Monday, October 08, 2007

The Solemnest of Industries

I spent much of today in Rome, helping Kim and Cole and Christy sort through ephemera, esoterica, and mundania of Dad's in order to clear out the remainder of the house for Cole and Christy to move in the rest of their own belongings.

Kim and Cole and Christy began working on this yesterday, and I could tell from the tone of Kim's voice that she was emotionally overwhelmed by the prospect. Cole felt almost incapable of determining what should go and what should stay; he was afraid that he would dispose of something that meant a great deal to Kim or to me, and as a result he viewed every object in the house as iconic. Kim, meanwhile, was almost overcome with emotion at the sheer magnitude of the task; every object she picked up did have some sort of associated memory, and the combined weight of those memories was making it difficult for her to make progress.

Today, we tackled the job with the determination that we would have everything sorted, even if we didn't have it moved out. I tackled my old room, then migrated to Mom and Dad's old room. The bulk of my task was sorting DVDs and CDs, disposing of empty cases, damaged discs, home recordings, etc., and boxing up the remainder. The bulk of Dad's DVDs are older films--at least 50% of them were bargain-priced releases purchased at Big Lots or WalMart, and they had no financial value at all, only entertainment value. As for the CDs... well, at least 75% of them were Christmas discs because Dad loved Christmas music--but many of the discs were scuffed so badly as to be unplayable, since Dad had gotten out of the habit of putting discs back into their covers.

Once all those were sorted, I went through some of the decorative items, small lamps, desk accessories, etc., and trashed anything for which I couldn't think of an immediate use. What I didn't put in a trash bag, I put in a stack in the middle of the floor, indicating to everyone that as far as I was concerned, all of this was trash--it could be freely disposed of without worry of losing a family heirloom. I took very little; I had already picked up a few family pictures shortly after Dad's death, and household items hold far less emotional significance for me than do the handwritten notes and other items that I had already filed away.

Within a few hours, every room was sorted; even thought Kim's old room still had decorations on the shelves, I made it clear to Cole and Christy and Kim that there was nothing on those shelves that I wanted, so they could safely throw it away or take it to Goodwill if there didn't want it. While there was still work to be done, the remaining jobs were only loading and hauling, not sorting; I felt comfortable that once the sorting was done, Cole could handle the rest without worrying about upsetting someone by giving away a precious memory.

Within the next week or so, the house will be totally refurnished as Cole and Christy and Ollie's house--and that's just as it should be. Dad left us on August 14th; the house yearns for daily life to revisit its walls, and it benefits from the presence of people. I look forward to seeing it remade as their house--and no changes they make will ever do anything to take away the wonderful memories I have of the eight years that I lived there, or of the thirty-nine years that Mom and Dad lived there, or of the subsequent four and two-thirds years that Dad diligently made it his home in Mom's absence. So many cherished events occurred within those walls, and so much love resonated in every room... it's time for that to continue.

The title, by the way, comes from an Emily Dickinson poem that ran through my mind several times while sorting through the bits of Dad's life within those walls:

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth--

The Sweeping up the Heart
and putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity.


Anonymous said...

where is my picture? love aunt donna

Anonymous said...

when uncle tom died many moons ago he left me 2 guns and some old golf clubs my brother don took them until i was old enough too have them , well at 49 i think i am old enough so if you run across them i would like to have them,lots of love uncle paul

cliff said...

Strange... Dad never ever had a gun in the house at any point during my life; he was pretty much opposed to them. As far as golf clubs are concerned, the only clubs that Dad still had were the last set that he played with... Whatever happened to those clubs, I don't know (they have probably been given away long ago), but the guns never made it to Dad's house.