Tuesday, November 2, 2010

There Is No Why

Buoyed by the success of last week's 'precious' metals run, Tara and I went after the south end of the cellar yesterday with gusto, since she rightly suspected that there was more than a little plumbing-related junk in there (which in this old house translates to the ever-lucrative brass and copper).

We'll jump straight in with a panorama of the before:

As you can see, that's a lot of crap. The giant greenish piece of machinery over there on the left, which looks suspiciously like it dates from the industrial revolution (wonder how many seven year old worker-children lost a limb in those non-OSHA-compliant exposed belts) is a metal lathe which actually works, though it tends to trip the circuit breaker. It will go away someday. Well, when we can figure out how to move it, that is.

So we went through it all as usual, separating the junk that is worth something from the junk that is worth nothing; and, as usual, one never can predict quite what my father saved. I know, 'everything' does come to mind as a fair prediction; but, well, that includes rather a lot.

My father was definitely a quantity over quality kind of guy. He used to rant in all seriousness about Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Now, he loved ice cream, a lot, and would in fact (repeatedly) tell us about the time when he was a kid and a couple five-gallon buckets of ice cream fell off the delivery truck, to be found by some friends of his; but the incredulous punchline of that story was that the kids gave it back. He would always shake his head at that one, for he simply could not understand someone returning free ice cream. Anyway, he would rant about it, because Ben and Jerry's was (in those days) just over two dollars for a pint, and why would you pay that when a whole half-gallon of the store brand was only a buck fifty?

Not too long ago the nursing home called, asking (as they do every now and then) if we wanted to change the orders for resuscitating my father should something go wrong. I understand this question just fine, and I understand as well that he is eighty-seven and very brain-damaged. But I also know that he would want to hang on until the very bitter end. So all this time it has been, yes, resuscitate him; it's what he would want. But the nurse (or social worker) tried to convince me otherwise. I agree, it makes sense, I told her, and it's what I would want for myself; but it's not what he would want. Then she said, Well it comes down to a quality verses quantity thing.

And I laughed and laughed, albeit a little bitterly. Poor thing just had no clue.

So here's (a rather lesser example of) that quantity thing in action. I mean, why have just one good handsaw when you can have thirteen of them rusting away in the damp cellar?

Then there is of course his obsession with storage thingies. After all, stuff is best when put inside other stuff (it's like stuff squared). So, in the cellar alone there are five of these little I-don't-know-what-you-call-them sets of drawers for little screws and washers and rivets.

There are, by the way, many more of these drawer-thingie-sets out in the shop. Including one that is legendary for falling over frontwards and spilling its contents on top of all the open boxes and drawers and trays of junk on one of the desks in the shop (which were then not cleaned up. Since there was no point). I believe it is remembered as the Great Screw-and-Washer Disaster of Aught-Three, though Tara would know better.

The things my father saved are frequently baffling. Many a time Tara pulled something out and gave it this look; and I could see her very creative and ingenious brain (she is an artist also) trying to come up with some kind of, any kind of reason or use for whatever it was. Then she'd turn to me and plaintively ask, 'But why?' I could only shake my head and say, Yoda-like, There is no why.

Like the bag of jar caps Tara found in one of the cabinets. They weren't vintage when my father put them away for safekeeping, but they sure are now:

Or like this absolutely priceless (well, actually more like a hundred and ten dollars a ton) table saw blade, which my father marked as below, and then saved.

Or this jar of something that is very much not Marshmallow Fluff. Marshmallow Filth, perhaps:

(I believe it is actually engine grease.)

Then there is the thingamabob which Tara is convinced looks like an earless Jarjar Binks (speaking of Yoda—which, incidentally, the spell-checker recognizes as a valid English word!):

Can't really argue with that, can you.

We also came across no less than three small hand-sickles and it was my turn to be baffled. Was my father planning on harvesting his own wheat? What on Earth else do you use them for? I mean, besides the inevitable commie pinko stuff:

And there's this vintage rusty bandage can now stuffed full of broken bits of rusty rust. It's from back when the official default 'flesh' color was Caucasian pinkish-tan, since as we all know everyone in those days was white, right? Or everyone who mattered, anyway.

And then there was this, a little pendant cameo of a handsome lad from the mid-70s, going by the luxuriousness of his mustache and the width of that tie. Neither I nor Tara nor our mother recognized him; and the thing with my dad is, it could equally be a treasured picture of a relative or friend, or something completely random he saved because he saved things.

We decided the unknown 70s man is in fact a friend of Rusty Jones's. A good friend, if you know what I mean (nudge nudge, wink wink). We named him Randy (of course). We've decided he can be our back-up mascot, should we need one.

So after a bit of sorting and tossing (and a far amount of WTF?ing) we were ready to get rid of some of the cabinets. The cellar floods a bit here and there, and so the wooden cabinets were rotten on the bottoms while the metals cabinets were rusted on the bottoms; and anyway if you get rid of the stuff you need to store, you no longer need the things to store the stuff in, now do you. So we got rid of the thing with all the cubbies (you can see it in the top panorama, in the right center), as well as this thing you probably can't quite see in the panorama, as it's hidden behind the grey bandsaw. It was pretty messed-up as it was, but Tara gave it her patented smashy-smashy treatment (using, incidentally, the Commie Hammer of the Proletariat, which is entirely made out of metal and so very very excellent for smashy-smashing):

(The set of flat drawers on the right is a separate thing; it was spared. For now.)

And we hauled out the smashed wood, and then swept, and then vacuumed with Mr. Sunshine; and eventually we got it all cleaned up. And I mean really quite remarkably cleaned up. As in, this morning when I woke I thought, wait, was that a dream?

Let's run that before panorama again, so you can properly compare:

And the miraculous glorious after:

Ah, let's let that soak in.

Even the cat was impressed (and we all know how difficult it is to impress a cat). This is Sir Isaac Mewton rolling around in the freshly exposed corner, off his rocker drunk with the heady reality of a clean cellar:

Or at least that end of it. That's probably about a third of it altogether. Still, that's some serious progress!


Sid said...

Thalia, what an awesome post! You got me with your title. You kept me with your writing. You impressed me with your progress. And you charmed me with your cat.

Seriously, your voice (I can only assume since I've never met you.) really came through for me in this post. And the things you and your sister are finding and how you react mirror so much what G and I (mostly G) are going through.

I hope you don't mind but I'm linking to this post on our blog.

Keep up the great work!

Sid said...

Actually, MAY I link to your post on our blog? I'll wait for your response before I do it.


Rosa said...

You are giving your father better treatment than mine will get if he is ever a dependent of mine, I'll tell you what. Good for you.

And, WHOOT on the clean cellar. No wonder the cat is happy. You should be proud of yourselves.

Perfectly Awful said...

Congratulations on the clean-up - no wonder Sir Isaac Mewton is writhing on the floor with joy.

Just a tip - those screw/washer organizer thingies make really excellent make-up organizers. Take out all the drawers, spray paint one a color that coordinates with your bathroom or bedroom, and then fill the little drawers with eyeliner pencils, lipsticks, bobby pins, spare earring backs, hair rubber bands, etc. If you have an organizer with bigger drawers (what am I saying, you've probably got FIFTY!) you can put bigger items like powder compacts or big hair scrunchies in them.

Dave said...

fwiw, the Jar Jar Binks thingamabob is known as a Clevis,

BTW nice big band saw, are you getting rid of it?

Tara said...

Actually, I'll be taking the orange bandsaw, as it's already been replaced by the brand new one you also see in the photos.

Thalia said...

Oh Sid, sure that's fine. No need to ask, even. After all it's the world wide web and it's all about the linking! :)

And thank you.

Thalia said...

Rosa, yeah, it is tempting to consider telling them, okay whatever, pull the damned plug already. But, you know. Pesky conscience.

Thalia said...

Perfectly Awful—I don't actually wear makeup, but I do need something to put beads in, and if the trays are clear (so I can see what's in them at a glance), that might work. I don't know though; I'd prefer closed clear containers instead of drawers which are easily dropped or spilled, cause that would be a mess and a half.

(And I know from messes.)

Thalia said...

Thank you Dave, I didn't know that. I'll look it up.

The grey bandsaw was bought to replace the orange one; the only problem is that it's smaller than the orange one. The problem with the orange one, though, is that it likes to zap you when you use it. Something's not grounded properly and it makes me rather nervous.

Tara of course is indestructible (well mostly) and not frightened of it, so she's taking it. I do like that it's bigger than the new one, though, so I'm a little torn.

michele said...

I hesitated before posting this comment, because I don't want to offend. I mean this with the kindest intent.

I've been a nurse for almost 20 years and I've only seen a couple of patients make it successfully through a rescuitation. It's almost unheard of when a person is as old as your dad. And it's a pretty awful thing - you're stripped naked, shocked, intubated, ribs broken, etc.

Your father appeared to have a very distorted thinking pattern. What he wanted, and insisted on having, thoughout his life resulted in a lot of pain for your family. So if you all decide to make him a DNR, please don't feel guilty. That does not mean he won't get all the meds and other treatments he needs. It just means that natural death will be allowed to occur, instead of prolonging it.

My apologies if this post is out of line.

Thalia said...

No, I'm not offended at all, Michele. It's still coming down to what he would have wanted for himself verses what I (we) would want for him. But yeah. If what he would want for himself is in my opinion stupid, that's one thing. But if what he would want for himself turns out to be dangerous or painful, that's another.

I do know he was absolutely terrified of change, and, well, death is the biggest change there is far as I can see; so I don't know. I really think he would want (or he would imagine he would want, since I can't imagine him really thinking it through) to hang on until the bitter end. How bitter that will turn out, though, I don't think he has or had any idea.

I am still currently inclined to abide by that, but, I (we) may change our minds on that. Would we want him to suffer? Probably not. Would he want himself to suffer? I don't honestly know.

Confessions of a Closet Hoarder but you can call me Judy said...

I'm incredibly impressed with all that you've accomplished!

After 58.5 years of marriage when Daddy died 3.5 years ago and 10 kids, my folks had quite the accumulation of things fill up the rooms in their home. It's nothing at all like what you and Tara are dealing with by any means, and my mom is doing what she can to get rid of things. She doesn't want to leave it to us kids to have to sort through and purge. She dealt with that with her own mom, and that situation was more like what you're dealing with. Just on a smaller scale.

You both inspire me to keep going on my own dehoarding. Thank you for that.

Michele said...

"stuff squared." you crack me up.

you put the lids wrong side up - they were meant to be rim-side up. you know, to hold stuff


Dave said...

Two women, both with their own band saw. Hard to believe you're both still single :-)

Thalia said...

I don't recall stating one way or the other about either of our marital statuses.

Anyway I'm going to choose to take that as a compliment. :)

Anonymous said...

Two sickles? Eat your heart out. My 77-year-old widowed hoarding mother has a scythe. Why? I suspect that its something that she can come at me with the next time I attempt an intervention clean-out. I wonder if I can fend off blows from a scythe Wonder Woman style by clamping clevises (clevii?)to both my wrists?

Tara said...

Yep. We've got a few scythes too..

And there was some crazy plow thing we tossed recently that was inexplicably called a "Planet Jr" (which makes no sense since it was so agrarian I can imagine flat-earther's using one..)

Thalia said...

Yeah, Tara beat me to it. We have of course found more than one full-sized Grim Reaper-type scythe, too. There's still another hanging up in the shop right now I believe.