X Marks the Spot
The good part about having an organizer in your family is that you get free closet makeovers. The bad part is… if you’re the organizer. This does not mean I don’t enjoy organizing my mom’s closet every time I go home (or my sisters’, my dad’s, etc.). But there is one person whose closet I’ve organized dozens of times and assumed I would continue to do so for years to come: my Uncle Mark, who’s always been more like an older brother. The first time I redid his closet was when I moved in with him in 1996 and needed room for my things. Over the years, even after I moved out, it became a ritual and usually went like this:
Felice: “Mark, this sweatshirt has a stain. Donate it.”
Mark: “But it’s my favorite. The stain isn’t that bad.”
Last August my uncle called me in the middle of the day. “I need you to pick me up and take me to Sloan Kettering.” He’d had an issue with his blood for years, but he was treating it. By October it was confirmed: Leukemia. He got put on a trial. He started chemo. He was getting better. Soon we hoped he’d get a bone marrow transplant (my mom and another uncle were matches) and be okay. But Christmas Eve we got the call: Mark passed away. It was less than two weeks after Papa, a one-two punch.
Last week I found myself in a familiar spot: in front of Mark’s closet. This time, what had become a pastime, I would be doing for the very last time. I removed a sweatshirt. “Mark, this has a stain,” I said, making believe he was in the other rom. “Donate it.” I went to add it to the giveaway pile, but stopped. Instead I put it on. It was swimming on me (my uncle was over six feet). I wrapped my arms around myself, imagining it to be my uncle hugging me one last time and cried. Then I caught a glimpse of the stain. “You know what?” I said out loud. “The stain isn’t that bad.” And then I smiled because I had found my new favorite sweatshirt.