She is in his room again. On Good Friday there had been two big storage totes and one suitcase full of clothing and several assorted piles strewn about. And shoes, my god, there were shoes! His grandfather used to joke, “You’ve only got two feet, why do you need so many shoes?” The boy just grinned and went on.
The mattress and the box springs were on the floor. He’d taken the bed apart one day when she was at work. The bedstead, which had belonged to her grandparents, he’d taken out to the garage with all the other family detritus. Nothing was sacred to any of them anymore.
She stood the mattress and box springs up against the wall and sorted the clothing into piles to be washed. Then she swept the dust from the floor and threw away the last of the trash he’d left piled up on his bedside table, an energy drink and a couple of fries and part of a chicken tender. It was almost too much for her to bear, throwing even these things away. They carried his DNA. Those things she resisted the urge to keep. But there was this one long-sleeved shirt that still smelled so much like him. She set it apart from the laundry piles so that when she got really, really lonesome, she could bury her face in his shirt and conjure up the smell of him again.
She pulled the headboard and the footboard from the garage and lovingly dusted both pieces, marveling again at the beauty of the wood. Silently she fussed at him for putting her treasure at risk in the varying temperatures of the garage. But that was the way he was. He just didn’t value the things she valued.
She got the bed set up and washed the bed linens and decided that was enough for one day. A woman can only take so much of rifling through her son’s personal things before she is overcome with sadness and knows it’s time to quit.
But now, today, the day after Easter, yes, she is in his room again. The sheets are freshly washed and lying in a heap on the bed. There is still work to be done. So she sets out to make the bed, smoothing the sheets, making sure the corners on tight. And now the bed is made, with the pillows plumped just so and it reminds her of the times he would be gone, how she would work, how they all would work, to get things ready for the prodigal son to come home. The decorative pillows are ready for him to toss to the corner. His clothes are hung and his shoes are neatly arranged in the closet.
But he’s not coming home this time.
And she hesitates to wash any more of his clothes. She feels almost as if she is washing him away.