Kathy Riordan

Kathy Riordan
Florida, United States
April 27
One woman's view of life and the universe. Follow @katriord on Twitter.


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OCTOBER 3, 2011 10:22AM

All In Good Time

Rate: 45 Flag



People have been asking with increasing regularity recently when I plan to head south.  It's a little like asking Mary Poppins when she plans to move on to the next family.

When the wind changes.

I'm sure there are those, many in fact, who go through everything right away when a spouse dies. I've seen them.  When my grandfather died, my step-grandmother, his third wife, called my mother and uncle right away to come over and get what they wanted.  In no time she had the house sold and moved in with her daughter.  

The local funeral director told me he's seen spouses get rid of everything the next day, and families torn apart because of it.

Frankly, it wasn't my style.  Or my time.

I freely confess that after making my seasonal migration to Florida last winter, somewhat delayed by my husband's unexpected death, I expected to organize, to purge, to move on with a somewhat cleaner if not blank slate.

I couldn't do it.  I balled up those clothes in the closet and slept with them, a pair of comfy pajama bottoms that still carried that assuring mix of cologne and him, a fragrance I know well and don't want to lose.  Taking all of that across the street to the church thrift center, donating it to charity or throwing it out in a dumpster didn't suit.

Particularly when a marriage is good, as mine was, we cling to those remnants of a life that provide us plausible deniability that the life has ceased.

Eventually, we turn to dresser drawers, elbow deep in socks without mates, wondering what became of all those beautiful socks at $12 a pair.  Did the other run off to Florida, escape in a suitcase, find a better life somewhere with another sock, not quite its mate?  Black, white, dark navy, beige, all a jumble in a drawer, below another drawer with neatly folded undershirts, Irish linen handkerchiefs he insisted on and pressed himself, and the occasional photo or greeting card tucked away for remembrance.

Amid the drawers, the cabinets, the corners of a life I continue to find things that this man left behind for me, a man who clearly knew his time was coming and left artifacts behind like breadcrumbs, a poem in his hand, a note of encouragement, a letter written early in our marriage, videotapes with my name taped across the back, all important now, all things that someone else not me, family or not, would never understand and never fully appreciate.

It had to be me who found them.  It had to be me who sorted through it all, bit by bit, drawer by drawer, whether in its rightful place or not, archive, treasure, move, repurpose, restore.

The healing comes not in big pieces, but in little ones, slow, unsteady, a toddler wobbling on first legs.

These are the corporal works of mercy, he'd say.

I watched the Long Island medium on television and wondered what she'd say, if she stepped into my life, or I grabbed her like Whoopi Goldberg.  Could a penny move up a door?  "He wants you to know. . ." she'd say.  "Please know this is his way of expressing. . ."

We want to believe they stay with us, we want to keep them here.  We forget the times we were eager for some time alone, our own space, or failed to appreciate the genuine miracle of their presence.

Eventually, you get around to socks.  Somewhere, somehow, they find new life, even without their mate.

There's a car to load, to service, to clean and to drive south, south for the winter, a life to find, to restore, to heal, drawers that are emptying, boxes that are filling, while the universe refuses to stop and take notice, one more life gone, one more going forward.

All in good time. 

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When my time comes, I will have taken inspiration from your Larry. Whether conciously or subconciously, the leaving of encouraging pieces of himself, the notes, was a beautiful way to gradually ease your grief.
Thanks, Linnnn. Sometime last summer I had the thought that Larry should write an individual note to each of his children and grandchildren, something that never happened. Still, I'm glad he left notes for me, and that's something, and yes, we can all learn from it. A neighbor of mine died of cancer many years ago and asked me, before she died, to make a favorite recipe at Christmastime and take it to her husband and disabled son those many weeks later. I never forgot that.
You portray such a wonderful awareness; a mindfulness meditation in a sock drawer. Lovely writing as well.
Thank you, Keri. It is that, a mindfulness meditation in a sock drawer.
Next time someone asks you when you're moving (or dating or doing anything), you can always say, "Only my heart knows my timetable. I'll have to ask it."
This is a lovely reminder that we each mourn, heal and remember in our own way. After years of intense study of laundry, I've determined that socks are transdimensional creatures who travel to a home planet in a 6th or 7th dimension, never to return.
Kathy, this piece is just so lovely. You are something else.
Kathy, an excellent and heartfelt post. You have gone through so much and this is part of how you live through these times. A process of unfolding and a process of folding. A relationship in many different forms, but never really gone, never ever lost. I wish you well.
Nikki, that's a perfect comeback. Thanks. Words of wisdom.

neilpaul, I appreciate your kind words. Stim, you're absolutely right. How can that many socks end up flying solo? There has to be an explanation. Bea, a visit and comment from you is always doubly appreciated; thanks so much. This has been a busy time for me and the words just haven't been there, or at least, haven't made it from my brain to the page very easily. Is it writer's block? Probably not. Probably just a reshuffling of priorities which prevents me from writing as often as I'd like. It's easy to lose an audience when that happens. I appreciate those who faithfully stand by and show up when I do post something, and know how hard this is. Sheila, ditto.
~nodding~ In good time is the best way to work it!!! When you're ready!!!!

And heck, gotta keep something!!!!! ~hug~

I love that Larry left notes for you. Thoughtful and loving...~r
Kathy, this is absolutely so true. I'm so glad you are not succombing to the pressure to do what the world thinks you should and transistion the way you feel is necessary. Each individual is exactly that, an individual who must transistion the way it is best for them. Beautifully written..............
"We want to believe they stay with us, we want to keep them here. We forget the times we were eager for some time alone, our own space, or failed to appreciate the genuine miracle of their presence."

What special and touching words on the loss of a love. It's hard on the heart and soul, and I don't know if time truly heals or simply blunts the longing.


Lost Socks Explanation: They slip over the top of the rim in a fully loaded washer. Reduce the water level or change the cycle and the pairs remain in tact.
Oh my, this chills me and warms me too. All in your time. The little pieces surprise me even now. My boyfriend died May 27 and the impact is so strong. He was trouble but I still miss his physical being. Who could possibly wear his leather coat? I look for someone to give it to but for now it is in the closet and that is just fine. Thank you for writing this. I think they are still watching over us. I talk to him like he is here and still cry.
The drawers of one's memory are never empty.
No wonder you were wild about Larry. How considerate to leave a trail of secret memories for you to find and process...in your own time. EP-worthy, for sure.

Kathy, this is a beautiful piece. It reminds me of something I read once, that grieving is like moving a pile of rice, one grain at a time. You don't know how big the pile is, or how long it will take. You don't get a shovel or even a spoon. You can turn your back and walk away sometimes if you need to, the pile will still be there when you're ready. Some grains take days, weeks or months to move.

Some day, you'll realize the pile is moved. But there is no timetable.

Your writing is beautiful, Kathy, even in grieving.
This is a very moving story. Thank you for sharing. I too, will heading south when the wind changes.
" ... we cling to those remnants of a life that provide us plausible deniability that the life has ceased."

The autumn leaf is perfect.

Thank you, Kathy. This is wonderful.
When my wife died a couple of years ago (seems like decades now), I clung to her pillow for the same reason you clung to the pj's: it was a comforting rembrance of her. Your piece brought back some memories I treasure. Thank you.
Tink, you absolutely have to keep something. Joan, I love it, too, and am very comforted by it. Discoveries that appear to be random are aptly timed. Louann, thanks for stopping by to comment here. We do all have our own timetables, as you well appreciate. Blue Roses, I like that. Now thousands of people will be pulling their washing machines apart looking for a sock party.
"All in good time", indeed.

The clock runs on Kathy time, or in my case, Bruce time.

I was so glad to see you'd written something, as your writing touches my life.

My swell/hug, was a lime green top found in her laundry basket. I really needed that piece of cloth. Her scent lasted a year, and when it was gone, I was able to let it go. Seven years now, living in the present, she is still very much here with me.

I've enjoyed the comments of the others here, a special group, I think.
I wondered how to help with the adjustment should I depart before I'd hoped. This is a lovely way to do it. You will find peace, it almost always sneaks up on you when you least expect it.
not good to be reading this story at my desk during office hours. Water works alert. Great Article!
I threw things out for awhile, but then got bushwacked by some things I learned about my wife after her death. Trust me, I don't sleep in her clothing.

The good news is that I think those who had good marriages have a better chance of finding another because they have greater trust in their own capacity for intimacy, and I think that's a lot of what the "marrying kind" are looking for.

You'll find, if you don't already know, you share a lot with the other survivors, regardless of whether they live in Florida or Timbucktoo.
Than you for that reminder to savor today. Blessings on your journey.
"It had to be me who found them." You may not know how your words speak to me. "When the wind changes." All in your time, Kathy. Listen to your heart and thank you for this leaf today. My mother walks with me this week. In the end she sent a rainbow. At least I hoped she did.
This was so beautiful - as your posts always are. Take your time, definitely. Leave when you feel ready. Sending thoughts of healing and admiration your way, now and always.
I found such warmth here. I especially loved: We want to believe they stay with us, we want to keep them here. We forget the times we were eager for some time alone, our own space, or failed to appreciate the genuine miracle of their presence.
"corporal works of mercy' is a phrase for the ages.

"Particularly when a marriage is good, as mine was, we cling to those remnants of a life that provide us plausible deniability that the life has ceased.'' is in no way abnormal or ill advised, i would offer....

this came out of the blue, this piece, to make me know loss better.
It often seems inconceivable to me, the way the universe refuses to stop and take notice. I admire your moving forward, and the self-knowledge it takes to do it in your own time.
"while the universe refuses to stop and take notice"

I'm always amazed how something can happen that devastates a person or persons and the world never skips a beat. Truly speaks to how insignificant our lives are in the big scheme of things.

Very poignant piece.
I really cannot imagine what you're going through -- the process, and how it must be so confusing, because no one else can tell you how to do it, and how the mundane things (those socks) become both painful reminders and a metaphor for moving forward. Just a beautiful piece.
He must have known you well, to leave those bits and pieces for you. It takes great grace and strength to go slowly through grief, like you have done; he trusted that you would find those things. Like Bell, I can't imagine how this must feel - I am in awe that you can even put words on the screen about any of it...
How wonderful that he left those things for you to find...

In my case, I would have poked along for a long time, but a real estate vulture knocked on my door within days with a good offer, and that gave me a short time-table to empty a large condo of 50 years of accumulation. Probably helpful, even if stressful... I might still be there picking thru socks and old papers and whatnot, which in my case wouldn't have been a good thing.
This was beautiful. And I love the description of the sock drawer.
thank you for sharing your process of healing that "...comes not in big pieces, but in little ones, slow, unsteady, a toddler wobbling on first legs." for the example of respect you give your process, for your sensitivity to it that translates into this beautifully written piece. It says so much about the husband you had and lost and the marriage you shared. wishing you continued healing, all in your good time.
It's one of the toughest adaptations anyone has to make Kathy and I imagine there's no standard guidebook. Trust your intuition and thanks for an insightful post.
Oh, stunning, Mrs. Riordan. Today I will be extra aware of those I love, and hope that I can some day have your grace and honesty about grief and life in general.
Poignant and true. My dad has not been able to divvy up my mother's jewelry yet, which is fine. He will let us know when. In the meantime, I have been wearing her coat, even though it is not very cold out yet. It's like smelling your hub's clothes. Exactly like that.
Kathy, your healing is well along. This contains some beautiful reflections and a whole lot of hard-earned wisdom. It's one of the finest of your pieces I've seen.
zanelle, I'm so sorry about your boyfriend. Leather coats are hard to place. Or replace. Sarah, indeed. Lezlie, it was hard not to be wild about Larry. You would have been, if you'd known him. Thanks. froggy, I like that rice analogy so very much, and thank you for putting it here. Ande, that wind can change very quickly.

Kim, the autumn leaf is the first I collected up north at the cottage last week. It was so beautiful I wanted to photograph it. I still have it. Thanks for your kind words.

Ira, I totally understand about the pillow. My husband bought a body pillow after his first wife died and was still sleeping with it when I married him. Pillows retain so much of the essence of the person.

plantlover, it's been nearly a year for me now. I'm hoping the scent doesn't fade, but I'm sure it will, in time. I like your lime green top story, and what you said about others here.
"or failed to appreciate the genuine miracle of their presence." Peace, Kathy.
Absolutely gorgeous. As I used to read your pieces about your life with Larry, I always marveled at your bravery in choosing to love, and marry, a man so much older than yourself. We all know there are no guarantees in life, but you entered joyfully into a marriage where, statistically speaking, you were likely to be the one left behind. To me, that is the essence of courage, and of love. I wish I were more like you.
"archive, treasure, move, repurpose, restore."
A purpose, an action...part of the healing on wobbly first legs. You already possess an overview, which will help when the odd reminder leaps out and you are not expecting it. Lovely writing, Kathy.
Such a grace- and love-filled piece about dealing with sorrow. I wish you the best in your journey.
This was a beautiful piece of your love carried to us in the metaphor of the sock drawer. I appreciate your taking the time it takes for you to lift the grains of sands and build your memories.

We all deal with grief in personal ways, because each of us is different. Larry was quite a man, and so thoughtful. Recently I found notes on my Lance's iPhone, then heard his voice on the office answering machine. Both unexpected treasures.

Thanks for sharing. Be well.