Sunday, September 16, 2012

Mom, Dad, and Things

Jesus said a lot about things.  “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!” (Luke 12/27 & 28).  “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  (Luke 12/33 & 34).
As a young man, this is how I was taught — urged — to consider things.  Use them as needed, be thankful for them, but don’t be attached to them.  This attitude rambles around in my psyche.  I value possessions, but, as I grow older, they become more a burden than a joy.
My mother, in her final years, spent a lot of time getting rid of stuff.  She wanted to end her life with only those things she needed: her home; a few keepsakes that are meaningless to anyone but her, my brother, and me; a few clothes and a few pieces of jewelry; her television; and her car.  All the superfluous stuff she gave away or tossed.
Mom gave me her car and, because she died here, she left me what few clothes she had when she came here, a little jewelry, and some photographs.  She also left me the linens and furnishings of the bed in which she died.  Her bills were all paid and she owned her condo, so she didn’t leave me any obligations.
My Dad died in 1981 (on Christmas Eve, as a matter of fact: my brother said at the time, “Dad always hated Christmas”).  He left my brother and me his tools along with a car and a few clothes.  He left us no obligations either.  My brother, who actually uses tools to great effect, took most of them with my total agreement.  My brother, though, insisted that I take a basic tool box so that either Beni or I would be able to do simple work around the house.  I took the tool box. I have used its contents, however, maybe three or four times in the 30 years since Dad’s death, although Beni has used them fairly often.
7 years of therapy allowed me to see my Dad’s treatment of me (and of my Mom and brother) as physically and emotionally abusive.  Even on his deathbed, when I was a dad myself and almost 35 years old, I was afraid of him and, honestly, had hatred for him because of what he did to all of us.  My attitude toward his stuff, then, was to get rid of it and never see it again.
Now I mourn my Mom, who died one month ago tomorrow.  Her stuff — her car, her remaining jewelry, her keepsakes, and her bed furnishings — I hold onto for dear life.  I sleep on the pillow and under the comforter that were on the bed on which she died.  I have her small pillow, the one she used to help keep her back comfortable in her chair, in my chair, and I sometimes hug it, once in a while with tears but always with a need to be close to her.  I saved the night dress in which she died and have it with my few other valuable things.  When her car was vandalized last Thursday night, I was heartsick that someone should do such a thing to my Mom.
I worry that I am going off the deep end here, but, lately, I’ve noticed that my need to be close to Mom’s things is lessening.  So maybe I’m okay.  I know only that I miss her and, unlike my feelings for Dad, I loved her and respected her and admired her.  What stuff of hers that I have probably will become just stuff for me after a while.  But, for now, her stuff is what I have left of her physical presence.  Her things are like relics and I want them close by.

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