There's always an emotional component to helping people declutter and organize, especially after loss. I was excited, but also nervous about how Dad would respond to my rearranging his living area. I did my best to be sensitive to him. After all, not only was I messing with his stuff, I was moving and removing many of the traces of Mom.
I was excited for him to try out his reading chair now that I had put stable tables on both sides. Instead, he sat in another chair and just looked around. Then he stared off in space as if deep in thought. We spend a lot of time in silence together since Mom passed, so I thumbed through a magazine while I waited for him to comment. I started to wonder if my moving so much of Mom's stuff stirred emotion in him. I didn't think he needed a rock from each country they had visited on the coffee table (there were a lot of them), but they each hold memories. Had I moved some of Mom's memories before he was ready? I gave him several more minutes, and then asked, "What are you thinking?"
"I was thinking that our guests this morning wouldn't recognize the place if they came back. It's nice."
I was glad I asked. Instead of guessing, I learned that he welcomed the change.
Dad knew how much change he was ready for. He noted that there were medicines, clothes and other items of Mom's in the rest of the apartment that would have to be disposed of bit by bit. "Would you like me to help you with that while I'm here?" I asked. "No," he told me. "Let's save that for another visit."
This is the first man I ever loved and the first man I ever feared. This is the man I strove to prove myself to and the man whose opinion of me I sought to free myself from. This is the man I yearned to share my soul with and would find myself speechless with.
Eventually I did prove myself to him: this man read my books and savored them and learned from them and practiced my methods. Now, this man and I sit comfortably together in silence and speak freely about sensitive issues like moving memories.
We did it. We made it through one of life's most stressful events with our hearts wide open.
Dad got up and walked over to his reading chair. He tried out his new setup. Yes. The changes suited him.