The unbearable lightness of being gutted

Ed Smith
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They call this the "throwaway" generation.
Other Half and I do not belong to it. We throw nothing away. Even the garbage gets scrutinized before it leaves the house in case there's a piece of garbage we think we might need some day down the road in 50 years or so.
Actually, we are not fanatics about keeping endless pieces of string or bits of soap or old teabags. But if we think something has the potential to be useful to someone somewhere someday, we'll hang on to it with the tenacity of superglue.
Accordingly, we have an attic so full of yesteryear, not even the cold has room to get in. No one has been in that attic for 27 years. In fact, it may all be gone by now. Someone may have broken in and stolen it all. It may all have decayed into dust. Everything may have gotten up and left by itself.
I have this study which has several shelves, considerable floor space, three desks, four walls and a ceiling. There's not room enough for another coat of paint anywhere. Everything that was ever given to me as a speaker at anything from a banquet to a conference to a hamster's funeral is somewhere in that study. Plaques, certificates, paintings, etchings, photographs, rocks (plain and painted), small toy boats, caps, souvenirs of this and that and everything and everyone, the good, the bad and the ugly - it all ends up on my walls, my floors and my shelves. After 40 years, it tends to add up.
We have a basement. At least, I think we have a basement. There's so much stuff stacked down there it's hard to tell. Years ago, the offspring did manage to claim some floor space for bedrooms and the like, but you won't find earwigs or roaches or carpenters down there. No room for anything with more than two legs.
My feeling is that if someone gave me something, I owe it to them to keep it. I may not remember where it came from. I may not even know what it is. But I will keep it.
For every force there is an opposite force, for every attitude there is opposite attitude. Our opposite attitude is Number One Son.
Number One Son keeps nothing, except old cars, old quads, old snowmobiles and old guitars. Until a short time ago, these could be seen in some numbers around his house. But other than that, anything that's older than 72 hours has no value for him. Anything that's older than one year must be destroyed.
Son has no patience with our clinging to anything that can be clung to.
That was no problem at all while his place of abode was four hours away by jet aircraft. He could complain about us all the day long and we didn't care. But suddenly, he's home for some time and we are under siege.
He discovered a hitherto unknown room in the basement that appeared when the extension was built some 10 years ago. We have been using it for a collection room. That is, a collection of everything that no one knows what to do with but doesn't have the heart to throw away. Son went for it like a space-age vacuum cleaner in a dust bowl.
0H was pretty much helpless in the face of this onslaught, but she did manage to insist that she see everything that was being tossed in the hole of the Green Bay Waste Disposal site. The battle raged for hours.
"You can't throw that out!" "It's got to go!" "But I've had it since..." "Gotta go!" "But I might need that some day!" "You'll never need it again. Neither will anyone else. It's gotta go!"
I listened to all that with a smile … OK, a grin. It was the irresistible force against the immovable object. All day long it went on, but finally next morning the van was loaded for the dump. Except that we're not allowed to call it a dump anymore. It's a site.

Off to the site
I don't know where I got the courage to get aboard the van to drive to the site. I'm older than a year and pretty much useless.
It started the moment the van started.
"I didn't see you throwing that out! That can't go! That belonged to my third cousin once removed. She'd have a fit if she knew I was throwing that out. You can't throw away the headboard for our old bed!"
I thought she was getting sentimental here, perhaps thinking back to our younger days as a couple.
"That wood will make perfectly good kindling! I'm always looking for kindling."
We made it to the dump site (!) and drove down into the bowels of the place. The doors of the van opened up and Son proceeded to unload.
"No, that's not going! That's a perfectly good chair. All it needs is a seat. We could use that in Ed's old house! Ed, you can't let him throw that away!"
I only smiled -- or grinned, as the case may be.
Finally the van was empty. OH looked around and began to realize where she was.
"Look, look over there! See that round table? It's only missing one leg. Ed, we could get another leg put on that."
Total silence from the other two Smiths.
Last night, Son discovered my study. The dozens of cassette tapes by people who made only cassette tapes because they were dead when CDs came out. The countless Christmas cards from years past. The printers and computers from years past. The cords and wires and chargers and headphones and manuals from said printers and computers. The manuscripts from books long published and long out of print. The catalogues of things for boats.
Where is it all going?
0H is grinning like she knows.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is

Geographic location: Ed, Springdale

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