The Blue Room office (and yes, I will post pictures when it’s put together!) is actually a part of a bigger spring project I took on this year.
We’ve been in our house for more than 10 years now, and we’ve amassed STUFF. Over the past years, we’ve done mini-purges and I spend time organizing, but then it builds up again.
Last fall, I went through Owen’s toys with him, asking him what he’d like to keep or donate. We organized them on the third floor, and it was nice and clean. Then we had a party, and the kids played upstairs on the third floor, and within 24 hours it was as if a bomb went off up there. Again.
And that’s not counting the fact that we never used the Blue Room for anything, and the study – where I do most of my work – was overflowing with toys and paper and other office-type crap, too.
Jeff and I were done with all the clutter. It was time to reclaim our house.
These past few weeks, we have been loosely using the KonMari method to declutter. I say loosely, because if you read her books, she says you need to do it all at once. Which, frankly, I don’t have the energy for.
But we started with our dressers in our bedroom. Then we moved to Owen’s room. Then the Blue Room. The bathroom on the second floor. Then the study, which I am currently doing this week.
And while I was cleaning out the study, I came across this.
In January 1993, for my senior year World War II class, I interviewed my Grandpa Conroy about his experience in the war. My grandfather died suddenly in April 1995, while I was at college, and I have missed him deeply over the past 20+ years.
As it happens, I still actually have a tape player on an old stereo, which Jeff hooked up to our TV. (I know, shocking!) And it worked! So I popped the tape into the tape player, turned it up, and listened to my grandfather tell his story.
The second time, anyway. First, all I could hear was his voice. That voice of his, that deep, resonant, lovely voice. The voice that meant comfort, and love, and warmth.
I listened to that voice of his first, without hearing any of his words. Just his voice.
Then I played it again, to hear the story. And as I listened, I willed my 17 year old self to ask more questions. Go deeper, Karen. Ask him how scared he was when he talked about trying to sleep in the subway because the buzz bombs kept him up at night. Ask him about Grandma – they were married when he went over. Did he write her every day? Did he miss the US? Was he afraid? Is that where he started believing in God, where he discovered the religion that was so important to him? Did he come back different from when he went? What was still the same when he came back? Did he still keep in touch with those English friends of his? Did he regret moving from North Carolina when he was stationed back to New Jersey? What did he do when he got back?
That girl didn’t ask those questions, though. And I know why she didn’t. Because she was listening to her grandfather talk about a portion of his life she knew nothing about, and it seemed like ancient history. Because she knew that it was asking him to relive a part of his life that might have been painful and scary. Because she didn’t know that time was running out, that in 2 years he’d be gone from her life forever.
Because she didn’t know that, 20 years later, hearing his voice on a tape player would fill her with both gratitude for the gift of his voice… and grief that she never got to really know his story.