Thoughts while folding laundry
So I was folding laundry—underwear to be specific. It has to be folded sort of like a shirt, in thirds. Then another fold and it is ready to be filed into the drawer with the fold-side up so I can see all the patterns and colors. I’ve been doing it that way as long as I can remember.
Then I got to thinking about hiking with Jane and about how we talk about everything from heavy dreams to strategies for training her energetic pup. Last spring, she was planning a visit with her sister, who had told her that she simply must replace her cotton to-the-waist old-lady underwear. The trip was really about moving their brother into a nursing home, but they planned to take time out to shop for hipsters (“Just be sure they cover your butt,” I advised). I smiled to think of two women in their seventies in the lingerie department giggling over bikinis, thongs, and high risers.
Still folding, I thought about how Jane and I have been friends for over 40 years; and how we will be friends until one of us dies. Which of us would go first, I wondered. Probably me, I thought, even though Jane is a few years older. She has longevity in her genes. I don’t. But how do I really know? My mother smoked herself to death, and my father died of loneliness a few years later. That’s my theory, anyway. He just wasted away, it seemed, even though he loved his job and was writing and drawing Gasoline Alley right up to a week before he died.
At that point, underwear piled in a neat stack and ready to be placed like rainbow soldiers in the top dresser drawer, I felt the grief gripping my chest. My throat tightened, and then the pressure crept up into my head. Sinuses clogged. It has been over twenty-five years since my father died, but it was as if his sadness entered the room where I stood over a white plastic laundry basket. I wept first for him, thinking of him losing the love of his life, forgetting to eat. Then I thought of how I miss him. And then I just had a good cry.
Grief is like that, you know. It sneaks up on you like Christmas. And it isn’t a bad thing.