On August 22, I wrote a blog entitled “Grief sucks,” and 458 of you read it (as of this minute). I wrote it after my great-grandmother’s mahogany table arrived at my home, fractured into 6 pieces.
Thank you for reading.
Technically, old things don’t have real monetary value unless someone buys them from you. But you read my blog, and you empathized with what I felt about my broken table. You understood that heirlooms matter because of the people they represent. They matter because they give memories a tangible time and place to live on, even after someone dies.
This table sat in my great-grandmother’s parlor. Then it sat in my grandma’s living room. Then it followed my mom into her living rooms, her apartment, and eventually into her memory care room. Each time I set Mom up in a new home, I made sure this table was one of the pieces that went with her.
In Grandma’s house, it always held a big lamp, a filled candy dish, some colorful paperweights, my grandpa’s neatly-folded Chicago Tribune, and whatever needlepoint project Grandma was working on at the time.
Although my Mom could no longer read at the end of her life, her table was still stacked with books she intended to read (or re-read): biographies about Abraham Lincoln, the Bible, a C. S. Lewis book, a Shakespeare trivia game, a P.G. Wodehouse, some word puzzle books. Usually, the table also held one of her recent projects from Arts and Crafts time. Piles of letters from me. A little notebook and a pen. The case for her eye glasses.
Her table. Her life. Her heritage.
This past Friday, the table came back from Weathersby Guild, the company who undertook its restoration. In my opinion, it was a worthwhile investment. The table is alive again.
Given that the table was built in the 1800’s, with no nails, screws, or glue (only wooden dowels) and that its composition was solid mahogany, I couldn’t just glue it back together myself. (Don’t get me wrong–I considered it. I come from a long line of DIY-ers, before DYI was ever a thing. And two generations of furniture makers/restorers.) But I could not handle this project. Too heavy, too precious, and too difficult.
Metaphorically, the broken table seemed like the end of memory-making with my mother, and I couldn’t let that go. So I shelled out the money. Lately, I have been investing a lot of cash to value my ancestors.
But none of this ordeal is a waste of time and money. Carrying a piece of my family’s lives with me makes the grief tolerable. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that when you keep and use something that a loved one used, grief suddenly gains purpose. Life continues. The heart-holes close a bit.
This table has now taken up residence in its fourth generation of Bisdee-Bandy-Walley-Schlesman women. It lives with me.
I still feel yearning and longing for the people who loved it, but my grief sucks a little bit less right now.