Monday, March 14, 2022

Doing time’s dirty work

     Time will send a henchman to your home someday to tear through your most cherished possessions and scatter them forever, and there was a certain irony that last month time’s designated agent would be me, a nostalgic man inclined to keep everything.
     Time will cure you of that tendency.
     I arrived at my parents’ townhome in Boulder, Colorado, then proceeded to my father’s studio and went to work.
     Pausing, yes, one last time to regard the tableau: delicate paintings, watercolors, on styrene foam core boards, framed on the walls and set out on a pair of handmade wooden easels, built by a neighbor, that reached almost to the ceiling.
     The two big drafting tables, with the Winsor & Newton watercolors — cobalt blue, burnt sienna, alizaran crimson — some still in their beige boxes, the jar jammed with well-worn brushes. I ran my thumb across the bristles of a wide sable brush. It tossed off a puff of dust.
     Time to move my parents to a nursing home — my mother’s term, though I gently correct her, with all the brightness I can muster. “A dynamic senior lifestyle community, Ma!” I say. In Buffalo Grove, 17 minutes from our house.    
     The Scandinavian design hutch that sat in our dining room when I was growing up in Berea, Ohio, and had been, for the past 34 years in a corner of my father’s studio. I started there with the books, kept behind glass doors where the china nobody wants once had been.
     I always thought we’d keep the dessert china: Royal Doulton with delicate flowers. But my wife made a face when I held up a cup to her, inquiringly. We have our own nice china our boys don’t want. No need for another set.
     I began pulling the books out —”Patterns in Nature” by Peter S. Stevens, “Fearful Symmetry” by Stewart and Golunitsky — piling them on the floor. My father had been a nuclear physicist at NASA for 30 years, then retired in 1987 to paint watercolors: ocean waves and canyon walls and that damn vase he loved so much.

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  1. Thank you for donating the art supplies. Half a tube of cobalt blue is still half full!

    1. Actually, he had dozens and dozens of unopened tubes of paint.

  2. A number of years ago we learned the Swedish word döstädning. Loosely translated it means “death cleaning”.
    It is something people do as they approach their twilight years.
    Rather than leaving all they’ve collected through the years, the parents start to get rid of things that really hold little or no value.
    The result is not leaving this job to one’s children.
    It’s not for everyone and it seems that Neil is enjoying this experience as he travels through his parents’ belongings.

    1. I think Neil could make a column, an intriguing, wonderful, even joyful column, out of his own demise, but I very much doubt that he's enjoying the döstädning.



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