Monday, May 20, 2013

Lightening the Boat

It started shortly after my Dad died and the dust settled after his funeral, the urge to start throwing things away.  I remember sitting alone by his workbench a month or so into life without him, and just looking at all the things he had amassed by way of tools and gadgets and his own creativity through the years, and realizing with a heavy heart for the first time that you can't take it with you.  Oh, I knew that all my life, in a nebulous, hypothetical, cerebral sort of way, but it had never hit home as it did then and since.

I go there still, from time to time, to Mom's house, and sit by that workbench where most things are just the way Dad left them.  I open drawers and look in cupboards and find things that still tie him to this side of heaven.  So many things he made in that work space, and whenever he perfected something that he'd want to duplicate he'd break down the prototype so new parts could be crafted to match the originals.  I find them as I snoop around - different things like that which he'd made and set aside to use in the future.  Alas, though, his future isn't here any more, and those things of his will continue to gather dust until Mom, my sister, or I find reason to part with them.

I look around my own house now, and find myself wanting to get rid of the so many items I bought once upon a time, thinking with the purchase of each that life was very good and that with the acquisition of it I'd be very satisfied for a long time to come.  It's difficult to admit to myself that I wasted a lot of money in the past 30 years piling up such mementos of life's goodness that quickly fell by the wayside shortly after I bought them, and I wish I could go back and recollect the cash I squandered and scattered like various bread crumbs on life's journey.

Since mid-winter I filled at least a dozen large garbage bags with pounds and pounds of many things and hauled them to a friendly dumpster a few at a time.  I tossed things away with a vengeance, feeling some kind of burden lifting with each elimination.  Yes, I threw out things I could have sold at a flea market or perhaps donated to some second hand cause, but the urge to purge was immediate and deep and I needed to get the things out of my house before I had a change of heart about tossing them away.

There's a drawer in my house full of pencils and pens - so full that it's difficult to close sometimes after rummaging around and dislodging the contents from their precarious places in the three dimensional puzzle they seem to form.  Why keep so many of them?  I don't think I ever wore down a single pencil in my lifetime without replacing it five times over before it became useless. (Ah!  Maybe I needed to replace them faster because I used up the erasers?)  That drawer is painfully symbolic of my adult existence and all the time and money I spent in getting things for myself and just piling them up for the sake of having them.

I am arriving, I think, at that point in life where I could be happy spending out the rest of my years in a much smaller space, with many fewer things than I have now.  I am more aware than ever before of the keepsakes in life that are worth the effort to acquire and hoard and they're not things at all.  As St. Paul put it, "... the greatest of these is love."  And as my Mom said so many times to me when I was growing up, "You like things; you love people."

1 comment:

Keith - Circle Blue said...

I, too, feel the urge to lighten the boat. It is making the time to do so that it the problem. I, also, have throw "good stuff" away simply because it wouldn't have gone away if I had hesitated.

Glad to hear your voice again.

Be safe.