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Larry has been dead it will be a month precisely this Thursday, and until now Deborah Siskin hasn't had the courage — or is it the energy? — to go through the house and remove his things. Energy can't be the problem, for she is, within her small circle of friends and colleagues, known for her tirelessness. Deborah is head of the department of orthodontics at the University of Illinois School of Dentistry; she raised three children, two now successful physicians, the other a lawyer. Until her husband's death, she continued to cook dinner five or six nights a week after a full day's work — Saturdays, she and Larry went out for Chinese food and a movie — and even found time to iron his shirts. No, not energy but courage is the problem, courage of a peculiar kind — the courage needed to face the meaning of her marriage of nearly 43 years. 

In Larry's closet Deborah finds one suit, which she bought him to wear to accompany her to official dental school functions or to the occasional Jewish charity dinners to which she dragged him. He owned two blue blazers, one for teaching, one for travelling. She also took him to buy these. He had little sense of clothes, and with the passing years even less interest. His 12 or so shirts and nine ties (at least the unstained ones) she will take, along with the suit and blazers and odd trousers and his raincoat and down-filled winter coat, to donate to the ORT charity shop. His socks and underwear and handkerchiefs and three pairs of shoes and slippers and tired terry-cloth bathrobe she'll toss out. 

The problem is Larry's various collections. Over the years, he had bought the jerseys for all the National Football League teams, both past and present. He collected model cars from the Franklin Mint, about 50 of these. He also bought antique model-train cars, sometime spending three or four hundred dollars for them. Then there are his first editions; he was always claiming that his first edition of some now forgotten novelist — Stanley Elkin, Vance Bourjaily, George P. Elliott — was selling for $145 or some such price, though Deborah scarcely listened when he told her such things and anyhow she has no notion where to sell these books for the sums he mentioned, if such sums are really available. The largest collection of all was his classical music CDs, not to speak of the old vinyl recordings that he kept in boxes in the basement. Maybe the university, Northeastern Illinois, where Larry taught political science for the last thirty years, would want all this stuff, though Deborah knows that the big problem nowadays in universities is finding space even for its own things. 

 

Forty-six years ago in December Deborah had married an attractive young man, full of promise, which, as they grew older, she watched him slowly lose. She never confronted him with it; in the early years, she pretended it wasn't happening. She didn't want to admit the loss to herself. Life meanwhile rushed by. She finished dental school, then went into private practice; they had a daughter and then two sons. The question of divorce never occurred to her; she was not a divorcing woman. Instead, Larry somehow became her fourth child, one who drove a car and brought in some income, though nowhere near as much as she did. 

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