I am saddened by the demise of the solar system. Oh, not the planets up in the sky, but the model of the solar system that hung for a couple of years from the light over my kitchen table. I placed it there along with the plastic airplane mobile when Entropy brought it home from school, marked with an “A.”
My mother in law had died in November that year and then four days later her father died from the shock of outliving all his children. There was all the activity and confusion in the house from planning trips and a funeral, then another trip and a memorial service that turned into a double funeral. And then a great quiet. After my mother in law died, I went to the nursing home to give her father the news. I sat next to him and put my arm around him. I spoke those awful words to him and he said “Oh” and he deflated. I could feel him shrinking down next to me – just “Oh” and an exhalation. He put his head in his hands and after a long silence where I could feel his breathing as if it were my own he said “I thought she would come through this.” Four days later he died of a broken heart.
There was much sadness that year – it was only 18 months after my mother had died and now we had two more deaths in the family. My father in law came to stay with us around Thanksgiving and he looked deflated, as well -- and a little lost. The second day he was with us, Chaos and I had to go to school but Entropy had a slight fever and was going to stay at home with Granddaddy. I knew she had her solar system project due the next day so I left a chunky pink plastic coat hanger, some yarn and my craft box for them to use.
When I got home Entropy was sitting on Granddaddy’s lap gluing the last label on her solar system. It was a work of art – it had taken them all day. Each pompom ball or bead had been selected for the correct size and color and labels had been carefully written in her best first grade handwriting -- “Sun” and “Earth," "Mars" and "Jupiter." But the most beautiful work of art was done in my father in law’s spirit. While holding his grandchild and working with her on her project, he regained a little sparkle in his eyes and a little color in his cheeks. He had become a little less stooped and a little less grey.
The solar system fell off the kitchen light fixture a while back and the threads and yarn became all tangled. I put it aside on the kitchen buffet to repair later. While hanging up some clothing a few minutes ago, I realized that the chunky pink hanger I was placing my denim shirt on had remnants of yarn – it was my solar system. Someone had cut off the planets and put the hanger back onto hanging rack. I will miss my solar system, but perhaps its time has come – and gone.