This story is a few years old, probably the most polished of everything I'm going to be polished. I wrote this for a creative writing class I took a few years ago and was influenced by the title of a Beatles song.
“Why don’t we start with this box?” I said, forcing a cheerfulness that made me cringe.
Dad grunted a response that I did not quite catch, nor did I care to. Instead I busied myself by looking through the dozen or so boxes that were currently taking up residence in my parents’ bedroom.
For the past three months, ever since Mom passed away, I had spent my Saturday’s cleaning my childhood home. It had been a long, difficult task, made even more difficult by Dad’s ability to frustrate me to no end by his seemingly inability to help me, no matter how often I asked for it.
“Dad, I really need your help sorting through this stuff.” I would tell him every week.
“Sarah, I have perfect faith that you can manage this on your own. Just don’t throw away anything important,” Dad would reply and turn his attention back to the endless loop of cooking shows that he watched obsessively, though, he never cooked anymore.
On days I was feeling especially hot tempered I would rush in front of the television to yell at Dad, “I have no idea what’s important, that’s why I need your help!” On the more subdued days, when I felt Mom’s absence more acutely, I would simply storm out of the family room and seethe and cry silently as I scrubbed the few dishes Dad left in the sink, or run the vacuum over rugs that were beginning to look frayed from over attention. Each week I would swear that I would not return, yet, the very next Saturday I’d find myself back at Dad’s.
This Saturday I was determined to keep my emotions in check. We would get something accomplished today. We had to, I didn’t think my sanity could hold out any longer.
I continued to busy myself with the boxes. I knew exactly which box I needed, the box that Dad and I had been fighting over for the twelve weeks. Just a few weeks prior to Mom’s heart attack, I had noticed her filling the box with all the paperwork that had piled up over the three and half decades my parents had been married.
“What’s all this?” I had asked her.
“Just papers that I need to sort through. Some of it is important, some of it not. It’s hard to tell the difference anymore.”
“Why doesn’t Dad help you?”
Mom laughed at this suggestion. “You know how your father is, the only decision he likes to make is to let someone else make the decision.”
When I rediscovered the box, I realized with a sinking feeling that Mom had never gotten around to the task of sorting through it all and it was now on Dad to do the sorting. If Dad did nothing else to get the house in order, he would have to go through this box. He would have to make the decisions on this.
“What’s this?” Dad asked keeping his tone light in imitation of mine. I guessed that he was as tired as fighting as I was. Perhaps today would be the day we’d finally get something accomplished.
“It’s the paperwork that we need to sort through,” I replied. I had an urge to step back from Dad and the box, but I checked it the urge and held my ground.
Dad looked up at me expectantly when I did not immediately leave the room as I had in the weeks prior. He pulled the box closer and peered in. Then he looked back at me with a helpless look that I never wanted to see on his face.
“Sarah, I just can’t do this. It’s too much. I’m no good at making decisions. Your mother was the one who made the decisions for a reason.”
“Mom isn’t here anymore,” I reminded him gently. It was the longest conversation without yelling that we had had in three months. I was not about to screw it up.
Dad sighed and gave the box another weary glace.
“You know, with Mom gone you are going to have to start making your own decisions. You have to think for yourself.”
“I know, I know,” Dad sighed and I could see tears welling up in his eyes. Then, to my surprised he began lifting papers out of the box and began shuffling through them.