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The Good Towels

When you’re about to have an overnight guest at your house, that’s about the time you become acutely aware of what awful shape your towels are in.

I mean seriously… every single bath towel I own looks like it wrestled with a wolverine. There are so many snags, I’m sitting here wondering how these things are still even holding together at all.

Then I wonder what my momma would think.

But really, I already know. She always had a thing for “good towels.” I don’t know where she got that, growing up in the coal-mining hollers of Kentucky. Where did she even get this concept of “good towels?” I guess everyone browses Better Homes & Gardens now and then. But there were always some good towels in the top of the linen closet that we weren’t supposed to use. They were for Company, whoever that was.

Now all I can think about is how I’m a total failure. How my houseguest will be here in a few hours and I have no good towels to offer her, and my momma raised me better than that.

Then it hits me: On this day, six years ago, I didn’t know that I only had exactly one week left with my mom on this planet. I just didn’t know. If I did, I would have bought some good towels and showed her and said “LOOK MOM! I did what you taught me! I have good towels for when someone comes over! See!? Right here they are! I listened to you!”

But I didn’t. I didn’t buy any good towels to put aside for houseguests and I didn’t treat her as if it were our last week together. I just didn’t.

Grief has been heavy on me the past few weeks. I think about her a lot. Her funny sayings. Holidays with her bossing everyone around with that thick southern accent. But mostly all the ways that I could have done better. Things I could have done just to make her happier. Like buy some damn nice towels so I wouldn’t disgrace our family name.

I know towels aren’t significant. They really aren’t, not in the grand scheme of things. But neither is a lot of stuff we worry about. But my momma, she sure was significant. And the fact that I went about her last days on earth not realizing how true that was… well, that’s about a sad as those lousy towels I have in the other room now.

I think about those who are still with me. Those I see every day and the ones I don’t. Have I really noticed their significance? Have I treated them like special houseguests in my life, loving them in a way that feels like giving them “the good towels,” or just tossing them a ratty, snagged-up scrap here and there?

These heavy-grief times are some of the hardest for me, but they’re eye-opening, instructive. They remind me that every single day is an I-didn’t-know-I-only-had-that-much-time-left kind of day, and to work a little harder to remember that for the people in my life.

I’m still working out ways to do better with all of this in my day-to-day. And I know I won’t be perfect at it. But for now, I think I’ll pick out a few new towels to keep in the top of the closet, just in case.

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