this (keyed) life
EVERY householder has a bunch of keys, importantly arranged on a sturdy key ring or a series of smaller key rings strung together. The bunch may contain house keys, car keys or office keys and a key fob of some sort.
My bunch of keys has changed much in the past 12 months.
There used to be two car keys — one for my car and one for my husband’s. When he died unexpectedly last year, I gave his car to my daughter because she and her growing family needed it more than I did.
Soon after the funeral, I took off my old key fob — a heart-shaped trinket that promoted a brand of liquor my husband was especially fond of — because I did not want to be reminded of the self-indulgences that hasten death.
I tried a new key fob for a while — a lovely angel made of pewter. But, like me, she was too soft and in danger of breaking.
I replaced her with a small stainless steel cylinder I found online for the purpose.
This gleaming hollow pendant now contains a few grams of my husband’s ashes and is carefully attached to my key ring with a braided steel wire and swivel. I made this arrangement in the hope that the steel and the spirit of it would give me strength to face the future.
I have a new front door key now. Not because I’ve changed houses but because grief does strange things to people.
Several months after his father died, my son released an outburst of anger and unhappiness. The experience was cathartic for him, but damaging to my front door, which then required a new lock.
My sense of safety had shattered. I ordered security screens and doors for the whole house. Now, whenever I leave or arrive home I have to wrestle with two locked doors.
Although my son has since apologised, I sometimes feel that the walls have closed in on me. The extra key, still stiff and new, is a grappling reminder.
Yet all is not lost. I now have an additional set of keys, tagged with a green Irish clover, attached to my main key ring. They fit the front door at my new friend’s house. He gave them to me less than two weeks after I met him — a supreme vote of confidence in our new, unexpected and unfolding friendship. I don’t need those keys yet. Every time I go to his house, his door is open.
Soon I will relinquish the keys to my house as I have agreed to move into my friend’s home in a few months. Then I will hand my house keys to my real estate agent for the new tenants to husband carefully, as they begin to make their own stories, unlock their own truths, in my well-loved home.
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