Parting with Things

In my last blog,  I mentioned finally giving away Bo’s slalom ski. Parting with anything of Bo’s is so hard.  It’s as if I am erasing him piece by piece — the hobbies,  the tools,  the clothes he will never need.  Symbols of loss.

When he was first diagnosed,  Bo was an avid golfer,  going to the links nearly every day.  At the same time, he loved searching for lost balls, coming home with his pockets full of balls he had fished out of ponds and weeds, and storing them in buckets, drawers and boxes.   He was also an avid model airplane builder and flyer, going to the airfield several times a week. Our basement was full of tools, planes, engines and parts.  He wasn’t playing much tennis anymore, but he still went to the courts occasionally, and he went to the casinos in Atlantic City a couple of times a week to play craps or blackjack.

In other words, he was busy; no days were empty.

But then the decline crept in and began to wipe away his interests and skills.  The insidiousness of this hideous disease makes the early stages deceptive.  One day I would  think to myself,  “He hasn’t done …. for a while,”  and soon  he wouldn’t go at all.

Bo stopped building and flying the model planes (some of them VERY big) after the first year,   and after about four years,  I started to think that the airplane supplies should be sold or given away.   It ate at me: how could I part with all of these things that meant so much to him? What if he  realized  that I was removing his hobby?

Finally,  when he had  stopped even going into the basement, I contacted the president of his airplane club who came here on four nights — after Bo was in bed — and helped me pack everything to sell.  We packed it all  into his SUV each night, and finally we also filled my car, then everything was sold at an auction.  Now the basement was empty and I felt guilty, but at the same time, there was a sense of relief.

It took me longer to part with his two sets of golf clubs and thousands of balls. I felt awful parting with them — couldn’t do it until this spring after  he was in the garage one day,   picked a ball from a bucket  and asked, “What’s this for?”  When I told him,  he looked at me blankly, and I knew I could part with all of the golf equipment.  Again I felt just awful because each time that I created an empty  space in the house, I was also acknowledging the blank spaces in Bo’s mind.

I sold his car last year (he had voluntarily stopped driving about four years ago) when I felt sure he wouldn’t even notice that it was gone.   He had made it so easy for me by simply not driving.  There are so many stories about Alzheimers patients who have to have their keys forcibly removed by their doctors or family members.

I wrote about his sad, final trip to the casino in my blog on December 25, 2010   when we went and he didn’t play, just stood there helplessly, then walked out.

I awoke one day last week, saying to myself that I need to start thinning out Bo’s unneeded clothes.  Doing this makes me acknowledge to myself how bad he is.  I want to deny reality even though I’m faced with it every day as I watch him decline so quickly now.  I KNOW that he will never wear his tuxedos or business suits or even his topcoat again.  He won’t wear his black tassel loafers or his golf jackets, his ski jacket, his camping shirt or his tennis shorts.  He won’t.  But I get tears in my eyes as I write this.  How much can I erase of this dear man?  But I have to do it,  I have to do it to help myself.

And so I started.  I took several trips to Goodwill.  I opened the trunk of my car and as the attendant removed everything, I shut my eyes, then I drove home feeling a new heaviness in my heart, realizing how little of him remains in the house … there is no word for this sadness.

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16 Responses to Parting with Things

  1. MCI Alice says:

    Wow, this feels familiar. Ralph has always been an avid fisherman but now he finds excuses not to touch his fishing pole. Over the last year he has also gone from an avid to nonexistent reader although he always says he is in the middle of a book. Your use of the word insidious is pitch perfect.

  2. Maureen says:

    So sad !!!

  3. Paula Kaye says:

    I’m sitting here right now crying with you. Because I know how hard this in. In May my grandson and I went through Richard’s closet and took most of his clothes to Goodwill. There are still things here. He collected hundred of little tractors and construction toys and I can’t even look at them leaving the house yet. I haven’t started getting rid of anything yet….too painful. Sending you a huge hug!!

  4. Arleen Mildred Stolzenberger says:

    Nancy, you are giving away things that at one time had meaning. But you will always have the memories and I’m sure there are many things in your home that will always remind you of Bo. Working in the garden together- maybe there’s a bush you both planted, Photo of the good times. I bet you if Bo was able to- he would say “let’s give some of this stuff to someone who can get use out it. I wish there was something magical to say but there’s no way to prevent the feeling of loss. Hang in there!

  5. Mary Smith says:

    Oh,I feel for you. Dad was an avid reader (it was from him I inherited my love of books) but he hasn’t touched a book for years – and he was a keen golfer, playing almost every day. Years ago he had terrible arthritis in one knee, the pain of which prevented him golfing. He had a knee replacement and was the sugeon’s ‘star’ patient so keen was he to get his leg working again and back on the golf course. Now, I’m not sure he would understand waht to do with a golf club. It seems impossible that all these things can be erased. I think you doing the right thing, though, in parting with Bo’s stuff even if it must feel like your heart is breaking.

  6. Pamela Fisk says:

    Thinking of you, Nancy. Love and hugs

  7. Julio Feldman says:

    Hi Nancy,

    In the two years that she has been living in the memory unit Saralee’s frontal temporal dementia is progressing very quickly. She hardly speaks anymore and when she does she makes up words and you can’t comprehend what she is trying to tell you. There is very little if no memory and depending on the day she may have to be prompted as to what to do for example when she goes to the bathroom. She is beginning to experience incontinence. It has only been recently that I have been able to rearrange some things in the house especially in the kitchen. Her clothes are still on her side of the closet but I am getting ready to donate some things. As we all know it is a very sad situation. Our lives need to go on. I try to distinguish between the Saralee that I married and the Saralee with dementia. So I rely on memories to capture the true Saralee and have established a new relationship with the Saralee that has dementia. Our life journeys are unpredictable and I do believe that I have gotten stronger as a result of this experience. For example, my capacity to have empathy for others has increased.

    Stay well,

  8. Cynthia Burke says:

    Dear Nancy:
    I, too, have just offloaded tassel loafers, a topcoat, blue blazers, tennis balls and raquets, his tuxedo. It makes me deeply sad, removing traces of him in our house, and reminding me that while he is gone as I knew him for forty nine years of marriage, he is not gone. I am a married widow, in no-man’s land. As is he, in a different no-man’s land.

  9. Lisa M says:

    My heart breaks for you Nancy. I guess the blessing behind the way my mother was taken advantage of when her 2nd husband died, was that we didn’t need to go through any of this. Everything she had fit into a small U-Haul trailer and my trunk. I did have to get rid of some things when we moved her in here, but they weren’t important. So much of her past was sold at an auction 1200 miles away whether we liked it or not. Sending prayers and positive thoughts.

  10. Carole G. says:

    Arleen says it all!..Hold on to the good memories and let them guide you during this time of sadness. Step by step, I have read all your blogs and know this has been quite a walk.
    Just because you haven’t heard from me in awhile doesn’t mean you and Bo have not been in my thoughts and prayers. Stand tall!

  11. In rare moments of his former self, my Alzheimer’s husband has asked me to sell or donate his fish tanks, his environmental magic show illusions that he built himself, and his lifelong collection of model railroad trains and collection of rare books. I think it’s harder for me, talking with liquidators and estate sale reps, who seem so money oriented and cold. He is living more in the present moment, happily spending 5 hours each day at an Adult Day Center, making new friends and playing Bingo (and winning!), doing jigsaw puzzles, calmly adjusting to our new life. I am so thankful to the people who work there!!!!! Every person’s story is different and yet there are so many similarities. God bless all of us!

  12. Ine says:

    Your heavy heart is shared by all

  13. I have no words to offer..only hugs x

    • As you say Nancy, there are no words for this sadness. We cleared out Mum’s home of 32 years when she moved to her care home. I kept some things – her letters to my Dad when they were courting and her diaries. I couldn’t bear to part with those but so much else went. x

  14. Meredith says:

    You write and share for others who encounter this dreadful long goodbye. Your experience will help others.

  15. rosemary says:

    Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts, you give me strength to go through mums things.
    You are a brave woman for exposing all you private feelings and thoughts and giving me an insight to what I am going have to face with my mother.

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