Worn out and rough. Dirty and rugged. They touched things and held things and fixed things and built things.
His hands were here.
These beat up ol’ work gloves. A symbol of his existence and reminder of the man who wore them. I found them in the shed as I was cleaning up the yard last week. Wearing them transported me back in time like finding an old forgotten love letter in a dusty old attic.
After Klink died I donated most of his things. Except for a few items like his winter hat and warm flannel shirt, there was nothing I wanted to keep. He was sick for so long and it seemed the memory of cancer saturated everything I looked at or touched with my hands.
In the months that followed his death I sold every piece of furniture we owned and painted every wall in the house. My living room consisted of a fireplace and a lawn chair. My bedroom—a bed and a dresser. I lived this way for several months until I slowly began to want to fill it up again.
Some people keep it all. Being unable to let go of the items as if they are eliminating the person they have already lost. I understand this completely because I felt it too. And sometimes still do. It’s incredibly hard to let go of the items that proved their existence and there is a part of us that doesn’t ever want to. In my heart though, I knew his spirit was not in his things and so it made no sense for me to keep them when they only prolonged my suffering. I knew this was the only way I was going to heal and I knew I had to do it right away. Like ripping a bandaid off a precious wound; it hurts like fuck, but then once exposed to air the healing could begin. It’s not like this for everybody but after spending 10 years surrounded by illness and cancer, it’s what I needed to do for me.
For awhile I only wanted empty space. No visual reminders of the struggles he had endured for so many years. No trigger of grief when I opened a closet and saw his jackets, his boots. No couch that reminded me how exhausted and tired he was after treatments. I wanted to break my habits of how I walked around the inside of my house and what I saw when I opened a drawer. I didn’t want to be stuck reliving any familiarity because the familiar caused too much pain. I moved my clothes into different drawers, hung my garments in his closet, moved all the dishes, pots and pans into new cupboards. I started sleeping on his side of the bed so I would wake up and see things differently.
Anything to break the spell. Anything to help me heal.
It was total self-preservation. I knew I couldn’t continue to live here and keep things as they were. I needed to have a different perspective. A fresh view. I needed to break my daily routines and habits and the only way to do that was to let go of the things that held painful memories. There is not a fragment of this beautiful home that Klink had not touched. A stone he had not laid, a board he had not cut. From the custom granite and tile work to the fireplace and front porch—his craftsmanship is everywhere. Just being here in this house would always give me the feeling of being wrapped in his arms. And it has. I’m surrounded by him every moment I am here. I didn’t need his things, I only had to look around.
And then, almost two years later, I find these gloves hidden amongst the shed provisions. I hadn’t noticed them when I cleaned things up the first spring. But there they were, nestled beneath a stack of shiny-new, never-worn gloves. Sitting there, almost mocking the others for being so clean. They exuded a presence of experience and grit while the others were searching for meaning or a pot of dirt.
These gloves were all Klink.
Not unlike his own hands were after years of hard work the gloves are worn and battered. The calloused leather rough against my skin. They smelled of cigarettes and oil, of lawnmowers and snowblowers, of trees and campfires. They smelled of autumn afternoons, of beers on the deck, and the soft slow glow of a sunset. They smelled of good friends, of hard work and of love and laughter.
They smelled of days gone-by.
As I put them on I could feel his hands holding mine – as if they were still inside them somehow captured in time—and I sunk to my knees. It’s been almost 2 years now and his spirit is farther away than it was at the beginning. I understand this to be normal as I create a new life for myself, but there are moments I wish it would revert back to those days where I could feel his presence daily and see the signs he would send. But that would also mean that I was not healing. It would mean I was still stuck in my grief and grasping at the past. I am healthier now and with my release of grief comes the release of his presence. This is how life moves on after loss.
But when those gloves touched my hands I felt him again. He was here. He was present.
I wore them for the rest of the day as I put the yard to bed for the winter. They felt comforting—the rough leather touching my skin reminding me that there was once a man that wore these. That there was once a man who loved me.
These are the things we keep.