Today is moving day. We’re not sure where Mom will be moving to, but we do know it won’t be back to independent living. Under those circumstances, her apartment would be a very expensive place to store things. The business part of me understands that, but the emotional side is having a tough time.
See her stuff is not just stuff. Her belongings are a memorial. Don’t get me wrong. Mom’s life means a lot more to me than the things she has managed to obtain, but the furnishings of her life do represent the things she loves best. Take all those wardrobe boxes of clothes. I know right now that she won’t be able to get all of them into the closet of an assisted living apartment, but how do I go about choosing which ones to keep and which to throw away?
Mom grew up in the Depression. It was tough for everyone, but several things made it tougher for her than it was for some other folks. Her clothes were the armor she wore to face the world. If she managed to dress like everyone else, then she felt she would fit in better. She never told me this, but after decades of her fanatical interest in what I had on, I figured it out. Multiply that mindset by a career in retail and you know why she has eight wardrobe boxes of clothes, a rolling rack and a couple of boxes and suitcases. I know it’s been years since she wore some of them, but she’s like the armorer in a castle. You don’t throw away perfectly good swords just because they go out of style. You never know when they’ll be just the thing for a certain battle.
Maybe this would have been easier if it hadn’t been just a couple of years ago that I went through the process of downsizing my parents from a house to a two bedroom apartment. Now Dad’s gone and the independent phase of Mom’s life is over, I have to sift through it all again.
In some cases it feels like chopping off my hands. Dad was a snorer and had long ago been exiled to a separate bedroom. In the apartment, he slept on the bed they shared during all the years they did sleep together. I joke that it’s the bed I was conceived in, and Mom’s never corrected me, so maybe I’m right. To the rest of the world, the bedroom suite is a not-so-gently used collection of mid-century Early American furniture. Nobody except a homeless shelter had any interest in it. To me, it’s the first time my dad ever bought anything on credit. He didn’t want to go into debt, so he got a second job to pay off the loan early. To me, it represented home in all the houses we lived in, as we moved around due to Dad’s job. I can only imagine what it meant to Mom. When she asked me what was being done with it, I had to tell her the truth and I could tell it was a physical blow.
Letting go of other items feels like ripping out my heart. My dad was a sports fanatic. Not in the sense of being a fan of any particular team. He was interested in everything from peewee football to the senior golf tour, but baseball was his particular favorite. He liked to watch baseball, but he liked to hear the commentary on the radio. How many hours of my life have I watched my dad cheer on the Rangers? He’d have the TV on and in his ear would be the plug from the radio. Long before there were sports bars, my dad would line up all the TV’s in the house in the den and have various sports on them – and the earplug would be in his ear. The radio is in the room of items we plan to donate, but I don’t know if I’ll actually let it go.
And you ask, “So what’s the big deal? Why don’t you just keep the radio?” If you did ask that then you’re one of the folks who doesn’t realize just how much stuff I’ve collected from my family in the last few years. First, from Aunt Edie and then from my parent’s house. There really is just not enough room for me to keep anything else… but maybe the radio wouldn’t take up so much room after all.
See, the radio has other memories attached to it. My dad faithfully listened to Rush Limbaugh. I’m no fan of the self-important blowhard myself, but my dad was. George didn’t use the earplug to listen, so bits and pieces of Limbaugh’s loud mouth opinions were impossible to avoid. I confess, I now listen to Rush, if he’s on when I’m in the car. Even if some (certainly not all) of his Conservative views do line up with mine, I detest his presentation. However, by listening, I can imagine the conversations Dad and I would have – therefore, I listen.
So, it’s moving day today and I know that I’m holding on to more than I should, but how can I let more go? After all, they’re not just things.