Friday, September 30, 2011

old shoes and wooden spatulas

Photo from here....

I've been sorting through our cupboards and closets and purging the least needed/most outgrown items lately in anticipation of living mostly indoors again after a summer in the backyard and beach.

I have found mismatched gumboots, lost flashlights, a dried up snail and the odd coin. Most surprisingly, I have unearthed copious amounts of Jeff's clothing despite thinking that the vast majority of it had been distributed among family, friends and the Salvation Army.

As I have worked on this task, the kids have been playing together...or re-enacting small-scale wars in the back hall. Today, their fighting somehow led to the playroom door (for which there is no key) to be locked.

Since I imagine myself to be somewhat of a handi-woman, I attempted to pick the lock. Failing this, I attempted to break into the room from an exterior window. Then, I removed the door knob not really realizing that the bolt would still be intact...without a knob. After this, I tried to shoulder the door open with brute force. Sometime later, I gave up and called a friend.

As he kneeled on the floor peering through the impenetrable knob hole, I stared at his large sock-clad feet which brought to mind a pair of new, brown leather shoes I had unearthed at the back of the laundry room closet.

"Hey, Dave," I said, "Do you need any shoes?" He turned and looked at me quizzically.
"I found a pair of brand-new shoes of Jeff's at the back of a closet and thought that maybe you could use them."

"Um. Well. Not...I don't know, Jackie," he stammered, "That', very nice of you. But, um, weird." He went on to explain, "I have never had anyone offer their dead husband's possessions to me. It feels really odd...and wrong."

I sat and pondered for a moment. I thought about how uncomfortable I would have felt in the same situation three years ago. How I may worry about accepting some one's beloved's possessions would ultimately upset them or that I may be terribly close to catching "dead".

But then I started to laugh, "Dave, I am sure when we are in our 90s and most of us have lost many of our loved ones and close friends, offering a pair of unused shoes or a wooden spatula that once belonged to a dead person will be nothing short of common place. This is just the beginning, my friend! And really, Dave, I do not think that you have to worry about Jeff needing them back."

But this evening as I washed dishes, I wondered again if it was wrong of me to ask a friend if he had use for something that had once belonged to Jeff? WAS it odd? Did I cross some taboo barrier? Was this a "widow's faux pas"? Am I still too young for my peers to "get" how ridiculous this attachment to a dead person's unused possessions is? Or is my way of thinking off-track?

I truly just wanted someone who could use them to have them....I suppose it will have to be a stranger who will use them. And that is okay too....they won't have to know that the shoes have "dead germs" on them. :)


  1. This made me smile ... I've done the same thing, but the recipients were glad to have a special "Greg" t-shirt.
    But I wonder what it is with clothing and "dead germs" ....

  2. Jackie, this so resonates with me. Recently a friend put a shout-out for size 14 sneakers on her Facebook page. I was thrilled thinking someone could use my Tim's very large sneakers but once she realized they were my dead husband's shoes, she shied away from catching his "dead" and giving it to her 15 year old son! I just smiled and sighed as the sneakers sit waiting patiently for someone who isn't afraid to catch whatever people think they will get from wearing dead people's clothes. Luckily, our adult nephews loved receiving Tim's gorgeoous tailor made suits and shirts. They all kind of look like Tim, tall, blonde and handsome so it is wonderful for me to see them wear his clothes with pride and love. Thanks Jackie for your "widow words" that we all "get".

  3. Jackie,
    How appropriate this is today, I just donated some of my husbands shoes yesterday. I did keep one pair, rarely worn Nikes that I hope someone will take when I offer them up for grabs. If not, they too will find their way to Goodwill. I never thought about the "dead germs", but I think you are right on.

    My brother in law took many items when I offered them, but now I'm wondering if he took them just to appease me, to get them out of my sight. Probably so, but that is ok too. I keep offering what is left, bit by bit, I couldn't empty his closet all at once. I just like to see the flannel shirts hanging there...I know he won't be back to wear them, but they make it easier on the eyes, not to see an empty closet. There is enough emptiness in my life, no reason to add to it.

  4. My husband was a captain at an airline. His uniform shirts all went to a very dear friend of his who he used to fly with all the time. I love that his friend now wears John's shirts when he flies. And he has said that he is so happy to have them too. He feels like John is there with him again in the flight deck. Love that so much!!!

  5. I gave most of Keith's clothes away within the first two weeks after he died. There was no problem as they all went to his best friend - my uncle - who wears them with pride and in memory of his mate. It may be different with his generation though as he is 85 years old and is now saying that he has enough clothes to keep him going for another 20 years. I have to smile when he says that as Keith would have felt the same if the roles had been reversed. My daughter has been given a lot of the special kitchen wear that Keith had and uses it daily to feed her family of fast growing boys, just as Grandad would have wanted. I love the fact that the things Keith had before he died are now being used with love by the people he loved.

  6. I too, found others reluctant to receive items that once belonged to my deceased husband. I found it ridiculous but I finally managed to find someone who would be appreciative of the items. You cannot catch "dead". It is something that we all will eventually experience and since my husband passed away, I am no longer afraid of death. Funny how other people are.

  7. Jackie, how appropriate your post is today, I just donated what I thought was the last of my husbands "germy" shoes (found more in another closet today). I go from closets to basement to garage, purging and offering to family and friends, then taking to Goodwill. Lately, I just donate, I feel friends take things out of sympathy, not really planning to use the items.
    Doesn't matter anymore to me, I just need to make more space and empty out the old, unneeded items. My brother in law does wear a lot of the tshirts, which brings a smile to me some days, a tear on others.

    Haven't quite gotten rid of all the shirts in the closet, tho. My life is empty enough, no reason to make it more so.

  8. Right before he died, Dave bought a Costco pack of deodorant. Must've been 6 of 'em. I don't want to throw them away, they've never been opened. But, somehow, I don't think anyone I know will really want them. I tried to imagine saying "Would you like some deodorant that belonged to my dead husband?" and decided to just let them sit there. If anyone out there is okay with the "dead germs" on them and would like a year's supply of deodorant, just let me know!

  9. You did nothing wrong by offering shoes, and your friend was honest to say he wasn't comfortable with taking them. Each to his own. Someone once gave me a very nice sweater that had belonged to his aunt who passed. I never gave it a second thought, I accepted it and I wear it and I thought it was very nice of him to give it to me. Again, each to his own.

  10. I started to do that with some of my husband's clothes after he died; it seemed to make sense at the time, but then I thought about it and donated the clothes instead. I decided his friends would remember him just fine without wearing his clothes, and they could afford to buy their own! I think our ideas of what makes sense at that time are a little off - understandably - but this one in particular isn't a major gaff or anything - it's actually a little funny. I don't really think it has anything to do with other people's fear of "catching" death! *We* are attached to the clothes because we loved & hugged the person wearing the clothes. Thanks for the post.

  11. My son was able to wear Dave's coats, but that's about it. I wasy happy that a very 'frugal' nephew appreciated receiving Dave's shoes. (I said your Uncle Dave had some new Sketchers, and really nice nike gym shoes in you size if you'd like them, but don't feel that you 'need' to take them. I understand totally if you think it's weird!) I'm so happy to see them on him occasionally!
    I still have more of his stuff to give away. sigh... I still have LOTS of his stuff to give away.