For days, I had been dreading one particular job in closing up my dad’s apartment on 8th Street, namely, clearing out his toiletries. Dad had a variety of lotions, soaps, and other unguents in his medicine cabinet. He had Calvin Klein deodorant, a Conair electric razor, a pair of manicure scissors. He had a leather kit bag as old as the hills balanced on the edge of his bathroom sink. I think it was the same kit bag he’d had since I was a child. Contained within, I found crusty old tubes of toothpaste, a couple pairs of nail clippers, some ancient Band-Aids. He had three tooth brushes going in varying stages of decline.
Yesterday afternoon, I finally brought myself reluctantly to the task. I simply threw everything away. I did not even keep the unopened package of dental tape I had bought for him about two months ago. He had explained in no uncertain terms that he must have tape, not floss. I had to hunt around in the dental care aisle at Walgreens to locate it. He was so happy when I brought it home to him, but somehow, he never actually opened the package. Now, both he and the dental tape are gone.
“Operation Clean-Out” took me less than sixty seconds to complete because I had already determined going in that I would keep nothing. I threw everything into a garbage bag almost without looking at it. I did not want to see little whiskers on the electric razor. I did not want to get sticky toothpaste on my fingers. I could not imagine assessing each vial of bodywash or aftershave to determine its intrinsic value. Who would want these used and intimate things now?
That said, I did keep his bathroom scale. It is the kind that needs a battery. I could use a good scale. I am keeping the scale because it is “used and intimate” in a different way. He would have stood on it each morning (when he could still stand unsupported) to check his body weight; to monitor his measure relative to earth’s gravity.
In this new world without him, his measure is of a much different nature. It bears no resemblance to physical heft as we know it. And yet, I feel the weight of him sometimes as if he were sitting in the room with me, or stirring soup in the kitchen, or making marks on a large piece of paper stapled to the wall of his studio. I trust that in time, I will learn to find a way to balance the weight bearing down on my heart—brought on by the disappearance of his body and all the little items that attended it—with the buoyancy of his spirit.
At some future time, perhaps this buoyancy will win out, and the sadness will come completely untethered. If the works of art that he left behind are any indication of his wishes for us here in the physical world, I know it is this lightness and this buoyancy that he would ask us always to remember.
10 thoughts on “In Search of Buoyancy”
It is a long process of letting go and very interesting how the simple routines of those we love have a strong physical hold on us. When you described the bag that held your Dad’s things it made me cry, because for all the new things we bring in every day, we all have that old travel kit that stays with us. Your Dad the artist continues to bring out the artist in you. Lovely words.
Thanks, Christy. I know, I have this ratty old quilted cloth travel kit. It is all faded and ugly. But it is completely functional and I have had it forever. I’m sure I will have it until I die…People and their travel kits. We need them on the journey, don’t we? Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts here. Lots of love, Lisa
I’ve never let go of my father, and I hope I never will. I surround myself with his weight not only through memories but through trinkets of his life as well. There is always a photo close at hand, many hats that he wore subtly displayed around my home, and various Army patches that I’ll often hold in my hand like a child’s security blanket. My closet is filled with his old, ratty flannels–his favorites. He died in his favorite flannel, and it warms me on these frosty autumn days.
The weight of sadness seems a heft that will be carried forever. But it is not. The weight will remain, but it changes somehow–slowly, subtly. The weight, for me, has become a torch to pass to my children, two of whom really never knew him. I teach them his art–how to fry a perfect over-easy egg, why passion matters, and why it’s important to both show and earn respect. I bear this torch proudly and cautiously, hoping that I can pass to them what my father passed to me.
I know what your father passed to you, Lisa. And I know that you’re not only passing that on to your son but to the many people who are fortunate enough to have you in their lives. You keep us, to use your word, buoyant.
My dearest Rob Pockat,
If those are not the words of a man who is truly Living–as opposed to merely existing–then I will eat my flannel hat.
Buoyancy is reciprocal. I buoy you, you buoy me, Signe and Jim buoy us. (Readers, please fill in your favorite life raft to complete this little exercise in buoyancy awareness.) This must be why we all managed to congregate for a time, here, in She-buoy-gan. It can be an uplifting place, if you allow it.
I hereby declare this coming week as National Buoyancy Awareness Week. Please think of the people who lift your spirits and do something nice for them.
With loss, it’s rarely the big things that get you — it’s the small things. Always. They’re so much more intimate, and so woven into the fabric of our existence that we forget how profound they are until they confront us head-on. Lisa, I am now dreading the day I have to throw my own father’s deodorant away.
Hey Signe, when that day comes, I will be here for you if you need me.
I am riding a balloon, not a helium or hydrogen balloon, but a balloon filled with something more ethereal, like my father’s shaving kit. It carries me aloft, not aloft like up in the sky aloft, but aloft like that feeling an object like the smell of a shaving kit, part minty toothpaste, part “fifth avenue” cologne as it catapults me back to that time I saw my Dad cut his cheek with a razor and I had never seen blood move like that before and wondered if he was gonna die, and then he reached into his kit for a styptic pencil and swordlike stopped the bleeding and saved the world.
Hi David, I’m sure to a little boy, that dad who could stop blood flowing seemed like a real magician. That’s what dads do, isn’t it? They amaze us with their mysterious abilities. Thank you so much for sharing that memory of your father.
Thank you for your thoughtful blog, it did provoke a conjured moment…
I will miss George some too…
“The heart carries in it the treasures that belong to contentment and peace, yet yielding also to unspoken sadness some melancholy won’t cease.” The heaviness of loss will always be there, taking turns inside our hearts with many of the brighter things in life…there will be ups and downs. Bittersweet. Bittersweet.
Take care Lisa,