Ch.198 Don’t Leave a Mess Behind

Ch.198 Don’t Leave a Mess Behind

May 2023

          I have been cleaning, sorting, keeping, and throwing things since Pat was transferred to assisted living. I began with hundreds of bags of Pat’s clutter, scores of mystery books, thousands of common rocks – you name it, Pat had it, and usually several versions of whatever it was. This process took over a year.

          Now I’ve been sorting through our collection of minerals, organizing them, putting them into containers (110 and counting), charting them by name and by bin, and, with my daughter Jennifer’s help, creating labels for the bins (Sample: Bin 102: orange calcite, dogtooth calcite, manganite). Yesterday I stopped to ask myself one question: Why am I doing this so compulsively?

          My first answer is that Pat and her brother Kevin were “professional” gatherers, to the level of hoarding for Kevin and close to that with Pat. When Kevin died, we sold his home “as is.” It would have taken months to make it habitable; the property was valuable, overlooking the St. Croix River, and it sold quickly anyhow. As for our home, I could finally create order out of chaos. I like order. Symmetry. Space. Now I can have that environment, although I am keeping many special reminders of Pat – photos, jewelry, her brightly colored walking cane, etc.

          But as I thought more, I realized I have a second motivator for my action. I have taken an internal vow that I will not leave a mess for my kids to clean up when I die. I say the same thing to myself every time I take another load to the dump or to Goodwill: “This is one load of stuff Cindy, Jenny, and Joshua won’t have to handle.” I suppose this is part of my generation’s American dream of living independently until the end of life and never becoming a burden to your children. At least that was the hope/goal when I was growing up. It’s still my goal, although my son Joshua has invited me to live with him and Patty whenever I am ready to do so.

          It’s a little different with our minerals. I hope to give many of them to my children. Now they will be able to know the names of the minerals and a little about each of them.

          I am anticipating my death with each book I give away and with every mineral I sort and label. Leave no mess behind or, at least, leave as few messes as I can.

 NOTE: Ironically, two days after I wrote this note I was informed by a doctor at the Mayo Clinic that I needed to take several tests because one test I had just taken for a general checkup indicated I might have cancer.