Today, I am doing something that has made me weep all day. I am doing Andy’s laundry for the last time. It has been almost 22 months since he died, and I had not been able to do it. Every time I picked up the clothes to try, I would smell him. I would smell that dirty boy smell that used to make me wrinkle my nose and tell him that he needed to shower.
A week or two ago, Eric Larson told me that his cloths didn’t smell anymore. Someone told me several months ago that would happen and that I should bag them up, but I wanted to leave them in the hamper all twisted up and inside out just like he left them. I guess I just wanted to be able to look in there and ‘see’ a little bit of the messy boy that I lost.
Recently, I have noticed that Peter’s golf shorts and swimsuits are getting way too small. I knew it was time to dig out Andy’s before Peter outgrew them as well. I found one pair of golf shorts in his drawer and then I thought about the hamper. Inside was a second pair of golf shorts that he wore in the days before he died. Also in the hamper were two swimsuits that Peter could wear.
I smelled the laundry. Nothing. No smell at all. I picked up an especially dirty looking sock and held it up to my nose and mouth. Nothing. Not a bit of that dirty boy smell. I wept then. Big tears. Sobbing. Longing for a hint of my son that is no longer here.
I then decided to do what I had thought was unthinkable. I washed the clothes. After I pulled out those three items, there wasn’t much left – two more pairs of shorts for Peter, his favorite Chelsea shirt and PJs, his favorite Rapids shirt and socks and underwear. I sorted them one last time with the family laundry and started washing.
I have folded and put away the first load, some going in Peter’s drawers and some in Andy’s. That green Rapids shirt is now dirty again covered in my own tears before being hung back in Andy’s closet. Two more loads to fold and then it will be done forever.
I’m still not sure if it was the right choice or not. I’ve cried about it all day, but picking up that hamper and not smelling anything was so painful, too painful. It seemed better to see Peter wear at least a couple of things for a few months before he gets too big to wear any of it at all. And this way I can pull those favorite shirts out of his closet and cry into them on hard days like today.