Monday, 16 January 2012

Things of old, and what to do with them

My wife Kimberly-Ann is recovering from surgery this weekend, she had her gall bladder removed. She's been lovingly referring to it for the past few months as 'the zombie inside me'. Now that the zombie is gone, she is in pain, can't move much, and is popping pain pills, but she's still trying to take care of the world. We (kids and I) are trying to get her to understand that it's her turn to be taken care of. She put this surgery off because of my bout with the hospital of late, and that took it's toll on her. She couldn't eat any solid food for months and what she did eat didn't go down well. Now she just has to relax and recover. But relaxing isn't in her vocabulary - she wants to take care of us. Last night I went through another attack, and while curled up on the couch trying to wish it away, she was trying to help me through it. We're both slightly busted. We will recover and become normal again, she will eat and I will get back to work, in time.

In the middle of all of this, my sister asked me to come over and go through some heirlooms from our parents as she is downsizing her accommodations in the next several weeks and has no room for everything. A fair request, but lousy timing. My parents' collectibles seem to be the last thing on my mind this weekend. But it got me thinking, and looking around my own home, just how much stuff we hang onto. Holy crap.

I don't blame her for wanting my brother and I to take some of this stuff, it's full of memories of our parents who are now gone. Things we grew up with or collected over the years, or has some other meaning - like the basket of toys our kids played with at Nana and Papa's house when they were toddlers. We still have that basket, and surprisingly enough, the kids. But that request got me thinking about our own home, and I'm sure my brother is thinking it too. Family heirlooms and keepsakes are a direct reflection on one's family tree.

Our parents collected stuff, Kimberly-Ann's parents did the same, my sister's in-laws did the same, my brother's in-laws did the same and so on down the line. Somehow or other, all this stuff ends up with us collectively. This weekend my father in-law was down helping out with Kim; to which I am grateful for, and of course the conversation eventually turned to stuff in various homes in London (where Kim's family still lives) that was destined for our home someday. Kim's heirlooms.

So what does one do with this stuff? I am a pack rat, I have difficulty getting rid of anything that has any sort of memory attachment, obviously my sister has the same problem. It's not a bad thing though, we've rarely ever had to buy furniture! Right now I'm using my mother's desk to type this, beside me is my father's favourite chair which sits next to Kim's grandmother's china cabinet. Behind me is one of the three bookshelves that sat in my parent's dining room - each one of us got one. In the living room is my mother's favourite lazy-boy chair, their coffee table, and antique sofa and chair that we figure is about 80 years old and has been re-upholstered, a marble topped washing stand (part of a three piece bedroom set at least late 19th century, the other two pieces are in other rooms), and a corner trinket shelf that was hand-made by Kim's grandfather when he was a young man. The only thing in the living room we've purchased is the TV unit, which is made of particle board and will not last another five years. That's just two rooms. I'm grateful for the inheritance of these objects, to me they're priceless, but the entire house is like this. We still hang ornaments on the Christmas tree that my grandmother made 40 years ago, I have a ton of my dad's books, and Kim still uses her grandmother's electric hand mixer which incredibly enough is still in the original box!

Stuff today is crap. It's made to break so you have to buy new stuff. Great marketing strategy - let's rip people off and fill our landfills with garbage that should still work considering what was paid for it. I can't count how many coffee makers I've gone through since I got married. All junk. But if I want to make a cake, I know the mixer will be there for me! We have entire drawers full of electronics chargers, because every electronic devise uses a new style, we have two TVs in the basement that don't work anymore and I just haven't found the opportunity to toss them, I have power tools that last about four battery charges, then you can't buy new batteries, I have this, that and the next thing that is busted, going, or on my list of things I should never have even looked at.

But the heirlooms are still here.

Why do we hang onto these things? Why do we even hang onto trinkets that have no practical use? Last year I wrote this, and now I find myself revisiting that story. I still use the sugar container. The broken lid has been thrown away and it's a constant reminder to me that some things still hurt when they're not here. We hang onto these things because we can't always hang onto the one's that gave them to us. Sometimes we must make a separation, sometimes we must let go. For a family of pack rats, that's not easy.

My sister is purging but doing it the right way, trying to find homes for the things that matter. Yup, some of it is for sale, if you're interested in what contact me and I will pass the message along to her. But a lot of it is a lesson in letting go. That's a lesson I'm not ready to take yet, even though it's inevitable.

On a brighter note, Kim is doing better, so long as the pain meds are near. She's getting up with a little less pain each time and last night I made her grilled bacon and cheese burgers - she requested that as her first solid food since August. I was all to willing to comply.

Have a great day.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you Keith, I too am a pack rat and wish I wasn't. I'm glad Kim's feeling better


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