Friday, August 18, 2006

clearing out

Busy Mom writes in her inimitable style about the unenviable task of clearing out her mother's closet after her death.

Now, I've helped at two full post mortem house clearances. That's what you get for being the oldest grandchild with divorced parents. I probably wasn't as much help as I could have been during the first clearance when I was in my early 20s (my grandmother's house in Oak Ridge), but shifting my grandfather's stuff was monumental and my mom and my aunt really needed my help. My grandparents, being those depression-era types, weren't really into the whole concept of throwing away.

After fifty years in the same house, you can accumulate a bunch of stuff. My granddad was always relatively well dressed, if not exactly dapper, but he had a collection of ties that were just laughable. Not - tee hee - laughable, but like "Oh my gawd, that is the ugliest tie ever." He had jars of rusted up screws (which was kind of funny since his motto was "if you can't fix it with a hammer, it's not worth fixing".) He had strange mechanical parts shoved in kitchen drawers - my favorite was a valve or something that belonged to a boiler that had been replaced about ten years earlier. We knew that because it had a tag that said so - and on the other side of the tag was written "Probly [sic] doesn't work". I almost kept that.

We found about a million jackets. And when my relatives made fun and said "How many jackets do you need?" I had to look away...because I know - as he knew - that you just cannot have too many jackets.

We also found a bottle of nasssty whiskey that was a bit of surprise to me. Hard core Church of Christ, I had never once seen him take a drink. But apparently he was using it to wash down the OxyContin in those last pain ridden months.

But with all that bric-a-brac and memories and so forth, that wasn't the worst of it. You see my grandfather was one of those guys who just could not retire. So after he sold his share of the business, he sought various other means of employment, eventually settling on antique sales - which he stuck with even into his last week.

Well, I say antique. I mean junk. So we had not only his personal posessions to go through but also his...erm, inventory. To make it more even more complicated, he actually had two businesses - one that really did sell genuine antiques (cut glass and ceramics) and one that sold junk like cheap glass and ceramics, dirty halves of salt and pepper sets, poorly glazed dogs* made in China, dented saucepans. I mean junk.

We took what we wanted and sold the rest on in a monumental estate sale. I'm very proud that I managed to pass off some of the junk as antiques.

Busy Mom concludes that "the best gift you can give your family is to clean out your closet." Not only does it save them the hassle, but it saves you the posthumous embarassment of family stumbling across your more laughable posessions. I enjoyed laughing at my grandfather's stuff, it kind of made a horrible job a bit more fun. my Mom packed away the items that she wanted, I pleaded with her to reconsider. See as the eldest child of two divorced parents, I know that I have at least two house-clearances to go. I knew that as the items came down from my grandfather's attice and she packed away the toys we played with that I didn't even remember for storage in her attic that the next time those things would see the light of day was when she was dead. And I'd have to go through them again.

*I have a pair on my mantle


genderist said...

No questions about it, he was dapper.

melusina said...

My parents are so not pack rats, thank goodness (ok, by parents, I mean my mother, which means my father by default). Every memory of my own I wanted to keep I had to bring with me, they weren't storing ANYTHING. But they had to clean out my great aunt's house (she didn't die, she moved after 60 years in the same place) and wow, what a doozey that was.

After moving 4 times in 4 years, I have begun to appreciate living simply, although admittedly books and DVDs and CDs do continue to accumulate. But I've learned much better how to throw away things.

Honestly, it seems like a parent's best gift to their children to refrain from keeping too much, after what I've seen people go through.

Vol Abroad said...

Hey Genderist - I tried to sell some junk jewelry to your sister to wear to your wedding at the estate sale, but she wouldn't do it.

genderist said...

I wish you would've called me. The whole wedding party could have worn it!!