Mourning at the passing of an old doll
CAUTION: Contains subject matter dealing with depression and mental health issues. Also a photo that is best viewed on a large display. And a gratuitous tag mentioning Roz Warren because she dared me to. Anyway, this story is similar to my usual Conversations with My Wife but lacks the humor and warmth I try to bring out in those. So if you’re not having a good day, you should probably take a pass on this one.
Yesterday when we sat down to breakfast, Deb’s doll, Miss Potts¹, was sitting on the dining table, rather than her place over on the side table next to the window. Miss Potts is basically made out of small flower pots—too small to be actually useful—plus twine and straw and little cloth hands & feet. Several of her pots were broken.
ME: (pointing at the doll) What happened?
DEB: Oh, I was trying to do something quickly, and I bumped her, and she hit the floor and broke. Both her right arm and her right leg. The pots shattered, so there’s no way to glue her back together, there’s too many pieces. So I guess it only makes sense to throw her out.
Deb collects dolls. I collect dragons. We both collect books. We both feel the impending weight of downsizing when we move into our retirement home in 5–10 years. Deb has already started on the basement, our default location² for anything we need to get out of the way. At some point we will also need to get rid of nicknacks, artwork, furniture, and books.
For some reason, losing Miss Potts makes me very, very sad. Silly, I know. It’s not even my doll. But it’s one that Deb’s Mom & Dad bought for her on a vacation they were on together, before I came into the family; there was no special occasion, they just saw that it delighted her. With her departure, it’s like pieces of joy and delight are being taken from us, suddenly, for no reason, other than inevitability and age and being sensible³ and The End Of All Things. And now I am very, very sad.
Could be a 2020 thing. Could be my depression manifesting at an inconvenient time (mental illness does that — I tip my hat to Aimée Gramblin for being open about the subject, and encouraging others). Could be the holidays are coming, and the Trump Pandemic promises to make this season even more of a descent into Hell than usual.
ME: Well. Okay. Makes sense, I guess. We can’t keep all the dolls.
DEB: I don’t see how.
ME: But… we get to take Mrs. Wood with us, right? And Jesta?
DEB: I don’t know why not.
Most of Deb’s dolls are just cute little things that don’t mean much to me. But Mrs. Wood and Jesta have become special to me, maybe because I pass them every day on our stairs. They’re different. I’ve gotten very attached to them. And apparently to Miss Potts, maybe because she sits with us every day out on our porch.
Sat with us every day.
And thus we begin the journey to The End Of All Things. The end of happiness. The end of being useful, as my traumatic brain injury from many years ago inevitably aligns with my impending dementia (both my parents had Alzheimers) to rob me of my memories, my capabilities, my sense of self, and possibly even of my love for my dearest friend and partner. Although I plan to do whatever I need to force my final departure before that last happens. There are greater burdens to place on loved ones than a messy house full of lost memories.
Depression. Not much fun. In case you were wondering.
ME: Can you not throw her out just yet? I’d like to take a picture.
So I sit Miss Potts on her side table for the last time. One last picture. Then I leave her there. It’s more appropriate that Deb be the one to say the last goodbye.
DEB: (later) So I saw you left her on the side table. She really doesn’t look so bad, really. Just a broken arm and leg. We keep people around who are much worse than that, right? I think she’ll be okay there. Don’t you think?
So… maybe we can wait a little to begin The End Of All Things.
¹Not her actual name. Turns out Deb never gave her one. But she’s made out of flower pots, so why not?
²We have a kind-of-attic over the garage. When we moved in I put all my computer boxes up there, the ones I hung on to in case I ever had to return equipment under warranty. I have not been back up there since 2001. All the equipment is well out of warranty, so the boxes are worthless; OTOH, no way am I going to fight two decades worth of spiders and varmints who have been living up there quite happily.
³Deb’s Mom did not want to leave her apartment after Dad died, even though it was bigger than she needed, because she couldn’t bear to give up her stuff. So we did what we needed to so that she could stay there, until she went into hospice care a few days before she died. Deb & I never regretted it. Then my parents, who had assured us for years that everything was taken care of for them to transition into a retirement community (and my mother’s career in the decades before she retired was to assist people making that transition, so we never asked questions) suddenly announced that they were never moving; we were NOT able to do much for them (long story), although my sister tried hard. In both cases, cleaning up the apartment/townhouse was a chore, so Deb & I vowed we would never subject our families to that. And thus before we make that final move, Everything Must Go.