September 18, 2019
Last Saturday I finally got around to cleaning out some of the garage, a job that was long overdue. For the past 10 years, or so, I have been finding places to put things that, as it turns out, didn’t really need to be saved. But while deciding what to keep and what to throw away, I came across some items that brought back a lot of memories. Some of them good and some of them sad, I had to deal with sorting out what to keep and what to throw away.
Leaning against a shelf I needed to get to was an old, red child’s bicycle. The sissy bar was still wrapped with a heavy pad that had the words Wipe Out on it. “How appropriate” I thought to myself. I picked it up and looked it over. How many skinned knees, bruised elbows and scraped up hands did my son get riding this thing? My goodness he had so much fun on it. It was amazing the wheels never fell off, and that they had stayed round. Still fastened to the air valves on the tires were two light green lights that flashed when the wheels turned. He always had to look down and make sure they were blinking when he rode. They eventually stopped working, shortly before he graduated to a bigger bicycle.
I held the old bike up to look at it. My intention when I stored it was to save if for the next kid who needed a starter bike, but it needed too much work now and it was stood up on it’s kick-stand next to the pile that was headed to the dump.
The shelf was stacked with so much stuff I didn’t know where to start. “At the top” I guess, and work my way down.
There were several old canes that Mrs. Me’s father had used for a short time, and a walker that had belonged to her mother when she had gotten sick. I had never really wanted to ask my wife what I should do with them because I was afraid to. Not out of fear, but because I didn’t want to remind her of them or the time in our lives they were tied to. There was an old wheel chair, too, that had been left over from then. That was the first time either of us had lost a parent. It was also the first time I actually saw someone die, after a battle with cancer. I will never forget the final words of my mother-in-law. After laying for days without really saying anything, weak from not eating, and fragile from what the cancer had done to her, she opened her eyes, sat up in bed and said over and over, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” It was a voice I didn’t recognize, but she didn’t stop until she was satisfied all of her children had heard her. They were all there, and I imagine that it is something they will also never forget.
As I continued removing clutter from the shelf I picked up a dusty cat food dish, and a litter box. “Sadie” I remembered, our daughter’s cat from college that was a guest of ours when she started her internship in Illinois. Our daughter would visit on weekends, and Sadie, who mostly kept out of sight, was always happy to see her. Two was the only one she really trusted, but the cat had gotten sick.
One day Mrs. Me realized the cat needed help and took her to the vet. She had stopped eating and had a sore in her mouth. The news was not good. It tuned out to be cancer. This was all happening at the same time as Mrs. Me mother being sick. When I received the news about the cat I felt overwhelmed. I knew we had to call our daughter and tell her that her cat would need to be put to sleep. I also knew it was something that couldn’t wait, and she wouldn’t be able to come home to see her to say good-bye.
That day I remember coming home from work with the idea of digging a grave for Sadie, next to our other cat, beneath the Willow Tree. All Two asked was that Sadie be buried in her favorite blanket.
With the shallow hole ready I lowered our daughter’s college companion into it, wrapped in her blanket. I remember collapsing to my knees beside Mrs. Me, who was with Me the whole time, and sobbing. “It’s just a stupid cat,” I said to her, trying to convince myself the tears were foolish. But family pets are always more than “just” anything.
Continuing on with my project I gathered an array of boxes of screws and nails and placed them in a tray to keep them all together. One of the boxes was quite large and in poor condition, so I poured them into a second plastic tray for safe keeping. Next to the box was Duke’s old food and water dishes. Duke, the Black Lab-Shepherd mix that had been a member of our family for 16 years while our children were growing up, had been gone for about 10 years or so. I had forgotten I kept the dog dishes. Beneath the plastic bowls was his old chain that used to be clipped to a railing by the back door. For the last seven years of his life he was the best 98-pound, lap dog I have ever known.
Duke had stopped walking. If I picked him up to his legs he would go with Me on short walks, but that was the extent of it.
The day I dropped him off at the vet I had to carry him into the office. When I went to leave he got up to follow Me, and I told him “No” because the vet needed to check him out. He laid down in his pen and looked at Me. I knew he didn’t want to stay. I wonder to this day if I had let him follow Me what would have happened.
The vet couldn’t find anything wrong with him. On his last day, the day we made the decision to say good-bye to him, Micro Me was let out of school to see him at the vet one last time. I don’t remember the year, but I will always remember the date. February 7 – My birthday.
All of this stuff… all of the things I needed to get rid of. I just don’t like to throw things away that have memories attached to them.
I finally realized that getting rid of some of the clutter didn’t mean I was getting rid of the memories. Those are mine for as long as I live.