Monday, December 29, 2014

30 years of stuff

A few weeks ago we uneventfully passed 30 years of living in this house. A few more weeks will be 30 years of marriage. A few more weeks after that I will have lived longer than my father.

All those things have come together for today's blog. Let's see how this goes.

My readers will recall me mentioning the basement full of stuff. As I've organized other areas the excess has been pushed into what I used to use as a shop. It's a mess, as you can see for yourself, before and an in progress after. Still more to be done. At least you can see the bench surface now.

Trying to find anything is very difficult. There are several missing chisels from an expensive set. I still have not located the missing cowboy boots. I didn't expect to find them as I tidied up the bench, and was not surprised. I was hoping for all the chisels, and will have to widen my search. What has surprised me though is some of the stuff I did find.

After 30 years there are all sorts of left over parts of stuff. Bags of little screws and odds and ends. Both sides of my family have pack rat tendencies, so I come by it honestly. Back in the day on the farm you never knew if some little thing would come in handy for something, and much cheaper than having to buy something new.

The problem is finding that thing, whatever it might be, when it's wanted. I still consider it amazing that I found 6 machine thread bolts exactly the right size to fit our new TV to the existing rack, and don't expect to ever be that lucky again. We've reached the time of life where spending several hours hunting for something that might not actually exist is much more expensive that going and buying some new doodad, or making do somehow else.

One example. I had gone out to find these small plastic discs to separate the glass slabs that make up the sculpture in the back yard. I knew perfectly well we had a box or more of the little discs, but couldn't find them. It took a while to buy them, but at least I knew it was possible. Today, when cleaning off the bench, I found 2 boxes of the little discs. No longer needed.

I have been ruthless about throwing things away. The garbage bag isn't quite full, but it's very heavy. Somehow I had acquired a Ni-Cad battery charger that I've never used, and a cable converter, whatever that is. Plus many more anonymous bits of plastic and metal. Along the way I found other stuff. Mortgage and house insurance paperwork from 1988. An actual film point and shoot camera. Does anyone want this for some reason?

There was a stack of paper 7 inches high from some courses I took in the early 80's, and they've been untouched ever since. We have boxes of various gift and event cards, fancy bags, wrapping paper, pretty boxes, and related stuff all jumbled together higgledy piggledy. I've sorted that out a bit, but there is much more remaining.

While I was going through the stuff today, I was imagining myself cleaning out the home of some elderly person, thinking about the value of the various items. Value is a funny thing. It might be nothing from a monetary sense, and yet have a great deal of sentiment. I was also thinking about who might be cleaning up after us, after another 30 years of living here. That's the plan, anyways. I fear us becoming those people, the ones with stuff stacked to the ceiling making the house into a firetrap. Which is why I'm trying to get a grip on it now.

When we last repainted we tucked a number of framed photos into storage, and I just found that box again. One of them is of my mom and her sister as small children, and their parents, whom I called Grandpa and Granny. He passed away some years ago now, but Granny is still going strong. This photo was taken late 1944, and shows them as a young couple. Young, and yes, attractive. Granny has a nice smile, though her eyes are sad. Grandpa, who I remember as a taciturn, somewhat grim man, looks like he's about to break into a smile.

Fast forward less than 20 years. My earliest memories of them are from the early 60's, and they are old people. The post-war years in Western Canada are generally considered to be good times, yet they were not well off. I remember a shopping trip where she is calculating prices and quantities, and counting to the penny. They are thinner than lean, the bones show in their faces, and they have gray hair. Maybe there's a story there, but I don't know it.

I know the people in the photo, but whoever cleans up our house after us almost certainly won't know them or even know of them. The photo will be of no value to them. Yet when it was taken it would have been expensive. I'm not even sure how many other copies exist. There is no chance of me ever throwing it away.

Granny could now have her photo taken with 4 children, 9 or 10 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren that I know of and I suspect there are a couple more, and 1 great-great-grandchild that I know of. I'm not the best one at keeping track of cousins even with Facebook. It is sad that such a photo will only ever be in my imagination. I cannot conceive of the circumstances that would lead to such a photo actually happening. I'm reasonably sure that Granny has not met all her descendants.

Our expectation is that we will outlive our parents, and do better than them economically. Certainly the people of my parent's generation won the economic and medical jackpot. Their parents are generally the first people that could take advantage of early 20th century medical advances, and better nutrition, leading to bigger and healthier babies who lived longer.

However, that isn't always the case. I said earlier that in a few weeks I will outlive my father. Cancer. Death still walks among us, and sometimes his choices seem capricious and cruel. Dying in your mid-fifties is considered a life cut tragically short. Here and now, a death before 70 is considered  premature.

Nobody knows when their time will come. Retirement planning would be much easier if you knew how long your money had to last. Certainly I look forward to a long and happy life, and am doing everything in my power to bring it about. Yet I'm surrounded by idiot drivers. Statistically, that's what is most likely to kill me. It doesn't stop me from driving; I just bring my A game, every drive.

Since we don't know when Death will tap our shoulders, we should be bringing our A game to every day, every activity. Enjoying them. We should especially be bringing our A game to our family and friends, to the people we know. They are the ones that make life happy and worth having.

The traditional 30th anniversary gift is pearl, and the updated suggestion is diamonds. Except I don't think either of them would go over well. I've thought of something else. I can only hope it goes over well. It's funny, the 30 years has gone by really quick. The first mortgage papers were all the money in the world, and it took forever to pay off, or so it seemed. I guess time flies when you're enjoying yourself.

Yesterday was another spin session, and I had my cheerleading squad again. I've missed this.


  1. Love this post! Lots to chew on. And, yes, we should bring out A game to everything.

  2. Wow, 30 years in one house. That is hard for me to imagine given that my 8.5 years of living in Calgary has been the longest I have every lived in one place. Happy anniversary to you and Linda!


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