Dead Man’s Clothes

I moved some of my clothes into Robert’s dresser. As soon as I emptied out his drawers – and it took months to do so – but after I did it, there was this vacuum effect that sucked me in to the empty space and I was swept up in the intense satisfaction of spreading out and reorganizing my clothes. It felt great. And then I felt guilty for feeling great. It was as if my enthusiasm somehow communicated: ‘Yay, he’s dead, more space for me!’

My husband was a clotheshorse, he had two dressers to my one; he had a double-barred closet to my single rod of clothes. On vacations, the ticket agents at the airports would flag his suitcase with one of those big red “Heavy” tags (the Scarlet Letter of luggage), his zippers straining at the seams, while my duffel bag’s dimples hinted of roominess within. But now all the drawers and closets are mine. It took me seven months before I could go through his clothes. Even after all that time, there was the smell of Robert, the good and the bad: the scent of Ralph Lauren cologne, and a whiff of Scotch. Going through a dead man’s clothes is sad and creepy. Because the person is gone, you view each article of clothing differently: a suit jacket hanging unanimated and lifeless on the hanger, dormant sleeves with no arms or hands; trouser pants that won’t walk; faded jeans soft with wear, creased to fit the body that’s no longer there. There’s never a ‘good’ time to go through the deceased’s clothes. It’s different for everyone. What finally pushed you to do it?

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2 thoughts on “Dead Man’s Clothes

  1. I did not want to be like his mother, holding on to belongings of your deceased child and then your husband. I knew, from experience, that donating His clothes would benefit someone else. The most memorable….His sneakers- He was wearing when He died. Perfectly intact. The right sneaker was still sitting on the gas pedal (which I removed at the impound lot) – perfect – the left – thrown in the back seat of His crushed and mangled Subaru. How I wanted to take a baseball bat to that car, it wasn’t the car’s fault he died, it was His , “Happy” End Stage Alcoholism…… fault. I kept SOME of His clothes and let His Daughters pick their favorite T-Shirts…..Me – I kept His house coat (I slept in it and I wrapped it around a pillow to spoon with it)…..it’s summer now, too hot, so it hangs on a hook-next to my house coat …..I saved the two silk boxer briefs he romanced me in….I’ve worn them with just a cotton TShirt…..and I still have moments when I can’t believe He’s gone/You’re gone. Never to come back….come home….to Me……like You always did…..Even in the End….But I wasn’t enough to “hold You here”……and that is what hurts the most…..the Guilt…..That I could not hold You here”….that spooning with You in the early morning hours before Our work day began……that Our end-of-night routine……Always-Kiss-Me-Goodnight ……failed……to “Keep You Here”…..”What I would give for only one night”…….I just can not forgive myself for failing unequivocally to save You. I just wanted to save You.

  2. It all happened very fast yet I feel like I am moving in slow motion. Three years ago my husband and I knew we would divorce when our only child turned 18 and moved out to college. We “stayed” together for our son. We didn’t make it. Last September, my husband was fired from his good paying job of 10 years and didn’t bother to tell me. He was an alcoholic, Rx pill addict, and we had been in separate bedrooms for the past three years, he lived in the man cave and my son and I lived in the rest of the house. He lost our health insurance benefits and when I managed to get his coverage effective Nov. 1, I drove him to inpatient 30 day rehab and dropped him off. While he was gone, I realized I did not want him coming back. I filed for divorce and a domestic violence protective order (DVO) to keep him from killing me or my son. He was never physically abusive, but was verbally abusive and had gotten in the habit of buying and leaving loaded guns around the man cave (besides consuming the two gallons of vodka/gin/tequila/bourbon a day). The DVO allowed me to turn the guns into the sheriff’s office for safe keeping. Under the DVO, when he got out of rehab, he could come back to the house one time under sheriff escort to get clothes, toiletries and tools of the trade. Before the day, I bagged all his clothes and cleaned out his bathroom space. He didn’t have control over his life, but he had control over his clothes. He had hundreds of the same shirt, pants, coats, shorts, sweaters, sandals etc., many never worn, as he was too drunk most of the time to switch out old clothing for the new, but not too drunk to order online in the middle of the night. He had enough first aid to stock a MASH unit. It felt great to finally clean out “his” closets, dressers and cabinets. It took me 7 hours not 7 months.
    He rented a place and in violation of the DVO, continued to see our son and stall. In February he was a no show at court and his attorney found him alive, barely. He spent 3 weeks in the ICU and I finally had to pull the tube. He died of pneumonia. He had been out of the house on his own for 3 months. My son will not talk to me, will not come home and is promising to never talk to me again. It has been very hard dealing with the aftermath. Dealing with the guilt, is not so hard. I have no regrets for my actions. For me, cleaning out the man cave has been harder, but taking loads to the dump and pushing them out of the truck bed has been cathartic of sorts. If only I found the strength earlier to dump the man.

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