It is 3 in the morning. I’ve been up for a couple of hours. I washed dishes, cleaned the stove, and then set to sorting two boxes. One was filled with small notebooks, most of which were labeled “house log” and dated. Jan.-Oct. 1987. Sept.-May 1988. I am trying to remember if we kept these by the phone or somewhere else. The places we lived in at the time were so small that even if they weren’t near the phone, they were within an arms length away. They are an account of our daily lives in notes, phone number, to-do lists, dinner invitations, scribbles, David’s doodles which he did incessantly while he was on the phone, moving lists, travel lists, apartment prospects in Manhattan, Park Slope, and Bloomington with crude sketches of layouts, doctor appointments, application deadlines, party plans, grocery lists, menus, phone messages, schedules of play dates and babysitters, Christmas gift lists, rehearsal schedules and cancelations. And in some, notes for a story or play or screen play that David, and occasionally I, was working on. Instant inspiration. Notes to each other: “Sweetheart, you have to pick Cheshire up today. I need to sleep. D”
I had forgotten all about these notebooks. I didn’t know that we were carrying them around. They are almost the scrap paper of our lives.
There is no reason to keep these. None of them. Some of the notes don’t even mean much to me now. Looking through each one, because if I am going to discard them all, which makes so much sense, I have to know what I am throwing away, I am caught up in the rhythm of the time, a distant drum beat that I can almost hear. This was how we kept our day-to-day in order before we kept complicated calendars, before we joined a full-time working world. This was how we kept ourselves from falling off the earth. This was how we made up a life defying gravity.
I don’t want to keep these little books, but damn it, what is sad about trashing them is that again and again, I have to throw away evidence of the life that we lived together. I have to throw away David’s unreadable scribble and there will be no more of that scribble for me to find impossible to decipher. I could have thrown these books away before David died with only a slight nostalgic thought. As I do it now, I am burdened with the finality. With the end.
Tonight, I resent that.
There is a quote that I cannot find right now, that says that the surviving spouse gives their spouse the gift of remaining behind, the gift of letting him go first. Whoever said it said it so much better, but the sentiment rings in my head. There is a contingency in most standard wills that speaks to the circumstance of spouses who die together or within a short time of one another. I can see that circumstance as a wish. It would be so much easier than all this grieving, mourning, surviving, picking up the pieces, moving on, and living a new rest of a life. No, I am not contemplating anything, but surviving is exhausting.
I moan and groan about sorting through yet more boxes of papers and notebooks. I’ve complained that my family of origin did not write anything down. There is no way to know what I did not know as a child, or to know what anyone -- parents, grandparents -- were thinking at any time. No secrets. I’ve lamented so often that there are no journals, no letters, nothing like our house logs, and now I am lamenting that David and I had too much of all of that. And still, no secrets.
Strangely, I don’t have any more of an idea of what David was thinking and feeling when he made notes for stories or lists for groceries. I wonder if someone who did not know him or us would glean something from all these words stored in so many books. Or not. I don’t get any more than I already know. I can remember and remember more because of the notes, but there is no enlightenment, no explanation, and no answer as to how we could have changed that life to change the eventual outcome.
Walking the dog with Julia yesterday, she asks again if we are going to get a cat. She tells me that she’d really like DidiChi back and I tell her that he will not come back and I hope he was found by someone who took him in as their pet -- these statements have taken on the quality of ritual. Last night, Julia broke the familiar pattern of question and answer. She told me that she wants a white kitten. A girl. And she would name her JB. “That’s an appropriate name for a kitten,” was what she said. I am thinking of a male, golden somewhat like DidiChi, and JB doesn’t stand for anything. I know it is just the sounds together that Julia likes. But I like that she is voicing her preferences. I like that she has preferences.