I spent a good part of the day yesterday cleaning the house. I never gave Melissa enough credit for the amount of work that goes in to this place. It was something we had minor disagreements about. I don't think I ever fully understood how much she did around here until this summer. She got shit done. I am impressed with the industry of it and wish for the day when I can tell her.
As I was cleaning up generally, not yet a purge, I came to once again recognize her style. Melissa has a very specific design aesthetic. It is a mix of mid-century modern and Feng Shui. That doesn't quite do it justice, but it's as close as I can get to describing it. Everything has clean lines, lots of solid colors and matte finishes, very geometric. I've tried my best to recreate that look with this page. Everything in its right place. Not a ceramic rooster in sight. It's like living in a Crate & Barrel catalog. It all comes together to form a clean and warm space. Our home.
When someone leaves your world unexpectedly you want to hang on to every piece of them for as long as possible. I've found myself hoarding scraps to scratch paper she made small notes on. If it's something she thought or did, a piece of her, I want to keep it. Letting things go is akin to letting a part of her go. Eventually I will have to sort through it all, picking and choosing her true essence, her legacy. I have not been able to work up the courage to take this step yet. There is no deadline, I will get to it when I get to it.
I made a joke early on that I was cleaning out the fridge based on expiration dates, eating what was closest to going bad first. Every bit of food I had to chuck was a small defeat, something she bought that didn't realize its potential. Well, cleaning out the house is going to be the same thing. Each item of clothing that I have to donate or toiletry that I have to throw away is going to be feel like a lost battle for a little while.
When we first bought this house I spent about four months 'renovating' it. It was structurally sound; not much to complain about other than the previous owner's design sense. All of the colors were a few shades too dark or too green for our tastes. They literally had a neon green stripe, two feet wide, running down the middle of the hallway. Somewhere along the line they had taken to painting bible verses on the walls. The kids room, which became her office, had a verse from Genesis inscribed in glow in the dark paint on the ceiling. We only discovered it late one night after we shut the lights off. Otherwise it was completely invisible.
They had painted first Corinthians on the wall in the dining room. This led to one of my favorite all-time Melissa jokes. As we were painting over it (I know, sacrilege) Melissa decided to update the verse for modern life. "Love is patient, love is kind..." was expanded to include "Love remembers to replace the milk. Love doesn't forget to call you back...".
Our evenings were filled with HGTV, as I'm sure a lot of couples nights are. Each evening around 10:30 or 11:00 we would switch over to channel 229 and watch a couple episodes of "House Hunters International" or "Rehab Addict". Our running commentary was both entertaining and constructive. It helped to keep us close and informed on what each other thought about this or that idea (what is the deal with all the shiplap? No.). At some point I realized that it really bugged her when Chip called Joanna "momma" on "Fixer Upper". So for a while after she became pregnant I would work a "momma" in unexpectedly to get a quick laugh.
I've tried to go back to some of those shows and find I can't quite handle them. I see things she would like to try, but don't have the stomach for them yet. Each new piece or change could be viewed as change away from our life together.
I've started to make small steps. I bought a cool mid-century clock that she'd had her eye on and hung it in the kitchen. I replaced a framed old map in our a bathroom with a framed map of Max Fischer's world in the movie Rushmore. She bought it for me back in 2004 and I somehow never got around to hanging it up. In each case I'm making the changes not to forget but instead to reinforce.
I don't think there will ever be a day where I don't feel her absence. That does not mean that I will feel this pain forever. Each day brings the potential to replace some of the sadness with laughter. As I walk through the rooms of our home I am surrounded by her colors, her sense of place. If she cannot be here, I can be near her in the place she held most dear. In time the walls may change but that does not mean that I will forget.