Cleaning the Slate

In my last post about memories I mentioned at the beginning that I was debating on hiring a cleaning service but was having trouble justifying the cost, and I wanted to delve into that thought a bit more so that you all can better understand where I am coming from.

Teresa was an impressively hard worker at everything that she did and cleaning the house was no exception. She had the cleaning down to an exact science, in fact.

She could clean all three bathrooms at the same time despite the fact they are in three separate rooms and on different levels of the house.

Teresa scrubbed the floors of our house (by hand no less!) while making lunch for the boys.

She washed the dishes while scrubbing the showers and mowing the lawn.

Teresa was beyond impressive, in other words.

Me? I did my part by staying out of her way. I figured that any help I might have offered would have only caused a sour note in her perfect symphony of cleaning.

In other words, I was a lazy a-hole who didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. I regret that; for many reasons.

Over the last three months I’ve had to learn to clean the house like Teresa did.

Over the last three months I’ve had to learn that I will never be able to clean the house like Teresa did.

I’ve discovered, over the last three months, that there are a lot of things that I will never be able to do like Teresa did.

These things range from mundane cleaning habits to trying to fill roles that she held.

A few weeks after Teresa passed away and all of our family and friends had left, I knew I needed to mop the floors in the kitchen and bathrooms. I vacuumed a few times in these rooms hoping that the vacuum would somehow take pity on me and suck up the various stains and splatters on the floors, but it was not to be.

I needed to mop.

One Saturday morning I said to myself, “This will be the day that I do Teresa proud and mop the floor like she used to do!”

I got down on my hands and knees and began scrubbing the floor with a swiffer wet cloth. It went well for minutes as I scrubbed a spot on the floor that was not noticeably dirty to begin with and therefore, would give me a boost in confidence as I saw it still unnoticeably dirty. At the 4 minute and 27 second mark, however, things went downhill.


My knees started aching and my back, the same back that would be thrown out of whack a month or so later as I put Christmas presents (pajamas no less) under the Christmas tree and continued to ache through the New Year, started to seize up. The sweat began pouring from my brow so that I wasn’t sure if I was using the cleaning fluid on the Swiffer to mop the floor or I was just smearing my sweat all over it. Whichever it was, I knew this was not going to work. I was not going to be able to clean the floors like Teresa did.

Teresa had a drive, a determined nature, that was impressive in so many ways. It was also mysterious to me.

I don’t have that same kind of drive.

I don’t have that same kind of determination.

Teresa somehow willed herself to scrub the floors by hand because she knew it was the best way to get them clean, the pressure you could put on the cloth by scrubbing by hand is far superior to using a mop and, therefore, that was the way she was going to do it.

I bought a Swiffer mop.

It gets the floors wet; I know that.

I tell myself that it gets the floors clean as well but I’m not so sure.

Teresa’s will to always do her best no matter what she was doing is something I aspire to.

Teresa’s drive to finish what she started is something that I want to have.

Teresa’s determination to do what was right and to fight for it is something that I could learn a lot from.

I have a Swiffer mop. It gets the floor wet, but I don’t know if it does much else.

When I think about all that Teresa did at home and all the people she helped (or at least tried to help) at work I am baffled not only by how she did it, but how she did it so well. Teresa held so many roles (mother, wife, daughter, counselor, friend, etc) and performed them all so well.

I have my own roles and I perform them but sometimes only with a Swiffer mop. I do try my best most of the time to be a great dad, to be a great friend, to be a great accountant but sometimes I don’t try as hard as I should. As hard as I can. I wish I had tried harder to be a better husband to Teresa. I wish I would have showed more drive to help around the house more. I wish I would have been more determined to make sure she knew every moment of every day how much I loved her and always would.

The Swiffer mop does clean up some stains on the floor and can make the floor look like it’s clean; but it may not be. Some stains are too tough for the Swiffer mop. The Swiffer gets them wet but it’s just not up to the task of getting out a stain that is really messy; that is really adhered to the floor.

I know I can’t be the friend she was to her friends.

I know I can’t be the mother she was to our children.

I know I can’t be the counselor to the people she worked with.

I wish I could. I would like to help in that way; to alleviate some of the pain that people are feeling from her absence. But maybe that’s not what everyone needs.

I think if I could it would help me scrub away the stains; the stains that no Swiffer can ever touch. But I can’t. I need to be me. I need to figure out my place in all of this and figure out how I can help others while helping myself and, more importantly, my kids.

The Swiffer mop won’t do it right now. A cleaning company can help but, ultimately, won’t cut it. I need to get down on my knees and scrub.

And scrub.

And scrub.

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