Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Emptying Grandpa Milt's place

It's not fun, going back to a place full of that many memories, after the owner has died. I can't help feeling like I'm violating it just by being there. My brothers in law seem to have their emotions in check, but I'll look at one of Milty's guyaberas, or his captain's cap, and start crying. The younger one teases me for this. I don't blame him. It's easier to keep your cool if you make fun of someone else for losing theirs.

I'm helping them empty it out. First we took out tons of papers and things no one would ever need again. Then we cleared out everything the real estate agent told us should go, so we could use the rest to stage the place for sale. They painted it, and photographed it with a fish eye lens so it looked enormous. The middle brother had to stop them from including a shot of the Hudson no one could have seen from that window. You'd have thought we were in a boat, not on the 16th floor.

Today, more bagging of things. I'm to get several pieces of furniture. They want me to take more, but I can't find a place for all of it, as nice as it is. Some of it is probably too nice for my loft. But I can't stand the idea of anything that pretty, or that meaningful, getting thrown out. My husband will probably freak when he sees the two stone pillars, but I'm taking a stand. They're beautiful, I've always admired them, and now I'm told I can have them, that I should take them. One is darkly veined white marble, one is a greenish alabaster. Milt had an eye for good lines. My own grandparents had so many beautiful antiques, and when they passed on, my aunts and uncles fought over them and tore the family apart. My dad was the family peacemaker, and he had been gone for decades. Now they're calling the police on each other, and my grandparents entire inheritance has gone to lawyers. So this peaceful transfer of goods, of the symbols of family, of the dead, is more than ceremonial to me.

I guess in a way, taking these things binds me back into my ex's family, unites me with my children's grandparents again. They're a symbol of what was and no longer really is: the brothers in law were never very close to us, not the way Milt and Julia were. I don't think Jesse's brother is ready to understand what it means to say, that was my grandmother's, that was Milt's. Maybe it's foolish to take pride in things. I'm sure it is.

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