I was driving to my parent’s house and my cell phone rang. I’ll listen to it later I thought. That day was just a clean-up-&-toss-out day, so I was sure that nothing could be urgent. I was just minutes away, after all.
When I pulled up to the driveway I was shocked to see how many belongings were layed out across the cement in the driveway and garage. Items that my mom had, for years, begged us to go through and toss or organize, now took up every spare inch of the driveway and then some…
I saw our wonderful neighbors sitting with my dad, showing him each item, talking to him, seeing him shake his head no, and then exhaustedly walk away and put it in a particular pile.
As I walked closer to greet my dad and give him a hug, I saw tears running down his face. I saw so much pain in his eyes that even now as I recall it, I tear up and shake.
They were helping my dad clean out the house that he and my mom lived in, the only place I knew as “home”, that held soo many memories for us…
It was a fairly large house. Nothing in comparison to the luxury homes I see nowadays but it was nice. One of my childhood friends joked that it looked like a miniature ‘White House’ because of the white pillars in front. I loved that front porch and swing…
It was a decent enough size to hold a lot of sentimental belongings. How ironic, I thought, now that mom has passed away, is when we all finally listen to her and start cleaning out that large attic and basement.
Shamefully I wiped away tears, held my dad’s hand and started assisting my neighbors in asking him “What would you like to have us do with this?”. To every question his answer was “Keep it please. That’s from when your mom and I went… (insert name of road trip, family vacation and/or small event he remembered)…I love that (name of trinket)… It reminds me of your mom.” and the heartbreak washed over his face even more.
From the smallest to the heaviest of items, no matter how broken or how much he knew he wouldn’t use them again, he said “Keep it please, don’t throw that away, it’s in perfectly good condition. ”
After awhile we were all getting a little flustered and frustrated. He was about to be moved into a small ranch-style (only half of it) house. There was no way there would be enough room for all of these things.
When he wouldn’t let go of some old Christmas wrapping (several hours later) I had to step away to take a deep breath. Not because I thought he was being irrational or overly sentimental but because up until that day, I had been like that too.
My mom had told me countless time to donate some of my toys to a child who could receive some joy out of them, instead of them sitting in an attic just collecting dust. She had been so right. And ~ If I had done so, my dad wouldn’t be sitting there on the cement floor of his garage, being forced to remember even more memories that made him shed tears, again.
Over and over it hit me like a tons of bricks, smacked so hard into my chest that I felt like I couldn’t breathe. With each item he insisted on keeping and each tear that fell down his cheek, I was reminded of my immature needs those years ago. “No mom, don’t give that away, that was a gift from ___ and I want to keep it forever! “
Our family friends eventually talked him into giving up some items. Bless their hearts for their efforts and patience. I couldn’t handle it. My mom had passed away just a couple weeks earlier and it was too much for either my dad or I to take.
That day changed my need to keep sentimental items. I saw how much pain was in my dad’s eyes and swore I’d never allow myself to get emotionally attached to material things ever again.
This wasn’t the beginning to my journey into ‘minimalism’ though. I hadn’t even heard of it back then. As a matter of fact, I went the other direction, let go of too much. Because of my story, which I hope to tell some day, there were things I tossed that I should’ve kept and I’m still more than sad about them.
I started to go the extreme other direction. A part of the grieving processes, especially denial and anger for me was tossing anything and everything 😦
It would be many years before I would want to or begin to understand how to find the right balance.
When I arrived home later that day I listened to the voicemail from the phone call earlier that day. It had been from one of my parents’ family friends. they were asking me to come help my dad because he was having a difficult time letting go of so many things.
Until that moment, I didn’t realize how much I was too…