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Rated: E · Book · Personal · #1704253
This is a set of stories about events I experienced growing up in Wisconsin
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#844234 added March 15, 2015 at 10:18pm
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Bare Walls

         Something happened the other day as my wife of forty-five years and myself were packing up our personal belongings with the help of our adult sons, preparing for a long move across country from Florida to Oregon. Hopefully this will be the last of many moves we’d made over the years, mostly due to my twenty-two year career in the Navy.

Moving Vans

         It’d become evident that we’d collected many things over those years, most full of memories of one sort or another. We’d run into these items from time to time in our daily lives, and reminisce about the circumstances surrounding them, gathering the emotional richness from them that come from time and family. Now that we were fully retired, they were palliatives of sorts, reminders of lives well spent, and milestones of many special events in our family.

         Our sons however, annoyed that we’d saved aside so many useless items and complaining about the room they’d take up on the van, tried ceaselessly to get us to trash them. As our oldest commented, “They’re just memories now, Pop; let them go.”

         For some reason, that statement was an epiphany for me at that moment. ‘Just memories…’ I suddenly recalled my last visit with my mother in the nursing home in Wisconsin my brother had placed her when he was unable to care for her adequately any more. Looking around her room, I couldn’t help but notice the sterility of the space. The bed was meticulously made, a TV hung from a pole in one corner. The bed stand was decorated by a paper doily, upon which rested her reading glasses.

         I couldn’t spot anything that she might have been reading however, and I was hopeful that perhaps the staff might have removed them in anticipation for our visit. My mother had loved to read as long as I could remember. Aside from a tacky print hanging from a wall and a loveseat for guests, the room was empty of anything that mattered to her, except her.

         For all intents and purposes, the room was bare, the walls were bare, and aside from her there was no evidence remaining of a long life well lived; nothing for her mind to unlock the memories that I knew must still have resided in her mind. No reminders to keep her company when guests had left her for their own lives.

Hospital Room

         Aside from the debilities that come with advanced age, my mother was alert and sassy, just as we’d remembered from years gone by. Her short-term memory would occasionally hiccup, and she’d forget to take a medication properly, which considering her size, four foot eleven inches, could have an adverse affect on her health. Since my single brother was an over-the-road trucker he was unable to track and manage a regular dosage routine for her, and since the nursing home was the same one in our small town that she’d spent years working at as a Licensed Practical Nurse, it turned out to be a convenient solution to their predicament.

         Before we left for home in Florida, I asked my step-sister to gather up some memorabilia for my mother and take whatever was allowed to her room at the home. Whether or not she complied, I was unable to verify before our departure for home some fifteen hundred miles away.

         That was the last time we saw my mother alive, for soon afterwards she passed quietly in her sleep at the age of eighty-four. I’d forgotten my concerns about her emotional comfort until this past week, during the loading of our household goods for the cross-country move. Now I was faced with the probability of ending up like my mother, barring any unforeseen accident; alone, without those memorabilia that served as data banks for our memories, staring at bare walls until the final trumpet sounded.

         Much to consternation of our sons, and blind to any of their threats to not support us in our dotage, my wife and I stood firm in retaining those artifacts that we’d accumulated that were most dear to us. Since we were footing the bill for the move, it seemed just, and the insight we gained from our boys’ attitude towards our past proved invaluable for determining our own future disposition.

         These useless ‘things’ we were bringing with us were indeed data banks of emotional strength for us old-timers, and whether or not our sons remained adamant that we could replace them at our destination, their value comes from the moments they created those memories, not from their current market value.

         I remembered walking through my mother’s old home, then owned by my brother when she passed, and we all drew from the data-bank memory of her collected artifacts, allowing the old memories to flood in to be shared by us ‘children’, followed by a casual wake in the evening with our families. Those were the triggers that reawaked times that we’d all shared over the years, and for a couple of bitter-sweet days, we bonded together once again.

Antique artifacts

         My wife and I are now in the NEW middle-age of this century, myself in my early seventies, my wife in her late sixties, in reasonably good health, and promise to remain a thorn in our children’s lives for years to come, God willing. It may be that when we finally reach the age where we cannot take care of ourselves we’ll be faced with the ultimate indignity of being ‘placed’ in a nursing home with bare walls, without any artifacts from our past to stimulate soft and kind memories, but until that time we’ll keep things polished and in good repair; for the Antiques Roadshow if nothing else.

Antique Trunk

H – *Anchor*

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