In cleaning out the closest and drawers as winter clothing is cleaned and tucked away in storage, it's sometimes not an easy decision. Some items can be mended, but only if there is enough wear left to make it worth the time and effort. Some items, that look like someone lost a jousting match with a paint can, are easier to toss away.
Most of us regularly go through our things, to clear space, to create room for new things, sometimes to the point it's almost an obsession. I've met people that can not function if they don't shop almost daily, often for things they don't need, and can't afford, just because they have a psychological need to buy something. I once was sent to a home that had belonged to a hoarder. There was barely any light but for the lamps, items piled up over window height; a gloom that brooded over the clutter, as if angered by the light that came only with the flip of a switch. A single person lived there, with no room for family, for visitors, only for more possessions, most of which were in bags never opened.
Yet, in some ways, all of us are prone to gather up "things" that take up space. I certainly have more lathe bits around than are likely allowed by law, and there are pots and pans of every conceivable size in the kitchen. There's also copies of cooking magazines, and oh, so many books. But those are things we use and re-read.
My first home on my own was a showpiece. Three levels, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, full of beautiful new furniture, art and all the trappings of success. I spent all of my time and money maintaining it—which left little time or money for anything else. I liked to say I loved it, yet after another night alone in that place, but for Barkley, I had to admit to myself that there was a visceral response to the terrible loneliness of that open space, and I yearned for the lean days where life was simple and full of hope.
Giving most of it to charity; paring it down to just those things I really cherished, was the most liberating thing I've ever done.
Now my house is tiny, warm, full of the abandoned and reclaimed, almost every bit of wooden furniture rescued from a curb and restored. So much history here, so much laughter as that work was done. I look at it now, not with that quick glance that is a short day, greedily grabbed and then forgotten, but in the sustained light of memories made.
It was a busy weekend of "spring cleaning", an old broken washing machine left out by the trash where it soon disappeared as planned, by others that look to take what is cast off and make something worthwhile from it. There were also bags of trash and non repairable clothing and such out in the bin to be discarded. The sun was setting, the sky and the horizon welded in one bright spark, soon to be snuffed out. Everything around me dissolved into that last bit of warmth, bags of trash, heavy in my arms, everything in them at one time, fashioned out of love, duty or desire, which all bear their own weights.
I've written of it here before, as it's a journey many a family has been on, Seventeen years into a happy remarriage after my Mom died from cancer, my stepmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She had long term care insurance, something she and her late husband had policies for. It covered nursing care, but Dad steadfastly refused to put her in a home, caring for her at home, even in his own declining years.
Dad cared for her at home, no matter how bad it got. We couldn't visit, for we were strangers, and she'd go into a hysterical fury if we tried to enter the home. Dad was her calm and her constant. We arranged for someone to come in and lend a hand a few hours a week with the cooking and housework but he refused to let anyone else care for "his girl" or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, was just days.
Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.
One of those photos is one of she and Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people. Not many people could have cared for her by themselves as my Dad did, for so long. But I understand. Love is a story that tells itself.
On my couch is a the form of a black dog. Dumped during the holidays—heartworm positive at a high kill shelter. She responds with a heartbreaking and plaintive urgency to the sound of small children laughing as well as men walking while smoking a cigarette. The first time I witnessed it, I cried. Apparently she was with a family, with a smoker—money for cigarettes but not for the medicine that would have kept her safe.
Rescued, and recovering from a sometimes brutal treatment for the disease; we adopted her. What was one person's decision to be rid of a burden was a saving grace in a house that had a gaping hole in it.
"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it".
I realized that there were certain things, and in the past, even certain people, that simply violated my sense of thrift, exacting things out of me well beyond their worth. That concept was lost to me when I was young, but as I got older, with truth stripped of its clock of immortality, it was clear.
Home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward. Hope and love, love and desire, can also be merely sounds, that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed, and will not until such time as they forget the words.