Today I stretch the contour sheet from our bed between two deck chairs, lay the pillowcases on the others and drape the top sheet on a lounge. The wind blows mightily and the bottom sheet billows and balloons. Sun warms the pillowcases and the flat sheet and barely three hours later I gather them up, fold them carefully and press my nose into their air-dried creases. And I think about how I no longer iron sheets.
“You iron sheets?” friends ask me in wonderment. “You actually like to iron?” Crazy as it sounds, yes, sometimes and always for our common bed. I started this habit early in our marriage. And not because it was a prerequisite that Bob requested but because I myself loved their silky feel. But he appreciated the gesture, remarked often how this was luxury, though chided me when I was tired and intent on ironing a pair. “Babe, let it go, don’t do it for me.” Now that he’s gone I know I did it more for him than for me. I haven’t ironed sheets since he died. It is one of the little things that doesn’t matter in the same way. Today, in the second year, I am glad that I did it for him.
And yesterday I cut open a large box just delivered that contains a new comforter. Our old one has seen better days and is really beyond repair. I stuff the old into a plastic bag, ditch it in the garbage and say “goodbye” to all the years it hugged us both in its comforting arms. Then, just to see I stretch the new one, natural linen, simple but pretty across our queen sized bed and silently lament the change.
Now I’m standing at the ironing board. I’m ironing pillow cases as usual. And today I’m ironing the ones that have “His” and “Hers” embroidered on their hems. I can smell the wind still present as I press the cotton smooth. Later I will shake out the un-ironed sheets and breathe in their spring air. I will make our bed. I will spread the new comforter smooth. I will place the “His” pillow case on his side and the “Hers” on mine. And tonight I will curl up on “my side”, the side with books piled high, the ancient clock radio that was always mine to set, the side closer to the window that faces the forest preserve and the ancient oaks. I will not move to the center of the bed. For that is “his side”. I will acknowledge what is sad and “no more” and I will continue to ask for the courage to open my eyes, my mind, my heart to the daily grace that has been mine since he left for Heaven.
I will remember with love the way we exaggerated and laughed and made a big deal about the “ironed sheets” and I will give thanks for all that was.