Just the other night, I stole the club card from my grandmother’s trailer. What? She doesn’t need it anymore. It’s expired. I love the color blue, the candid look on her face, that it captured exactly how she looked that random day in 1994. My grandmother, who can no longer shop for herself, stood strong like a relic, prepared to buy surplus.
The trailer is empty now, after my aunts and mother (and their spouses) sifted through its contents. There is a list of knick knacks (glass birds, angels, and a few ceramic hedge hogs) that my grandmother asked for at the assisted living center. The rest, we preserved as family heirlooms, donated, or trashed.
It didn’t feel right to enter her home without her there, in the place where she had lived for twenty years and would never again enter to watch the news, or cook pot roast, or tend to her plants. She had stepped out of the trailer for the last time, her timid feet relying heavily on her cane, and her bones trusting she’d be back.
It took at least a year for my aunts and uncles to decide to remove my grandparents from their home. They all had the same sad eyes, tired lids, and invisible wounds from this. The hard part remained: the removing of each item my grandparents had placed exactly where it lie.
It wasn’t all bad. Some moments we were able to laugh, to sink into the way she lived: How she hid unopened birthday cards from 2010 under her mattress and twenty dollar bills in her hardcover detective novels. My mother, my sister and I all stash our treasured items in the top drawers of our dressers, something my grandmother must have done in front of my mother years before. Nested in her dresser were toy trains she’d bought for her grandchildren, costume jewelery, coasters, and yes, her discount club card.
There were tens of miniature screwdrivers with various heads, 17 pairs of scissors, three crochet needles, old records, numerous sets of free sample Christmas cards, and two heart-shaped wine-stoppers (favors from my wedding). I imagine her tugging at these items while we take them.
Every year for Christmas I would get the same gift from my grandmother: knee-highs and Harlequin romance novels. We found enough panty hose in that trailer to stuff stockings until their netting disintegrated. She shopped for everything in bulk, as though she would continue living as long as these items needed use.
There were unlimited boxes of Kleenex stacked like buildings. Tea sets. Prayer books that were sent in plea for a donation. My grandfather had ten bottles of Old Spice on his headboard. There were clocks everywhere, signaling time spent, and time left. My mother subconsciously collected alarm clocks, and it’s as though her collection spilled over to my grandmother’s trailer. Then, plants, and plants, and plants.
Grandma was not there to see the life she accumulated. In witness, my mother held her head close to my aunt and cried.
These were things my grandmother had already left. These were things. My grandmother had already left.