The dead have no privacy. All the secrets will be brought to light. Idiocincracies will be examined by people you never meant to show them to in ways you never imagined. Bad habits will be illuminated. Everything is up for examination, discussion and assumption. Its a very difficult thing for me as we move through Nelson’s life leftovers and try to make sense of it all. He was a private man and he no longer has any privacy at all.
I have washed every piece of clothes in Nelson’s house over these last weeks. I have handled his socks, his underwear, his stained tshirts. I have stuck my hands in pants pockets to ensure they were empty. I’ve folded dress shirts and wondered if he ever wore them. Going through all his clothes I was able to identify the clothes that were his favorites – or at least the most often worn. I now know he kept socks that had lost their elacticty but didn’t have holes in his pants. I have come to realize most of his clothes weren’t orginally owned by him. I recognized so many of them as things we had given him.
Collectively, Nelson’s siblings have moved through every inch of his home lifting piles of trash looking for answers. We have poured over rants written on scratch papers hoping to make sense of things. I have been staggered at the notion that we let him live in these conditions; that his house could be so dirty yet he was always neatly groomed.
I’ve looked at his taxes for the last umpteen years. I know how much (how little) money he made. I know that he itemized his car travel and he reported his busking income. I know that he didn’t value paper money and it laid all over his house – all over his floors. I know he collected change in jars and pots. I also know he never used it because when the jar would be filled it would then glaze over with an inch of dust.
We know that Nelson was planning for some sort of economic collapse. He had purchased gold and silver; physical gold and silver. Some of it he treated carefully and secured with deliberation and some of it was handled very casually and was found under heaps of trash or at the bottom of used styrophoam cups. He had stockpiled grains in the crawl space of his house. He had purchased Johnny Walker Red mini bottles by the case presumbably to be used as currency should the need ever arise.
He bought toilet paper and paper towels online and had them delievered to his house. He slept on a bed without sheets. He spent his days cleaning for a living but did not clean his own home in any way.
He had plans. He had purchased recording equipment. He had long term investments, he saved money in the bank.
I look at all of these details and I become more and more certain that Nelson did not feel he had a choice when he decided to die. If he felt he had time and ability he would have taken steps to protect his privacy more. On the afternoon he died he was observed by a neighbor throwing away a computer. It struck the neighbor as odd so he remembered it and told Bart. Bart got the computer out of the trash. We haven’t looked at it yet and it makes me uneasy because I realize that discrarding that machine was Nelson’s one act of hiding the proverbial bones. I can’t imagine he fully appreciated the degree that we would be going through all he left behind but in regards to that computer he knew he didn’t want anyone to see it. We will look at it though. That’s the thing about this abrupt departure. For me it has fed the need to know more than we should be allowed; to be privy to the private. It has taken from Nelson the dignity of keeping one’s own secrets. I suppose that is true for all of us. Nothing is truly private. At any moment we could be gone and our details will be left bare for another person who has no way of really translating what it all means.
And that’s the other thing. I think about my own life, and the conclusions someone might reach if they looked at my things without context provided by me. There are the things people wouldn’t understand and I realize this is also probably true about Nelson. And maybe that is the place where his privacy gets to live. No matter how many times we sift through his things and walk his frequented paths we can’t experience them in the way he did. We can never know for sure.