My husband and I are distinctively nomads. We have no attachment to home; we are technically homeless, despite owning investment property. So it is an odd fit tasking myself with helping my grandparents to entangle themselves from the buildup of 91 years of living and family heirlooms that precede their own lives.
Wrapped in my grandma’s sweater. I hadn’t expected it to be so darn cold over that week of June with them, but it was rainy and gray throughout my stay. It became exceedingly stressful throughout the process, as it was very hard for them to let go of things.
Neither the weather, nor my Poppy’s 91 years, was going to stop him from spending a full day, at the beginning of my stay, bent over his garden, tending to the tomatoes, strawberries, rhubarb, mint, and many other sustaining elements of life that he has sown out of a soil first filled with clay, that has taken many years of self composted fertilizer to fix. He may be moving within a month, but he is determined to return from the elder living home to continue with his garden until the house sells.
He unfortunately worked so hard that day, that combined with a sinus infection, he soon found he was unable to take their much anticipated trip to the beach with Joan’s daughter, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
Joan didn’t admit that this frazzled her, needing to miss the trip she has been talking about for months, so she could stay home and care for Poppy. All week she had been telling guests, “I get to spend all week watching my grandfather babies in the sand!” She would throw her arms up in the air with joy saying this.
Despite setbacks – a full day is devoted to running between doctors – we continued to soldier on, emptying the basement.
I tried to prevent my grandpa from lifting heavy things, but he insisted, and kept forgetting to wear a respiratory mask. I get frustrated with this, and his anger at me for spending so much time picking through everything to ensure all recyclables are recycled.
While he has an adopted a “Let’s get this done” attitude, my mission is to do so in a way that creates the least amount of waste – listing every salvageable item for pickup on Craigslist. As an able-bodied person I feel it is my duty to ensure this.
The items to be given away fill the garage three times over, and a few folks off Craigslist come and take nearly everything in the first round.
And for my grandpa, it is with a pained expression that he allows me to give away his mother’s old dishes, nearly 100 years old. They were stained and beyond being able to be displayed at our Bnb, and no one else on the family wanted them.
However, one lady off Craigslist took them and was grateful to use them in her home, even if she did not grasp the significance of their history in my family. It’s all a part of coming to terms with the cycle of our lives, which are both long and short, and not many of us will be remembered past a few generations after our deaths. Everything becomes anonymous and nameless.
One of the proudest giftings comes from their donation of 11 boxes of books to the Indian Valley Public Library. This is of special significance to me, as when my mother was sick, I spent over a year living between my grandparents, and this is the library where I found the books that took me on adventures all around the world, and outside of the craziness of my own life.
Each piece, as we carefully wrapped and packed them in wine boxes, elicited a different memory and story. As with much of the sorting during the week, a quick task quickly became a long discussion, but I was grateful to be there to listen and remember her stories.
I learned so much about them during my week and am grateful my new employer allowed me to delay my start date to spend that time with them.
I got to be there for my grandpa’s 91st birthday party.
And on the last day, they both seemed to be in better spirits, as they come to terms with all of these changes. My poppy recovered enough to encourage my grandma to book a flight the next day to visit her family, while he stayed at home and managed the rest of the basement job himself. It was an unheard of gesture, as they have always traveled together, so I was so so proud of him to see him act so thoughtfully.
One Last Swing Around Their Property