Monday, July 17, 2006

The First Blush Of Retirement

I just found something new and fun. It is called Blogging 4 Books. This way, I can publish here, and maybe I luck out and win a book for the entry. Hey, if they chose my essay and I win a book, does this mean that I'm no longer an amateur writer? Would I be a paid professional writer? hee hee!

This is my entry, written about 3 years ago when I lived in a differrrent world.


October 2003

I am nearing retirement. We are looking forward to moving to the Southwest, where we both grew up. As part of the process to prepare for this, my husband and I have had to take a look at many pieces of our life and make decisions that are not always easy…or unanimous. You know the old adage that goes something like, “One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” But in our case it would be “One man’s treasure is his wife’s trash.” And that would work in reverse, as well.

I approach this whole procedure with trepidation for many reasons. First of all, my husband is a pack rat. Not me, of course, just him. He has owned a theory that says, “Everything can be reused. In some way. Eventually. And if you throw it away, you will need it.”

I argued against this for years. Then the inevitable happened. One day he cleaned out the garage where most of these treasures are kept, because it was simply getting to be unruly. He did a great job, and the cars actually fit again without having to pull half way in, get out and move a box, get back in the car and pull the rest of the way in, then get out and go to the back of the car to replace things that fell along the back as you eased in. After this, you shoved the box that you moved at the half way point under the front of the car so you could walk past, push the button to lower the door and enter the house…after being sure that nothing scrunched under the door as it whooshes and thumps into place.

OK, so the garage looked wonderful, and I gladly told him so. Then…yep, you know what is coming, don’t you? Not more than two weeks later, something broke. It was something no longer manufactured because it was original with this old house. The choice is to find a replacement piece somewhere or replace the whole mechanism and all fittings and attachments, making the cost of the new item close to the cost of the house. And of course, he had one. HAD, not HAS. It went out in the clean up process. Damn, I hate it when he is right!

We have lived in the house for twenty-seven years. Five children have lived here and left, eventually taking their belongings. One would think that we have plenty of spare room, but if one thinks that, one doesn’t understand the reality of “things.” Without realizing it was happening, we gradually filled the vacant spaces. In fact, I truly don’t remember seeing “spaces,” but they must have been there. It seems that the inanimate objects had reproduced, much like bunnies left unattended, and filled every niche in our castle. And then some!

The agenda for retirement includes downsizing. After all these years spent diligently upsizing! So as we cull through belongings, we try to decide what goes with us and what to the landfill and what moves on to a garage sale to become a treasure for someone else. It isn’t easy. The decisions to be made loom over us like evil ghosts reminding us of the importance of each scrap, each trinket.

We sort through files and drawers long ago filled to overflowing with papers. Phone numbers that neither of us can identify, yet we are loathe to throw them away because we might need it. If we remember who it belongs to. Receipts that can no longer be read, but surely we kept them for a reason. Refrigerator art long since removed from the place of honor that I can’t bear to throw away.

We haul bag after bag of this paper debris to the curb each week. We spend hours shredding what must not remain in tact. And when we burn up the shredder, we lug bags to our son’s place in the country where it can be legally burned.

And when it is all done, we turn to look at our newly spacious files drawers and desk cubbies, only to find that what was left, those things the accountant says we must keep have that bunny trait also. While not overflowing and packed solid, they are still filled. Will it ever end?

Next we tackled closets. I was in awe at what I found. Clothes I haven’t worn in…I kid you not…20 years. That part is relatively easy. I can’t pull the jeans past the thighs. I look at the label and find that they are size 8, and I now wear…. oh no! I’m not going there!! Suffice it to say, there is no way I am getting into them again in this lifetime. Until now I have had an irrational plan to size down and look sexy in my “tight fittin’ jeans.”

As I toss dresses, sweaters, clothing of every kind into a mound that quickly becomes taller than me, I am invigorated at the thought of taking charge of my life this way. I am a demon woman of power over the possessions that have held me captive all these years! And then….
My husband walks into the room. He picks up a jacket long ago too tight and remarks that he remembers when he bought this for me one Christmas and how good I looked in it and that he will help with exercise and diet so that it will fit again and….

I quit listening. I have to! If I become enchanted with the pretty words he is saying, I will never be able to get this accomplished. When we load the clothing to take to the church for a garage sale, we are both stunned that it takes us three trips with the back of the GMC Jimmy stuffed as full as we can manage before the clothes we both amassed.

Back at home, we go to admire our roomy closets and the space we now have in our dresser drawers. Huh? NO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O! Nothing is different!

Then I move to the rec room which isn’t used for recreation anymore because the kids are gone. It could probably be called my “projects room.” The room is littered with many half-finished craft projects. The pool table has had a sheet of plywood over it for years, and we use it to wrap gifts during the holidays, but now it has snapshots and old portraits on it. I have been organizing them and putting them into albums. Well, OK, I was doing it three years ago.

Alright! This will be easy. I will simply put away, in their place, the pieces of these projects. And the rest can be thrown away, making room for “rec” again.

The pictures are the first project because that will free up the surface for organizing the other assortments. It takes me a while to figure out what the various stacks of pictures are. It has been long enough that I don’t remember.

As I look through the stacks, the pattern finally becomes clear and I continue sorting. This one for the album from 1978. Over there is one that I should send to a friend. This one goes to our daughter. Oh look at that. Isn’t she cute in the cheerleading uniform? My eyes mist and I remember back. Oh-h-h-h, here is a baby picture of my husband. He was so cute. Here is one that I can’t identify, I’ll throw it away…but wait, maybe I should keep it. Someone in the family cared enough to take it and maybe they can identify it.

Three days later, my husband finds me, still huddled over the pool-table-turned-sorting-surface, my fingers dry and caked with the dust from the pictures, muttering something about a picture of Aunt Jenny. I don’t have an Aunt Jenny and neither does he. It has taken him this long to find me amidst the piles of snapshots which now tower over my head and threaten to bury me alive.

As he leads me away and up the stairs, I whine that I have to finish sorting them because I have not yet finished any project I’ve started and I have to, I just have to. And he mutters about all the junk I can’t turn loose of. And my stomach growls. Three days without leaving the bar stool at the pool table has taken a toll.

Later I step on the scales thinking that I have lost some of that weight during my ordeal, so at least one good thing will come of this. Yipeeee-ooooooh-noooooo! I gained another three pounds! Does everything in this house magically increase?

At this point my son suggests that it might be easier to simply back the car out of the garage, close the door and light a match to the whole thing. How did he get to be so smart?


Caroline said...

Oh, how Glenn loved to collet things. And it wasn't just that he would keep these things just in case. Every single thing had a reason and a meaning. He knew exactly why he was keeping something. Good writing entry.

Lynilu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynilu said...

You are so right! If only I could have understood his reasoning!I wonder if he was watching me when I was getting rid of some of those things? Do ya suppose he cringes "up there"???