Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Hoarder's House.

Last year, we bought a house. The man had died, and the house went to his wife. They were separated but not divorced. She was very ill herself and did not survive him for long. Her children did not like the man at all, and they did not want his house. We bought it, chock a block full of contents.

He was a hoarder. There were piles and piles of boxes. One box contained nothing but cigarette coupons. Another box had newspapers. There was a huge garbage bag full of nothing but salt and pepper shakers, still full, as if he and his wife had swiped the shakers from every restaurant that they'd ever gone to. There's a lot of kitchen appliances, still in their unopened boxes. Dishes galore, sheet music dating back to the early 1900s. Crazy, crazy amounts of stuff to be gone through. 3 generations of cancelled checks. Stuff like that.

Something that always made me feel badly was that these folks had tons of family pictures. They were everywhere, Formal portraits, family snapshots, letters, post cards home, all sorts of ephemera. And every time I got there to go through stuff, I'd think "I wish that I knew the family. Surely this would mean something to someone..."

I knew that he and his first wife had divorced and she took the kids and moved to California. I knew that he and his second wife married late in life and had no children. I knew that he and his third wife were married for a relatively short time, and her children wanted nothing to do with him at all.

A young girl at work was moving into her own place and I offered her the chance to go through the appliances and dishes and see if there was anything that she could use. While I was waiting, I went through the music cabinet. It is a piece that I intend to keep for myself. Going through the sheet music, I found some little slips of paper, entry blanks for a long ago Easter contest at a local store. one of those guess-how-many-beans-are-in-this-jar games. I looked at the childish handwriting and stopped cold in my tracks. I thought I recognized the name.

I called a mutual friend and asked if Ed R.'s first name was 'Edwin', and surprised, she said that it was. "Why?" she asked.

I couldn't believe, after all this time, that the answer was right there in front of me.

I told Mary about the Wayne St, house, about all the pictures, and slides, and even home movies. "Do you think he'd be interested?" I asked.

And she said, "Oh my gosh, I know that he would. I'm going to call them right now."

Just that quick, my phone was ringing back. It was Ed, and he was flabbergasted. They remembered the pictures. Betty, the second wife was his aunt. He and his family had even lived with them for a bit when they moved back from Florida. They were very close to their aunt, and when she died, they asked for her family pictures. The old man had told them that they couldn't have them, that they'd been thrown out.

I told Ed that they weren't, that there were boxes and boxes of them. I told him that he was welcome to them. He was very excited. He does genealogy and they had precious little information on his mother's side of the family. He was speechless when I told him about the suitcase in the attic filled with photos from the 1800s, tintypes, post cards home from WWI. (ONE!) even a very creepy Victorian death photo.

We met at the house tonight. His sister drove an hour to be here too. They went through pictures identifying people. They found momentos from long ago weddings. The sister found the baby announcement from when her daughter was born.  And there were tears, and laughter, and a family reminiscing. "This was where I slept!" and "Remember that we sat in this very chair and untangled Aunt Betty's necklaces?"

The old movies? They took them all and the projector and the movie screens too. The slides? They took them, and we found the slide viewer. Strange things caught their eyes: An old biscuit cutter had sentimental value. The cut glass pitcher. A strange old lamp.

The two Swedish bibles from  the 1870s had names and dates of births, and dates of deaths and were held reverently once again. There were letters to be exclaimed over. When we went to the attic, Ed said right away, "My aunt wanted that wicker doll carriage in the very worst way!" Inwardly, I groaned, because I coveted it for myself, but it wasn't my memory, and so I told them that their aunt could have it. They looked at me. "She's dead," they said, and I am ashamed to say that my first thought was a jubilant "YES!" but I only said, "Well, I'm sorry that she was never able to get that carriage." I meant it too. I would not have missed it had I never set eyes on it.

3 hours later, we finally walked out of that house, tired and dirty and one of the people having some serious breathing issues from the dust in the attic.

Outside, they hugged me over and over and told me how wonderful it was to have all these things. They'd bought a fruit basket for us. It wasn't at all necessary. As happy as they were to get it, I was even happier to see it go. The fact that it went to where it belonged made it all the better.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Babies

I had 24 precious hours to spend with my new grand daughter, Iris, and I made the most of it. She is so cute.

Holding her, I re-remembered the way that a baby fits perfectly into your arm, perfectly into your shoulder. I re-remembered the little noises they make, the sweet smell of them, the weight of them...they are amazing. Just amazing.

The next day, I left them all behind. Cara would spend the weekend with Dylan and Brittani and Iris, and then she's headed back to Italy and her Colin.

I felt like I was leaving a bit of my heart behind. There never IS enough time, is there? I felt like we had used what we had very wisely though. None of it had been wasted. Not a second.

I think of my children as I'm falling asleep and the remembering makes me smile into the dark.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Tom

Today, I was driving to pick William up from school. I saw a man walking down the sidewalk, slowly, carrying his umbrella, looking up. I recognized an old friend, Tom, from years back at work.

Tom was always a quiet person, the sort who saw good in everyone. He worked hard, smiled a lot. He had a wife he adored, and his children were grown, but he loved talking about them all.

A few months back, I saw Tom at the Walmart and we greeted each other with a hug. "How are you doing?" I asked him. "I haven't seen you in forever!" I asked him if he was still working where I'd seen him last and he told me that he retired.

"That's great!" I said. I commented that he and his wife were probably spending a lot more time with their kids and grandkids. Tom shook his head, looking down.

Turns out that he had retired, and a couple weeks later, his wife had taken sick and with no forewarning, she died. Just that quick.

I hardly knew what to say. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, "I couldn't believe it. I just couldn't believe it."

I told him how sorry I was to hear that, and I was.

He told me that his children wanted him to move closer to them and that, while it was tempting, he just didn't feel ready to leave everything he knew behind and start over again. I told him that I thought it was wise to not make a bunch of changes at a time when he was was already negotiating more than his fair share of them.

We talked a while longer and then hugged goodbye.

I haven't seen him since, until today, when I passed him on the street, neatly dressed in dress shirt and khakis, carrying his umbrella, looking up.  Stopped at a light, he walked ahead of me, not knowing I was there. I saw him stop, bend, and pick up a piece of litter from against the curb. He continued on his way, and the light changed and I drove on my way.

It's easy to lose sight of in these tumultuous times, but we are surrounded by goodness.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Things that make me go 'Hmmmmmmmmmmm...'

All week long, I've had the biggest problem with a clock that just stops. For no reason. It's wound. As soon as you set the pendulum swinging it takes right off. 

Tonight I came home to discover that the clock had stopped again. I was shocked to notice that the horse clock in the front hall had stopped. So had my cuckoo clock. 

I checked them once again. They are level. There's no reason that I can see that they have stopped. Resignedly, I set about starting them and resetting them once again. Makes me wonder if we're having earthquakes or something. 

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Tantrum

I picked William up from school today, and we headed to the grocery store to pick up a few items. On the way there, we had a talk. He'd had quite an tantrum the previous day and I wanted to talk to him about it. I knew that his heart broke a little when he said good bye to his Aunt Cara, but I reminded him that he was in second grade now. "If you are upset, you're old enough to use your words. You do not throw a tantrum."

He listened, and he agreed. "I was being immature," he said. He explained to me how maturely he had behaved in school that day and I told him that I was proud of him.

We went into the store and picked up some supplies for the next few days. I am having some surgery and wanted to give Tim some easy meal options.

We were waiting behind a man who had a cart with three cases of water, two in the back, one balanced in the seat. There were also two bags of coffee beans.

I was setting my things on the conveyor and I heard him say, "This needs to be rung up separately." I didn't watch closely, but his hand hovered over the coffee. I continued setting my things on counter.

I heard her give the total. I heard him flip. "That's not right!" he exclaimed. But he handed over the cash and she finished the transaction. He snatched his change and receipt, and really began to rant. "This is for the three cases of water!"

She looked confused. "Right," she said. "I'll ring up the coffee now."

He had wanted the one of the waters rung up with the coffee. "When I tell you to ring things up separately, I mean what I say," he growled. His anger was way out of proportion to the situation.

I stood there watching this. The man had set nothing on the conveyor. The water had been rung up from a card at her register. A reasonable person would have set the two coffees on the counter and asked her to ring that up with one of the waters, but he was not reasonable. He was disgusted and he made his disgust known. The cashier was a young girl. She apologized profusely and kept a smile on her face. He continued to rant.

I stood behind him and waited. She waited for him to pay. He finally swiped his card, muttering and punching the buttons. Then he grabbed his cart and took his rage right out the door.

The cashier looked at me and said, "Did you find everything you needed today?"

I said, "Yes. I did, and I just want to say that you did a very good job with a very unhappy customer. It was a misunderstanding."

She said, "I've been here for four years. Most people are great."

She was ringing up my stuff and I was swiping my card and William and I headed for the car, William clutching the stuffed toy he'd picked up for his new cousin, Iris.

Wouldn't you know it? The angry man was parked next to me and he stood glaring at me in a very angry manner. I ignored him. He glared. I'm not sure why he was so angry at me but maybe he was pissed at the whole world. I don't know. Some folks are like that.

William climbed in the car talking a blue streak about his present for Iris and I returned the cart. As I got into my own car, I heard him cuss and then saw him striding purposefully back to the store. I watched carefully. He headed straight in the exit. He was going back in to complain to the cashier or her supervisor.

Quite a tantrum, all of it over three cases of water and two bags of coffee beans.

What a world we live in.