The past few April 13ths have always left me in a somber, reflective mood. This April 13th, today, marks the 17th anniversary of my father's death. I was 16 years old at the time, he was 42. So I have now been alive longer without my father than with my father, which in my head makes it seem something like an entire lifetime ago that he was alive.
The first half dozen anniversaries were incredibly difficult and immobilized me for the day. While the day is still difficult, I get through it. More acutely aware of all the incredible blessings in my life (my children, my husband), I am left stinging by the fact that he is not in my life to share this with.
I had a rather strange experience today. On our way home from church and nearly home, we spotted a Frugal Classics' Estate Sale sign on the corner before ours, accompanied with a slew of cars. The kids were all content with a piece of candy Daddy had given them, so I hopped out and made my way up to the wonderful 1940's multilevel home which I knew had little updating, if any, on the interior. I love this style of home and the way people used to decorate, and I felt momentarily cheered by the fact that I would get to take in some of yesteryear.
I misjudged my feelings. The whole experience made me very sad. Every single thing of this person's life was laid out, room by room, all marked with gaudy bright red price tags. From half used tubes of toothpaste and gallons of paint, to worn-out purses with matching pumps, and dated suits smelling of pipe tobacco. Small porcelain knickknacks and plates, old tupperware, lamps and cheap paintings of the Virgin Mary. Thousands of VHS videotapes, meticulously labeled in typerwriter font on white labels. Thousands of vinyl records, housed in at least 50 boxes, stored in a basement which smelled of some rodent's untimely (and unnoticed) demise.
Maybe because of the specific day, but I felt a sad, voyeuristic discomfort going through all of what someone owned. Wondering how much of it was prized by the now-deceased couple, what they would think knowing everything they owned was reduced to a cheap red sticker, all of which was now reduced 50% for today only.
I have but few of my fathers' possessions. His law school class ring; two wool cardigans, a baseball jacket, some college books and notes. I am grateful for these things, but I realize that they are just things. My children will not prize them as much as I do, and in a generation or two they will be sitting on a Goodwill shelf or perhaps even in a dumpster.
We certainly are not our possessions. While walking through this house, over and over again I heard in my head, "Don't value yourself by the stuff you have."
Fortunately, I am of sound mind (give or take), and I have my childhood memories. There is even a cologne out still on the market that when I smell, I turn to see if it's my Dad. Going through this house today made me realize that I need to begin writing down these memories. In case someday I myself can't recall easily, or if someday one of my children or grandchildren want to know something about Grandpa Carl.
Life most certainly is not about things. Right now Cliff is upstairs, bathing the two littles, while Hattie is finishing a book and I'm taking a moment to reflect upon today. For dinner, I made a homemade vegetable and bean soup to accompany the homemade bread Cliff made, and afterwards we all laughed together at the goofy antics on America's Funniest Home Videos. In a moment, I'll go up and read a tale from Stories From Around the World to Atticus and Paloma, and then the first chapter of the second book in the original Nancy Drew Series to Hatfield. And after that I'll prepare our home school week at the kitchen table, sitting next to Cliff while he prepares for the upcoming work week. Life is to be lived, and memories are being built, even in these quiet moments such as these.