Moving from a place picked out by hopes and dreams to a place selected by life and circumstances involves a balance of resiliency, and resignation. My dad and step mom lived in the same house for decades and it was easy to think they were still thriving there. We want things to stay the way we remember them even if our memories are just colorful, soft-focus versions of reality. One reality coming into sharper focus has been the toll of Parkinson’s Disease. As my dad’s health declined, so did his ability to be grounds keeper and chief superintendent let alone climb the stairs that divide nearly everything in their tri-level home.
The struggles of maintaining a house and talk of what might be done started to feel like a new normal. Then, a couple of weeks before Christmas, the time of processing and planning became present action when my dad let me know they had rented a place in a facility for seniors and would move in a week. Now we were faced with deadlines to help them sort belongings, keep the essentials, and clean out the rest. A short to-do list of the hardest letting go someone can face.
The house has clutter dominating the floors and flat areas and the miasmic haze of aging cats with aging keepers dominates the senses. I signed up to help clean out the garage and can take with me any unclaimed tools. Dad loved his tools and continually created occasions to put them to use. I grew up with things being built and repaired not bought or hired out. Lately, dad’s projects have been easier for him to start than to finish and putting things away just took more energy than was available. The garage has boxes and piles that look like easy targets for a shovel and a good trash bag. But each collection may contain a screwdriver, a wrench, or a good pair of pliers somewhere near the bottom so each must be gone through with care.
My dad and I started the day at a store where we picked out red a plastic tote on wheels to hold the tools that will sit on the balcony of the new apartment. Back at the garage my dad took time to select the particular screwdrivers, pliers, and other necessities he wanted in that tote. I watched him go through the treasures that I sifted out of the piles of junk, his shaky hands picking out implements of steady work. I think he selected things that he liked and remembered as much as things he thought he might use. Throwing out bad memories is so much easier than purging the good ones. He will be living in a rented apartment that provides maintenance and improvements so interference would be rude and possibly even punished. There won’t be much workspace or dexterity for small projects so I’m not sure what use will be made of the tools in the new plastic tote. For now, it’s easier to imagine what’s useful than to think about life in a small apartment. Life in the new home will be a focus once the large house fades to memories.
Back at home I gaze at my own garage now scattered with tools waiting to be organized. I wonder if I will have time to put things in order and if I’ll put any of them to use. I guess my own possible future is just as hard to visualize in the face of so many things to go through.
– Brian Vos