The Junk That’s Laying Around


“Left unused, untouched, forgotten.  Simple things left behind which scream your existence.  Left behind in a scattered way waiting to be picked up and used once again.  With each item I’m reminded of you, of the pain of being without you.  With each item I lose you all over again” ~~  collaboratively by L. Gowing and K. Brenner


There are things in our house that I encounter daily that catch me off guard every single day, even months later.  These random objects that any normal person would overlook take my breath away, pain my heart, confuse me, and for a millisecond make me forget you are gone.  They give the image of everything being normal.  Everything being the way it was.  They look like you just dropped them there as if you had just passed through the room moments ago.  They are the things you used every single day now left unused and abandoned.  In plain view they look out of place in an otherwise overly organized house, but this is where you would leave these things and now they scream out your absence every time I see them. 

The sandals you kicked off at the front door so you could quickly slip them on and run out to the car, the mailbox, the recycling bin.

Your pocketknife sitting on top of our dresser so you would remember to tuck it in your pocket before leaving the house.

The last baseball hat you ever wore sitting on top of the shelf by the front door.

Your Board of Education photo ID for work clipped to the lamp beside the bed that you hated attaching to your shirt every morning.

The last pack of cigarettes left unsmoked.

Your car keys ready to be snatched up as you inevitably left the house late for work because of hitting snooze for 30 minutes.

The can of tobacco, the one habit leftover from years of baseball that I never understood and grossed me out, sitting beside your chair.

Your glasses sitting on the shelf in the bathroom ready for you to put on at night when you finally gave your eyes a break from contacts.

The cooler bag I packed your lunch in every single morning sitting on the kitchen counter.

Your watch on the bedside table that you wore every day partly for the obvious reason of telling time but also partly to cover up your tattoo while at work.

Insignificant taken-for-granted items.  Discarded.  Left behind.  Unused. 

But it isn’t just those.  Zach, I always joked that you were like a little kid coming home with your pockets filled with treasures from the day, trinkets you couldn’t wait to show me, and you left a path behind you as you came in the door. Sometimes it was something funny a student gave you at school and unfortunately sometimes it was a disgusting piece of snake-skin you found while working out at the property. 

Our house is a random collection of arrowheads found in the dirt at your parents, the maple leaf Kiana gave you on one trip to Canada, a shark tooth found at the beach, the casing of the first bullet I ever shot when I moved here, a rattlesnakes “rattles” you cut off after killing it, the books the school library was getting rid of that you just had to bring home, your uncle’s TV that got struck by lightning which you believed you could fix, the rock you found at the cottage in Canada last year, a fishing lure Rob no longer wanted, Bobby Bowden’s signature on a random piece of paper; I could go on and on. 

Some might tell me, or at least be thinking, that I need to put them away. But this is my normal. This is what I am used to seeing. On one hand it totally hurts seeing these random meaningless objects which scream your existence but on the other hand they are fractionally comforting. Maybe its a way to cling to your presence. I don’t know. But this junk that’s laying around provides some semblance of normal and in a chaotic life I welcome any sense of normal I can find.

4 comments on “The Junk That’s Laying Around

  1. Kathy says:

    When you’re ready, you will put these things away or in another place. But for now, they are a comfort for you in a way, as they are a reminder of true love. When my mom first died, I used to go up to the bedroom, open her closet door, and just stand there. It was an incredible reminder of my mom because it smelled like her. I never wanted to lose that memory. Sadly, one day I opened the closet and immediately noticed that it no longer smelled like my mom. Then I was shocked by the fact that the few clothes remaining that had belonged to her (I have many of her clothes) were gone, replaced by ones belonging to another woman. My dad is getting remarried next Saturday, and although I don’t want him to be alone and neither would my mom, I’m having a very hard time with all of this. It’s ok to leave these things of Zach’s were they always were.They were a part of your everyday life with him.

    • Kathi says:

      I wish I had kept more things. My son helped me clean out virtually everything that was his. I have no shirt to hug. Nothing much that he touched is left. My bedroom looks entirely different. Different bed and frame, different drapes…whose room is this? Certainly, not mine. Closet, all my clothes. Drawers, all my clothes. I should never have done this in haste influenced by anyone else. His things are gone. Some donated, some disposed of. It’s like he never lived here. I live in a hollow shell. I hope everyone takes time while deciding what to do. Mine was done in a rush and I made forever mistakes. Makes me sad. He has been gone over four months now and the house screams of quiet. This is so hard.

      • Kathy says:

        Hi Kathi:

        This is how I feel every time I walk in my dad’s house – the house I grew up in. My dad’s wife has done everything to erase all traces of my mom. I get that this is her house now. I understand she’s my dad’s wife and wants to make the place her home. But there are times I walk into that house, where I lived for 20 years, and feel like I don’t belong. My dad gave me a lot of my mom’s stuff and he placed other stuff in a chest for me to take or get later. One day that house will come to me and if I choose to live there, my parents will be honored.

        The man you lost is still with you, that I can promise. He is in your heart and in your thoughts. He may come to visit you. I know my mom visits me. When my mom first died, I was surrounded by her stuff but felt so alone and so empty. Remember a time you spent together and hold it close to your heart, allow it to stay in your mind, and he is with you. If there’s anything of his someone else has or maybe you can get back, try to – just one thing. And if that’s not possible, please remember these words from Thomas Campbell – “To live in hearts we leave behind is not die.”

        I understand the pain your are feeling. The loss and the hurt. You are not alone in your grief.

        Take care,


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