I think the elderly lady who lives across the street from us has died.
I don’t know her name. We used to wave to her when we were both on our porches. She didn’t speak very much English, but I could tell she always liked to see how E. was growing.
In the last year we saw that she was getting frailer. She had a new, live-in caregiver. I would see them out in the neighbourhood, especially when E. and I were on our way to swimming.
We haven’t seen her for a while.
Yesterday a big skip (dumpster to those of you who don’t have Australian husbands influencing your vocabulary) was dropped off in front of their house.
Today the live-in caregiver and a man I don’t recognize (possibly the son-in-law, maybe a son) have spent the entire morning throwing what sometimes seems to be the entire contents of the house into the skip.
Piles of old phonebooks.
I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know the situation. I don’t know what sort of pressures they’re under, or how they’re feeling, so this next sentence is said without judgment. It about the situation that faces us all, rather than their own particular response to it.
The waste is horrifying.
E. was fascinated with the skip and its contents, so we spent much of the morning watching.
I found myself thinking of alternatives with almost every load.
Why weren’t the phone books put in the recycling?
Couldn’t those dishes go to a homeless shelter? I know the church down the street with an Open Door program was looking for similar items just a month or so ago.
I winced when I heard them smash against the bottom of the skip.
Again, I don’t know why they are doing what they are doing. Maybe something went horribly wrong in the house and those items are irreparably damaged. Maybe they are in a huge rush to get the house on the market before the spring buying frenzy wears off.
But it got me to thinking about our house, and those of our parents, and those of our grandparents.
There is just so.much.stuff.
And maybe we’ll move to a smaller apartment before the end comes, and we’ll have the chance to downsize and divest and make good use of things while still cognizant of our surroundings.
Then again, maybe we won’t.
I don’t want to saddle E. with a houseful. I have a book waiting for me at the library, Plum Johnson’s memoir, They Left Us Everything, about precisely that: having to clear out an entire house after the death of her last parent.
I don’t want that for E.
I don’t want that for ME with my own parents.
But I hope, if it does, I can take the time it takes to do a good job. To recycle what I can, donate what can be used by others. Throw out as little as possible.
I want the last touch of my parents and grandparents on this earth to be light.
And I hope, when the time comes for E., that I remained cognizant enough to make a list of contact numbers for the organizations that could make use of our stuff and that I put that list near our wills.
In the meantime, I’ll try to amass less stuff in the first place.