Our basement flooded, again. It’s the second time in the three years we’ve lived here but it’s also the second time in less than six months. It looked like complete devastation down there. Now our basement wasn’t the organized HGTV basement you see. It’s boxes upon boxes that have been dug through, from attempting to find objects from the last move. But it’s not only our boxed stuff down there, it’s some of my dad’s, after he passed away. We also have my mom’s and granny’s stuff. My sis-in-law is using our basement as storage and then of course I’ve collected future “projects” that I’ve never gotten around to doing.
When something like this happens it forces you to take inventory of what can be saved and what can’t be. Who I am kidding, there’s no inventory taken, I just start throwing out what looks like it’s in the worst condition and go from there. I thought I had thrown out a lot from the first time it flooded but it still looks like a wreck down there. And since trash day was upon us, which comes every week, I decide to work on it again. Now let me say, it flooded again like a month ago but it was too overwhelming for me to tackle because of the shit I’ve been going through, so it’s taken me this long to get back to it. This isn’t unusual or out of the ordinary behavior for me though. When something unfortunate happens to me or I receive bad news, whatever it may be, I tend to have a delayed reaction. I act as if nothing ever happened when something too hard comes my way. In my attempt to pretend or as I like to say, “Floating on Denial River.” I’d rather not deal than, well-deal.
Paralyzed. Unable to do anything. Frozen at the sea of wreckage. Kinda like my life. Grief upon grief is what I’ve experienced. A decade ago our family lost close to a dozen family members, within a year and a half. They pretty much went in sets of three with one here or there scattered in between. We got used to going to funerals. Then five years ago my dad decided to die. I’m sure he didn’t decide to die but damnit why did he have to die?! Then a month later my son, who was sixteen, announced that he and his girlfriend were pregnant. It was my son and my husband who had found my dad dead, laying on a patch of grass between the driveway and walkway to his house. My poor son. My heart breaks knowing he experienced such trauma at an early age.
Each time I go downstairs to do the laundry, the wreckage is before me. So much stuff. No organization whatsoever. Just paths here and there. I can’t. It’s too much. Too many memories, too much pain of loss to go through. I want the people I lost back in my life, not their stuff. F the stuff. Except they aren’t retuning. Death does that. Once it takes you, it won’t let go. Swallowed up by a grave or ashes or however you decided to dispose of them. As horrific as that sounds, so is death. I repeatedly say, “I hate death.” And I do. It was never meant to be. One minute they’re here and the next they're gone. With the gasp of their last breath, they're no more. Their bodies may lay before you, much like my dad’s that fateful night he lay there for what seemed like hours, til the moment you go through the motions of the showing and funeral. And then all your left with is their stuff. The good, the bad, the ugly.
My parents were never the organized type. Piles and piles of paperwork, important and unimportant alike. I’ve pretty much taken after them in that department. I’ve tried to get organized but the hugeness of the task overwhelms me and I just sit and stare and don’t do anything at all. Now I’ve organized for others and I do it well. It gives me great satisfaction to help other people sift through their overwhelming mess. It feels good to help, to lift their arms and support them when all’s too much for them. But when it comes to my own junk, I just sit and stare. I’ve spoke about it numerous times and even got promises out of a couple different close family members to help me since I’ve ever so graciously dug them out too many times to count. But their offer was eons ago and two floods later. I finally asked my daughter-in-law for help and she actually said yes! Thank goodness! Maybe we were gonna make head-way. Maybe we’re gonna put a dent in it.
Looking at the side of the road, where we put the trash and carried out a number of boxes that were water logged, it seemed like we removed a lot from the basement. But, and I say a big but, to look at the basement, it doesn’t look like we removed anything! Ugh, the task is daunting. I wanna go through every box but then again I don’t. I just wanna throw the crap out! I started to do that with one box but when I asked her if I should open it or not, her hesitation told me to look in it. I mean all it had written on the box was VHS. Who the hell has a VHS player any more? We don’t. I couldn’t even play them if I wanted to. I struggled to peel the tape back and what my eyes laid upon brought back a flood of emotions. The many VHS movies that was before me was owned by my dad. They represented him. I couldn’t throw them out. Not yet.
It was unusual how the flood waters would engulf one box but not the box right next to it. Kinda reminds me a tornado. They are erratic with the path they've chosen. Just when you think you know the direction they're headed, they abruptly shift and go in another, missing one house yet demolish the next five. That’s sort of how it seems to be in the case of our boxes. One box would be completely soaked and molded, because it’s been a month since the flood. Then the very next box would be perfectly fine. How could that be? It doesn’t make sense. Yet in the confusion of it all, as we were going through this and that box we found treasures of old in some of them. One box we were carrying out to the curb, I found a pile of pictures in them. What sweet memories pictures are able to bring forth. Some of the memories not so sweet. But memories to say the least.
That’s really all we hold onto don’t we? Memories. The good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes when we look back all we see is rubble. Piles and piles of rocks, destroyed by floods, tornados, tsunamis of events. We can’t see what’s of worth between all garbage that’s been mixed in. Or we see it all as garbage. Like me. Until I begin to open up each box and actually put my hand on each book, photo, or VHS tape. We place great value on things. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to say, “I don’t need to carry this with me anymore.” But there shouldn’t be any forcing. You get to decide when you’re ready to say goodbye and no one else. You know when your heart is ready. My basement still looks like hell. There’s still plenty to go through but it doesn’t all have to be done in a day or even two. Give yourself a break and allow yourself to process what you’ve just handled. Like the VHS box. My dad was important to me and although he is no longer physically here, things that represent him are. Even if it seems silly, like stupid VHS tapes. Things represent time and space that were filled with people. People that once were in your life. Like my former best friend. That stills hurts. Every day I choke down 2 vitamin D3s because she’s the one that recommended that I take them with my magnesium. But I know that advice is good for me to follow, I looked it up on my own and read about it, even if the relationship is no longer.
We attach people to inanimate objects and the objects become them. Especially when they’re no longer here. That’s why there are basements filled with stuff from years past because we can’t let go. Because it’s hard. It’s painful. It’s overwhelming to go through it alone. Sorting through what’s worth holding onto and what’s not. Like life. As much as we don’t like the fact that death is a reality in our lives, especially me, when I’ve had so much loss, with death comes new life, new births. With the death of winter comes spring. Newness. A chance to be reborn. A chance to take inventory, even if it takes time. With a new birth comes a washing off of the old, a chance to look at things differently, with a new set of eyes so to speak. A new you. That sounds really nice. New and fresh beginnings. A new road to journey down. Take your time though. No need to rush. Take it all in. Every smell, every site your eyes land on and stop and receive.
The road I’m walking down right now in my mind is a solitary road but I’m okay with that. There’s peace there. There’s a wheat field to my left and to my right, green foliage. The gentle winds are blowing and the stalks of wheat are dancing in unison. I stop to take it in. The beauty of it. I take in a deep breath. I close my eyes. I allow the winds to encompass me and comfort me. I begin to walk again. I reach over and allow my hand to run through the swaying wheat. They are gentle to the touch and they reach back, allowing me to intwine my fingers and dance with it. This road may not last forever but it’s taking me off the beaten path just long enough to give me a new perspective on life. Kinda like finding treasures in the memories in my basement. It’s not all bad. There’s beauty in recognizing that not all is ruined and I can find joy in discovering newness from what I thought was all lost.