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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Know What to Throw Away; Know What to Keep

Our Walk to End Alzheimer’s was Saturday and, as usual, I couldn’t help but be a little nervous about the weather. We were at the fairgrounds at 6:30 a.m. unloading vehicles, setting up tables, and trying to figure out the best places to put everything. Before the 8:30 a.m. registration time, we were set up and ready to go.

By walk time, we heard good news from the registration table—we were very close to our $34,000 goal, and with the pledges to come in after the walk—we would easily reach that amount. We handed out trophies to the largest team and the best-fundraising team which turned out to be the same team—Sylvia G. Thompson Residence Center. Fairview Nursing Home came in second in fundraising, and Jim’s Team came in third. I think that as a family team, coming in third is quite an honor.

In addition to the trophies, we recognized the youngest walker and the one with the most birthdays. This year it turned out that I was well acquainted with one of them and knew the proud mama of the other. The youngest “walker was Catherine, daughter of Jessica and Brandon Snell. Jessica is a co-chair of the Sedalia Walk. And the guy with the most birthdays was ninety-year-old John Chambers, better known to be as Uncle Johnny.

As soon as I came home from the walk, I faced the reality of having to find a new place to put everything in the home that I share with my new husband. I knew that the fundraiser and walk materials that I keep from year to year couldn’t stay in the back of Harold’s Tahoe forever. So, I went through the supplies and organized them to store on a shelf in the garage. Easy peasy, you say? Not quite. We had to reorganize the shelves in order to find a place for my three totes. We wound up with several trash bags, totes full of recyclable items, bags and boxes for Open Door, and, of course, there were the things to keep.

Wednesday, we made another trip to my house to start the monumental task of sorting through forty-five years of accumulation. The problem for me is that digging through drawers, boxes, papers, and miscellaneous cubbyholes, storage boxes, and stacks of stacks amounts to tearing at the heart of memories.

It’s easy for me to decide what to give to charity. Some items were easy to toss, especially those things I should never have kept in the first place, or those I’d just never gotten around to throwing away. But other things—Jim’s belt buckles, his knife, one of his many pocket watches—okay, those I had to keep. Harold kept pulling things out of drawers. A phone call to the optometrist settled the issue of Jim’s and my old eye glasses. Recycle.

Am I the only person that hides a few secret things in an underwear drawer? Harold tossed an old diary and a few of Jim’s letters from Vietnam that I managed to keep since 1969. I tossed them in the “keep” tote.

“What’s this,” he asked.

I looked up to see the yellow nightie I had taken to Hawaii when Jim and I married. Moment of truth. I couldn’t wear it anymore. It was old. I certainly wasn’t going to give it to Open Door for someone else to wear. “Hand it here,” I said. I threw it in the trash. And started crying.

So, in a few hours we cleaned out the dresser and chest of drawers. We hauled out several sacks of trash, but I still have to go through the bags of socks, underwear, pajamas, shirts, shorts, and odds and ends that would clothe a small nation.

It had been raining most of the day and as soon as the rain let up we loaded the Tahoe and started down the drive. I told Harold that I felt like I was throwing away part of my life. “You don’t have to throw away anything,” he said.

“Yes, I do.” I turned my head and looked out the window as we drove away. The tears came again.

It’s just too easy to accumulate and so hard to pare it down. I never wanted my kids to have to go through all my stuff when I’m gone. Yet, in reality, it would be much easier for them to decide what to throw away and what to keep. They wouldn’t have the emotional ties that I do and wouldn’t feel so much like they were throwing away a lifetime of memories.

copyright © August 2014 L. S. Fisher

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