Muddy shoes walked across it. Grand kids dripped ice pops on it. My 20 year old carpeting held ghostly remains of our long deceased kitty’s hairball episodes and shadows of spilled red wine. For years now, we wanted to say ‘sayonara’ to the woven wool beneath our feet that held (even when others didn’t notice them) stains of every variety. No matter how many times it was cleaned, the stubborn spots had a way, like the proverbial bad penny, of popping up again. The fact that its color was an ill-thought out pale cream didn’t help one bit.
Each holiday, every fall and spring, my husband and I swore it was the carpet’s last stand. But it never was, so the rug remained, mocking the overworked vacuum, the Oxy 10 scrubber and all attempts to remove 20 years of living. Finally, as the summer of 2015 ended, we both decided that rug just had to go. It had more than outlived its allure. Unfortunately, the erstwhile carpet outlived my husband, too.
He died a month later.
Obviously, new carpeting became the last thing on my mind. Trying to keep the ship upright without losing that mind was much more important. When tragedy happens, an aging carpet is the very least of your problems. The ‘man of the house’ was gone, and the rug remained, just another part of all he left behind – including me. But now, my stubborn carpet whispered a shadow of a new stain, a stain far worse than red wine, marinara or ice pops. On the landing where he died, the carpet absorbed the evidence of my husband’s last moments in my arms on this planet. An expert professional cleaning service did an admirable job but, as they say, some times there’s more than meets the eye. In this case, no amount of cleaning or scrubbing can remove the phantom of what happened there. Its spectre would always live in that spot; just as it would always live in my mind. But slowly I realized, though it might always be a part of my mind, it doesn’t always have to live there – and neither did that carpet.
So, it’s a little over a year since my husband died and I am the owner of an actually very cool new wood floor. My trusty vacuum will need to get used to a lighter workload and I suspect people used to taking their shoes off at the door, will feel more at ease. There’s little doubt this was a very good, very needed decision for so many reasons. Why then, am I hesitant to feel the ‘happy’? And who told that magic lamp I’d be okay with a carpet — that’s now a solo flight?
Maybe it’s just me, the Italian guilt machine, but all I can wonder is why we didn’t make this décor transformation when my guy was still here to enjoy it. Surveying this driftwood look floor, I can hear his usual teasing about my coastal decor, asking if I noticed we lived nowhere near a beach! But he’s not here to tell me that. He’s not here to see it or enjoy it with me. He also wouldn’t need to run get the OXY10 each time muddy feet (often his own!) forgot the ‘shoes at the door’ directive. Like my blueberry car, the carpet is another mixed blessing ‘after’.
Is this a widow ‘thing’? Do we all wonder why we NOW are taking that trip, buying that new piece of furniture — or installing a floor? If I made it work now, why didn’t I then? There’s certainly been no financial windfall since he died to change my circumstances. If anything, my thrifty nature is in even tighter mode. So I ask, why didn’t we make it happen when we could enjoy this new floor — together?
I’ll never know the answer. No matter how much any of us wish we could wriggle our Bewitched noses and go back to the time before the literal rug was pulled out from under us — we can’t. All we can do is go forward, whether the terrain under our feet is soft and cozy or hard and unforgiving. We may yearn for the past which, like my old carpet, held stories both wonderful and painful. But, like it or not, our feet are planted on a new path, new ground, maybe even a new floor.
And right now, however bittersweet – I’m kinda liking mine.