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Monday, December 2, 2002

Dear Kate,

Your clothes were also part of the story last week, but I didn’t say anything yesterday, for I couldn’t say it all in just a few words. So here’s a rundown of what happened. A few days after you died, I looked in your closet and was swept away by the sight of all your things, suddenly beside the point without you to fill them. Such an absurd spectacle, I asked Amy, Hannah, and Martha to take what they wanted and box up the rest for the Goodwill Store and Salvation Army. How strange it felt to make that request, for I always assumed you’d be dealing with my personal effects. And why not? You’re ten years younger than me, so you should have outlived me by at least ten years. And grieved for me, rather than I for you. And wept over my clothes, as I have wept over yours. Such a mess of self-indulgent feelings that I could see myself turning into a wet dish rag, or a closet fetishist, if I didn’t get rid of your stuff. And who better to do the sorting than my daughters and your sister. Besides, I thought you’d want me to “spread things around,” the way you always did when you went through your clothes each year. But I couldn’t bring myself to part with everything just like that. Especially not your handmade outfits—so elegantly designed and tailored that I plan to keep them awhile in the oak wardrobe, before giving them to the Women’s Archives. Do you see how torn I was—how torn I am!—about letting go of things? Even your extravagant shoe collection—now all gone except for a pair of black clogs mistakenly left behind—even your shoes, or the mere thought of them, fill me with longing. I wish they were still here, rivalling Imelda’s. So perhaps you can see how hard it was just to stick my head in our bedroom when they were going through your drawers and closet. A four-day ordeal that ended with everything empty, except for the inside of the closet door, where your lavendar house jacket was hanging. When I mentioned it to Hannah, she said, “We thought you should keep it, Dad,” and I understood why the next morning when I got up and it took me by surprise and I hugged it like a rag doll. Now I expect to keep it there as long as I live, and not as a fetish, but a reminder of what you looked like when you came downstairs for your morning orange juice and coffee. “Complacencies of the peignoir.” I’ve also kept your silk scarves, so friends and neighbors can choose something special for themselves. Your wide-brimmed hats are still atop the pie safe, your Ben Franklins still by the bedside, and all your summer things still in the steamer trunk where you put them just a few weeks ago, ready for our trip to Hawaii.

Everything’s where it should be except for Jag, who limped downstairs this morning after a week of hiding out in the attic and the backyard, grieving I’m sure for you. I thought at first that his limp might be another sign of grief until I noticed a bruise over his eye, took him into the vets, and discovered that he was evidently hit by a car. Grieving indeed! Bill says he’ll be fine after several days at the clinic, but it looks like he nearly spent all of his nine lives at once. With Jag out of the house, I thought it would be a good time to bring Puck back home again. He’s been at the vets ever since we took him in the day before you died—so many people coming in and out of the house last week he’d have been even more hyper than usual. But today he’s been very calm, especially after I took him for a long walk in the cemetery. I wonder if he knows that you’re missing. How could he not, having spent so many nights in your lap.

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