I just googled the words: “Can you die from stress?”
Yesterday, while listening to my divorce attorney drone on pessimistically and in monotone for 23 uninterrupted minutes, costing me hundreds of dollars, I actually felt a dangerous prickling in my chest. I started feeling murderous thoughts, wondering if my attorney was actually worse than my soon-to-be-ex.
I wonder what would be revealed if my attorney was forced to endure a nine-month psychological custody evaluation.
I think he would be in big trouble. His wife would probably get the kids.
. . .
I start work in four days. My children will be with me for three of those days. I have no babysitter lined up yet, which leaves me with a three-week gap between my first day of work and the day my summer babysitter arrives in my city.
. . .
I spent yesterday trying to help my father (who barely survived open heart surgery two months ago, followed by several weeks in the hospital and subsequent bladder surgery) move everything out of my aunt’s house, which is filled with expensive and dated furniture from her years living in Florida. I run behind my dad, pleading with him not to pick up anything over ten pounds. I imagine his diaphragm bursting open and me calling 911, but we are so far out in Exurbia that the hospital is too far away.
I beg him to sit down.
He pretends he doesn’t hear me and disappears around a corner of my aunt’s huge house, carrying a heavy white vase that reminds me of Miami Vice.
. . .
My aunt died on St. Patrick’s Day, leaving us sad, and missing her, and missing the past, when she would show up with her big smile and make our holidays whole. We feel great guilt about what to do with the things she has left behind. I have been at her house for nearly every other day since I got my job offer. No wonder I can’t get my act together for the job. But I need to go. If I don’t do it, my father will do it all himself, and I am worried it will kill him.
. . .
I’ve had a lot of questions answered in the past several weeks.
- Who will pay for expensive but dated pastel furniture in perfect condition? No one.
- Can you even give away expensive and dated pastel furniture? No, it’s almost impossible.
- When you pay the nice handyman to take items to Salvation Army, does he really take them there? No.
- How do you learn this? You go yourself, and they tell you he hasn’t been there. And then he doesn’t have any receipts.
- On the other hand, do you trust the home inspector? Yes, because he is smart and soft-spoken and solid. You don’t know why exactly you trust him but you do. And as it turns out, you’re right about him.
- How big a house is big enough in the exurbs where my aunt lived? It’s not possible to have a big-enough house out there.
- How many cars need to fit in a driveway in the exurbs? Six!
- Why do the McMansions have no mature landscaping? Because the owners don’t care, and the deer eat everything. This disturbs me to no end. It makes me want to start a non-profit that plants native trees in these immense, barren yards.
. . .
But most importantly I learned the answer to a question I never previously considered. When we die, what will our loved ones value out of all of our precious belongings? Photos, especially old ones. Your loved ones will hold them, and then they will talk about how those photos make them feel. The photos will make them remember.
They will also search through your belongings for cards, children’s artwork, paintings, needlework, yearbooks, letters, awards, recipes. Anything with your handwriting – they want to keep a piece of you. And then some random things. Two old soft blankets, one for your grand-niece, and one for your grand-nephew. Your niece may do something strange and take a pair of pajamas that she gave you for Christmas. You never wore them, and they still sit in their Lord & Taylor box. She will wear them and think of you. She feels different in them. Older, grounded. Like someone who plays it safe.
No one is really interested in your jewelry, except for your mother’s engagement ring. Your brother will look at it in wonder and tell his daughter, “This is more than 100 years old.” She will try it on her pinkie finger and marvel that it’s so tiny. Then it goes back in the box for your sister, who is also dying. It goes to her because you tagged it so before your death. Everyone is relieved. We are doing what you want.
Which is good, because you would be very angry at all the waste – a lifetime tossed into dumpsters and dropped off at Goodwill.
And if you are the kind of person who keeps a patchwork pillow that your niece made for you more than thirty years ago, she will find it. Especially if you went out and found a perfect bag to protect the pillow from aging like your niece has aged over these past three decades. She will take that pillow and talk about it until everyone else is bored. And then she will take it home and give it to her seven-year-old daughter who has just learned to sew pillows herself.
Your grand-niece will put the pillow on her bed after she admires the stitches. She will tell her friends that her mom made it a long, long time ago for her great-aunt A.