"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:"
-Matthew 6:19, King James Bible
"Don't hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars."
-Matthew 6:19, The Message
"Y'all quit accumulating so much crap!"
-Matthew 6:19, The Gospel According To Yankeedog
Two weeks into the cleaning and removal process at Mom's place. You wouldn't believe the stuff we've tossed, recycled, and/or packed up. Or maybe you would if you've gone through cleaning after someone, especially an older person, dies.
My stepfather must have belonged to every organization there was, worthwhile or otherwise, or at least he had a card from each one of them. We tore up all of those-a lot of those outfits are going to be sadly disappointed next time they send a letter asking for funds.
We found pens. Quite possibly enough of them to provide each and every person in Illinois with one, although only three of them actually worked. We found keyrings and keychains enough to provide everyone in Rhode Island with a keyring, should they want one. There are enough books to start a library. Anyone want books? Let me know. Send a C-130 so we can load them up for you. Need a flashlight, everyone in Queensland? Send a self-addressed stamped envelope up and I'll see you receive your alloted torch.
I found an old slip for a fuel purchase from when he was working as a truck driver-from 1989! Also dug up some W-2 wage forms for 1974. Stuff regarding vehicles that were gotten rid of 30 years ago. A boat license from 1981. Old credit cards expired ten years ago. In amongst all the junk, we actually have discovered most of the papers we've needed. Mind you, I haven't gotten to the garage yet. Perhaps the Ark of the Covenant is there, sitting in a crate. I wouldn't be surprised.
I asked Mom if he had a change jar. Every old man has a big jar full of change-it's a law here. She said she didn't think so. I looked around in his bedroom and sure enough I found a big pickle jar of quarters, along with little bags with dollar coins from about 1970 on-some big Eisenhower silver dollars, which are worth, well, $1; a couple of Susan B. Anthonys, and some newer issue dollars. These coins aren't worth anything more than face value, so I don't know where he got the idea that he was going to live long enough for these to increase in value.
He did have an M-1 Carbine and about 300 rounds of .30 Carbine ammunition that I think I can find a good home for. Mom won't shoot it, and she's the executor of the estate, as it were. There's a couple of shotguns in the den, and I'm thinking my stepfather's brothers will each get one.
You're getting the idea of the magnitude of the sorting job, I think. I reckon this is fairly common when older folks pass on, but this boggles my tiny mind.
Mom isn't in great shape physically so it was hard for her to clean. Obviously, my stepfather was starting to slip a bit mentally. Not a good combination. Mom kind of estranged herself from me and my brother so I didn't quite know what was going on toward the last. Right now, I'm feeling a bit of 'If I'd done something a bit different', then maybe things would have at least gone a bit easier at the end. Bloody hell.
Kind of a two-parter tonight.
I think a lot of the reason my stepfather had the desire to keep everything and belong to everything goes back to his childhood. He grew up in the Great Depression, in a large family. His dad was, to be honest, a mean old bastard whose idea of a good education was taking the kids down to the hobo jungle along the railroad in town. He worked the kids like pack animals in their family garden. He beat up their mom on a regular basis and no doubt whacked on the kids after a day at the tavern.
Reckon that does something to a person in their formative years.
My mom went through a lot of the same things when she was growing up. She and her sister would get nervous and quiet when their father (my grandfather) would come home late after work, knowing that he was out drinking, which usually resulted in my grandmother getting a beating by the time the yelling and fighting was over. Grandfather was evidently not one of the happy or melancholy drunks and went straight to mean. Not much wonder, then, that Mom quit school early and married my dad. It got her out of that particular nightmare at least. Although I'm told Granddad went out on a spree for a week, but came back a bit shaken and sober. No one knows, but the family speculation is that he may have done something bad to someone-fatal bad, if you know what I mean-or someone bigger and meaner than he was beat the hell out of him, which personally would seem like just desserts. I don't know and all of this happened long before I was born. I don't suppose anyone will ever know since all of the players are long dead now.
The common thread in both of these stories is, of course, alcohol. We all laugh and joke about our long drinking bouts and the dumb stuff we do when drunk. I can't preach (and don't want to) because I like a beer or two every once in a while, and some rum always sits well around the holidays-but I think we forget that for some people it really is the demon rum. Some folks get really ugly when they're drunk, and they can create a lot of misery for a lot of people. Perhaps we forget that when we talk about drugs, one of the more damaging ones to society is the most legal and the most available.
Now, the people in these stories didn't have any counseling or rehab therapy-there wasn't much available in rural areas in the 1940s and 1950s, and I'm sure those two wouldn't have thought they needed any help anyway.
The good old days weren't always good, I suppose.
A bit of a ramble, and not a very pleasant one to read perhaps. Some of you told me to write whatever the hell I wanted. So there you go.
I've heard all of these accounts growing up and I feel I'd like to do better then my grandfather did to people and for myself. Have I done so? Hard to say. I've not gotten old enough to be a burden and a pain in the ass to those closest to me, although there may be one or two out in cyberspace who would say "Oh, YD, you've succeeded in being a pain much more spectacularly than you could have guessed". I'm generally happy-to-melancholy after (the exceedingly rare bout of) drinking and more inclined to go looking for a boxcar of cereal or an all-night drive-thru than look for trouble, which might be a good sign.
So it goes.
So this doesn't end on a downer, I direct you to this video clip purported to be from the 1950s, showing life in the year 2000. Astoundingly accurate!!