I received good advice two years ago when Tony passed away after his fifteen month battle with cancer: Don’t change anything for one year. I did add a few pictures to the house, a couple of Pottery Barn pieces scattered about, but I didn’t take one thing out of his closet. After six months or so, I gave some things to his musician friends: pictures, favorite stage shirts, a 12 string guitar went to his good friend, Andy, but I didn’t touch the rest. At year one, I sorted through most of the closet, giving away things he really could have cared less about : ties (he refused to learn to tie a tie or else he would have to get a “real” job), dress clothes, shoes, suits, etc.
It’s been almost two years and the time has come to clean up this place a bit. If I move after Lauren graduates, I don’t want to be faced with all of this junk that is just taking up space. I decided to tackle the basement studio closets and file cabinets. Aaron has dubbed his Dad an “organized hoarder.” Seriously, my husband kept EVERYTHING. I found band agenda meetings from 1989, ticket stubs, every laminate that he ever wore backstage, his Cub Scout jacket with all his badges, and the eight years of Franklin Planner binders. Aaah. His beloved planner. I remember when he first got it for Christmas of 1993. He was obsessed with this thing and once left it behind at a show in Richmond. You would have thought the world had ended. He used to chastise me for my loose organization with my “pile” of papers and notebook paper used as my to-do list. “Yeah, but if I lose something, it’s no big deal because I have come to grips with my lack of organization, but if you lose something Mr. Al-O, you need a psychiatrist and an antidepressant” I opened up the binders and just started pulling the pages out and placing them in a pile. One page stood out on the top of the pile and was marked from 1997. Curious, I searched for May 28, 1997, the day Lauren was born. Written on the journal side of his planner in his combo cursive/print style : “Lauren Arrives.” I went back to March 26,1995 when Aaron was born, and written on the journal page in big letters: “Hello Aaron! We love you!” I searched through July 1994 when I told Tony that I was pregnant. I found this written out to the side: “We found out we’re going to have a baby-Sarah played me “Danny’s Song” by Kenny Loggins to let me know. I didn’t know what she was trying to do and made her wait until the Batman cartoon was over!” I searched for a day in January of 1997 when we had to have amniocentesis because the doctors feared something was wrong with our baby. I found it on January 29th: “Our Baby’s Fine!!!” On all of the days of birthdays, written at the top of his list was : “Call Aaron/ Lauren for birthday.” Each wedding anniversary was celebrated in enormous font.
I sat amongst my pile of thousands of Franklin Planner pages and had a good cry for many reasons. I cried because I had been angry with him and felt guilty. I cried for my children and future grandchildren who would never know their grandfather’s signature laugh. I cried because I had a hell of a lot of stuff to still sort through and this was the tip of the iceberg. Then, I allowed my tears to turn to gratitude. It was a blessing to have had a sensitive, loving partner and devoted father to my children, but I’m still throwing some of this stuff away!
I sat down with my yoga class last night before class and told them my story. Somewhere amongst all of our physical and emotional junk, piling up and longing for a Franklin Planner, there lies something beautiful, something to strengthen and to move us all forward. Sort through your junk pile today and find your treasure.