It’s been a month since my father died. It doesn’t seem long. When I was told the news by a police officer at my door I thought I’d take this sort of thing in some dramatic way. I’d drop to my knees, arms outstretched to the sky, it would be cloudy, birds would fly overhead. I’d sob uncontrollably. No. I took it like a lot of other things in life. News. Bad news. I called my boss first to let him know I wouldn’t make it to work for a few days. Made my rounds calling uncles and aunts and cousins. I have no siblings.
It was a great service. Lots of people showed up. My father, extremely active in AA for nearly 20 years, had lots of drunks show up. We had an AA meeting during one of the viewings. My pastor said it was one of the most spiritual things he’d ever been too. A kid from church played Amazing Grace on the bagpipes at the cemetary. It was all very surreal.
But then the business starts. Emptying out the apartment. Calling the creditors. Finding the life insurance. Calling someone to pick up the junk; clothes, shoes, furniture……..shit nobody wants. The majority of it no one wanted. My father had little in way of assets. His TV was mid-80s. He had a 5 year old car. Clothes. A couple board games.
I’ve always been told that garning stuff was pointless. I’ve always believed it too. I’ve read Ecclesiastes 6 dozen times. I thought I got it. I didn’t. I had no idea.
My father was in the National Guard. Had nearly 30 years at Westinghouse as a mid-level manager building radar equipment. Laid off in the mid-90s and went to work for a marketing company. I had to wonder as I looked at the mounds of clothes 6 feet high, the silverware, the furniture: “over 40 years of working and this is it?”
I’m all about math. Let’s say my father earned 30k a year for 40 years. He earned much more than that, especially during his Westinghouse days. $30,000 X 40 = $1,200,000. A closet full of clothes is his best financial asset (minus the life insurance). You’ve got to be kidding me.
What did we keep? Pictures. Loads of ‘em. A handgun from a distant cousin who served in WWI plus a helmet and ammo belt. Letters from an old girlfriend when he served in the Guard. Personal stuff, memories, that shit is worth something. The TV my father spent years watching? Off to Goodwill. The clothes? Gone. Furniture? Had it hauled off. Friends, family, good times, are highly valued. I’d kill for 100 more pictures of my father. I recorded his voicemail on he had on his cell phone before I cancelled the service (A generic message where my father only says his name. It’s the only time I can still hear his voice.)
It makes me think of how pointless our consumerism has gotten. We gain all this shit and when you die no one wants it. We want more good times. More memories. More vacations. More ballgames. A chance for my kids to see him at their birthday parties. To know that my youngest children will have memories of him.
I won’t get them.
I thought I had a good grasp on this concept. I thought I really understood it.
I had no idea.