This morning I was able to start the day with a delightful run. I headed up the rural road from Gail’s house, through the thick pine woods, occasionally alongside old stone walls, and other times beside the rushing stream cascading over the boulders. I followed the road as it wound through the woods, steep and gradual uphills for thirty minutes, past two or three remote houses, then I turned around and ran back along the same route. It was peaceful and quiet most of the time. When I the occasional car approached, I could step off easily onto the soft sandy shoulder and run there comfortably for a while. It helped to get away and stretch out my legs for a few miles.
Back at Gail’s we had a long day ahead of us. She had died last October and her house had been closed up since then. It was dusty and musty and full of her things that we needed to go through, twenty years of accumulated possessions from living there as well as what she had originally brought with her. A few things that had only sentimental value we packed up to take home with us – clay bowls she had made on a potter’s wheel long ago and signed; oven mitts with moose on them, stuffed animals for the babies, colorful table linens. We also packed up a few of the smaller things we might find useful – a carpet steamer, a shovel, a set of socket wrenches, some stainless flatware and other kitchen items. Some of the larger items we might be able to use we wrote down in a list that we left there – possibly we will ship these items some day – a table and chairs, a huge sideboard. The vast majority of the things in the house had no value to us and we left alone – things like old squash rackets, ice skates, carved African wooden sculptures, odds and ends. Most of Gail’s worldly goods will probably end up going to auction and the old house eventually will be cleared out and sold.
We were able to see a few of her old friends while we were there. Jerry, an older gentleman who had served as Gail’s handyman and advisor for two decades, stopped by to see if we needed anything and to reminisce a bit in his classic New Hampshire accent. Shelley came over in between sessions of studying for her nursing exams and took a walk with Steve up the mountain where most of Gail’s ashes had been scattered. Ginger, an older lady who had taken Gail’s dog Cody, came over to visit our babies and tell stories about how well the dog was adapting to his new life with her.
The day seemed to pass quickly and soon we had done all we could manage with Gail’s possessions. It had been a somber day, going through the remnants of a life, being part of the closing of a chapter, just doing what needed to be done. It was time for us to eat dinner, get ready for bed, and prepare for our return trip home.