For the last eight months or so I’ve been cleaning my parents house in preparation to sell it. Mom passed away in the spring and Dad is trying to make the best of assisted living. The house has been in the family since 1964 and became our full-time residence in 1971. That’s 55 years of Palmiotti stuff in and around the house.
The task of cleaning out the old house, a house with closets and even rooms filled with ‘stuff’ from both our immediate collection and that of a couple of aunts who have passed away is daunting It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just ‘stuff.’ But its not just ‘stuff’, it’s OUR ‘stuff.’ There lies the difference.
On almost any given day there is a catastrophe somewhere in the world. This past week a cyclone wiped out a good part of east Africa, thousands are homeless. That really is a catastrophe. We all care, of course, but it is far away, its not OUR catastrophe. Our catastrophe happens to us, or maybe our immediate neighbor or our town. The further away it happens, the less personal it is for us, the less impact it has on our level of concern.
“Another hurricane hit …..”
“That’s terrible, pass the salt.”
Cleaning up ‘stuff’ becomes an issue because all those things lying around and in closets aren’t just things (i.e. stuff) they are memories. Almost everything has a piece of life associated with it. Individual memories, collective memories, some not so good, most very good. All that stuff is the sum not just of a life, but of the intermingling of a family of lives. In a way they trace the history of the family group. Even the dinnerware has attachment. I have become very good at picking things up, with every intention of making a decision on the particular item, only to put it down and move on. As I said at the beginning, it’s been eight months.
Cleaning up, giving away, throwing out, or donating memories is hard work. Most of the time I do this in what is now an almost empty house. There is still a lot of stuff but most of the big items are gone. Silence now permeates everywhere. Silence, in a house that always had music or tv or laughter can be overwhelming. Like a too heavy blanket you just can’t kick off. It can, and has at times, been too heavy.
Those days I just stop and go home.
March 23, 2019