To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal, to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go. Mary Oliver
A beloved friend, Hazel Seamans, wife of Percy Seamans who was once the principal of Lake Delton school, passed away this fall. I’m also mourning the loss of an aunt and a fellow Kiwanian, Rue Bork. I sympathize with the close relatives, especially the sons and daughters.
It’s been more than 13 years since my sister Rachel and I walked into our mother’s silent bedroom, but the emotions are still fresh. Our mom no longer lay in the bed suffering. It was time to move on, beginning with clearing out her things.
This is no time for sentiment, I’d told myself, flicking open the garbage bag. “Stoic,” I re-minded my younger sister. “We just have to power through.”
She and I are of Norwegian and German stock, both renowned for their ability to push emotions aside. I was going to call on my stalwart ancestors today.
“How about if we use boxes for Goodwill,” I began, “and we put treasures on the bed.”
“Sounds good.” Rachel’s voice quavered, but she rolled up her sleeves.
We got to work, and I was proud I’d remained unemotional. Then I uncovered my Mom’s brush.
She loved to have others brush her hair. When I was little, I liked to sit behind her and run the brush through her dark hair. As a teen, I didn’t have the same patience, but when I knew her years were ending, I once again found moments for that special time together. I held the brush to my chest. “I want to keep this.”
“It’ll only make you sad.”
Damn, she was right. I held it for a few more seconds, then I let it go.
My mind was still on the brush when Rachel pulled out a jewelry box container. “Pre-cious rubies?” she joked. Rachel opened it. Inside was a set of Mom’s old dentures.
“Eww!” we both said at the same time.
I caught Rachel’s expression and felt an urge to laugh, but managed to keep it in. Look-ing from the garbage, to the box, to the bed, I said, “Thirty year old dentures don’t fit in any of our categories.”
“I say we throw them out,” Rachel said.
“Stoic.” I nodded. I dropped them in the garbage and got back to work. By the time we’d finished clearing out every drawer and shelf and sending the garbage bags, boxes, and treasures to their appropriate places, we were exhausted.
While Rachel heated dinner, I washed up in the bathroom. Not seeing a towel, I opened the linen closet. I groaned. Shelves of stuff to go through yet. With a heavy sigh, I began sorting.
I was halfway through when I uncovered an old jewelry box. Hmmm. Strange to have jewelry in a linen closet. I opened the lid. Dentures! A small piece of yellowed paper read “Mother’s old dentures.”
My inner voice thrummed with questions. Why had Mom kept her mother’s old dentures? Had she and her sister, like Rachel and me, debated about keeping or tossing them?
“Rachel! You have to come see this.”
Rachel joined me. Eyes wide, she gasped, “More dentures?”
Rachel’s mouth twitched. “So how are your teeth? Think you’ll ever need dentures?”
I knew my face must be turning red as I tried to hold back a snort. “Hey, I plan on taking good care of these choppers.”
“Me, too,” Rachel said, tapping her teeth and wiggling her eyebrows.
And when we let the laughter come, we let it go, let it go.