Sunday, May 12, 2013

Grief and clutter: Getting rid of an object doesn't mean you're getting rid of the memories

About 2 months ago my second grandmother passed away. I was not attached to her, and in many ways I still blame my eating disorder on her. Her incredibly critical attitude about weight fed into my lack of self-confidence and I went down a very unpleasant path.

The task of cleaning out her condo fell to my parents. Doesn't that sound like a great idea? Give my hoarder parents responsibility for emptying out a 1400-square foot condo loaded with stuff. Grandmom was the organized one in the family. Like, she gave Martha Stewart a run for her money.
Everything had a place and a label...problem was, there was an awful lot of stuff. 

Anyways, my mom called me and asked if I wanted anything. I asked for a TV. My aunt was apparently fighting over who got the TVs (and everything else), so my mom got snippy when I kept saying how much I really wanted the bigger TV of the two. Now, my grandmother is my father's mom, not my mom's mom and yet my mom got feisty and ended up saying, "you know, when someone dies, most people don't just care about getting a TV."

Well, she's right. Except most people's deceased loved ones didn't contribute to their eating disorder. So yeah, I'm in the anger stage of grief. If all grandmom gave me was an eating disorder, the least I could get from her was a single TV in exchange for my misery. It's not true, she did give me more than an eating disorder, we did have some good times, and maybe I'll get past it in a few more therapy sessions.

The Chief Engineer and I have a single TV (we're down from five, originally, all of which were hand-me-downs from family) is 25 years old and is a 28" CRT, box-style TV. I inherited it when Gram died. Gram was my other grandmother and she was sort of a mom/sister/best friend all wrapped into one for me, so I'm overly attached to her stuff because I was attached to her. I've mostly gotten past this, but I'm still a little touchy about the TV.

In the end my Aunt got the bigger TV and apparently most of the contents of the condo (hm, the attachments to stuff run deep in this family).  I didn't get the big TV I wanted but I did get one. It's actually a perfect fit, not too small and not too big so I guess I'm glad I didn't get the bigger one. It arrived last week and we decided to keep only one television in the house. Grandmom's TV would replace Gram's.

But every time I walk into the living room now all I can see is Grandmom, and how she's replaced Gram in what is front-and-center in our living room. *Ohh, irrational thoughts! Danger, Wil Robinson!*

Just because we get rid of an object someone had doesn't mean that we're getting rid of them, or our memories of them, or our feelings for them.

Now when I see the TV and have bad memories of Grandmom, I try to either think of good memories of Gram, or to sit down and enjoy watching Star Trek on the TV. It's hard to be angry when I'm watching Connor Trinneer being gorgeous and generally brilliant on-screen, now that I have a TV screen clear enough even to see the color of his eyes! (Amazingly blue, btw.) I did get something good from Grandmom after all, and I still have all the good memories of our time together too, even with the bad.
How can I be angry at anything when I'm watching Commander Tucker being cuddly?
What can I say, I have a thing for engineers.
I also had the opportunity to let Gram continue to help the needy. We dropped her TV off at A Wider Circle, a DC-area charity that takes furniture and uses it to furnish first apartments for homeless families. So Gram, I'm glad we were able to give a homeless family part of a cozy living room. You're gone, but we're still making memories. I don't need to keep your TV to keep my memories of you.

On the plus side, I no longer have the affluenza-influenced desire for a brand new TV and I get to hold on to my own personal record of never having purchased a TV for myself.
Gram's TV, upside down on our ottoman. Now in the home of a formerly homeless family, and we stay object-neutral with just one TV in the house. Everybody wins.
That was my conflicted mother's day. If that's how complicated things are with my grandmothers, you should see how my brain works when it thinks about my mom and my MIL.

How was your mother's day?


  1. Thanks for that honest and funny post, the accounting of how you made peace with your new t.v. Loved it.


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