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.


8 Responses so far.

  1. Marcia Meier says:

    What a lovely meditation, Sarah. Grief does come over you unexpectedly sometimes. For me, it’s also usually when I begin to think of my dad, and how much I miss him. Sometimes I think it’s actually grief over a time in our lives that we can’t get back, whether that time was happy or difficult. It’s the passage of time that we feel, and perhaps in that the march of our own mortality. As in your thoughts about you and your friend Jane. Love, M

  2. Victoria Williamson says:

    Just today anticipating a family gathering to celebrate my older sister’s 80th birthday, I was remembering my two older brothers who have died. In a family of eight children it wouldn’t seem like two missing would be a big deal, but it is. It’s like a big hole in the unity that is siblings. And, yes, a time we can’t get back.

    • sarahyork says:

      Of course it is a big deal, and I know you will make some space to acknowledge the feelings. How wonderful that you are all getting together. So many families are too alienated to do that.

  3. Patricia Dennis says:

    I agree with all that has been said. Gief comes and goes like the tide. It can rise and fall with time. It’s been that way with me also. It doesn’t matter how old the loved one is (was)…they were loved. And isn’t it grand that we know about love and about grief?!

  4. Donna Pinzone says:

    My dear Sarah, I’ve always believed that when you lose a loved one, that their spirit never leaves you. There have been many times that I have experienced a spirit of a loved one touching my life, be it with either echoes of laughter or whispers of guidance. It is their continued visits that remind me that someday we will reunite in a Nirvana, surrounded by an energy that flutters with the highest frequency, that of an Angel’s wing…. thoughts of this render me breathless.

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