?

I know sometimes it's easier to let things go if you know someone else will have them as opposed to just throwing them out. But I dont seriously think you'd want to do it that way.
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