Thursday, January 3, 2013
Out with the old...
I knew that it would be difficult for me to downsize from a very large four bedroom house to a more compact, one bedroom in-law apartment in a house that I now share with my grandson and his family. As I unpack moving boxes and do my best to “get rid of” things I no longer use or want, I am reminded that a generation of youngsters has lost the concept of valuing what you have. My grandkids must walk through the garage portion of our very large house to enter mine and Riley’s living quarters. If I’m out there sorting, opening, organizing, there is almost always a comment of “Why don’t you just throw all this stuff away?”
Throwing away seems to be a theme these days. It’s a theme that I don’t understand. If you drive down the side streets into the residential areas, you will see appliances set out on the curb for either the trash man or a freebie seeker. These appliances may be out there because the owners renovated their home or maybe because it has stopped working for some reason or another. Whatever the reason, they’ve been discarded.
I have a fond admiration for the freebie seeker who will pick up the unwanted appliance, take it home and work on it until it is a productive piece of equipment again. In my day, things were repaired and/or repurposed. My mother could repair almost anything except her car – she left that to Dad. I remember her greased smudged face after she replaced the pump in the washing machine. The point is – we didn’t throw things away when they didn’t work the way they did when they were new.
I don’t work the same way as I did when I was new. I’m slower and things I’ve always been able to do for myself are far more difficult now. I fear I may wake up and find myself in the trash next to the coffee pot that has a clock that doesn’t keep the right time. The pot still makes a good cup of coffee, but the clock portion is no longer programmable. I’m a lot like that coffee pot and I hope that the fact that it takes a bit longer for me to make the coffee will not be of consequence. But I’ve already seen signs of de-valuation. My opinion is no longer listened too with undistracted attention. My suggestions are met with a sigh and roll of the eyes. I’m considered to be “old-fashioned” and sometimes a bother.
When I read that a suggestion to “just get rid” of the alcoholic in a person’s life, I feel it is another way that we simply “throw things away.” In many cases, I believe the best course of action would be to walk away from the alcoholic. But that is not to get rid of something useless, but rather to encourage a change for the better for all parties. Just because you don’t live with someone doesn’t mean you’ve put them in the trash can.
I have always been a bit of a hard-ass bitch that could stand up to almost anyone. I seldom show my fear – if you see it in my face, you should probably run for cover. With Riley remaining sober, even if it is not by his own choice, I feel I may have softened a little. While I may have wanted to “throw him away” many, many times during his drunkenness, I feel less inclined in his present condition. It could be the fact that he knows he needs me to help him manage his life so he is less antagonistic or it could be that he is now taking Prozac. It doesn’t really matter. I think I see in him a slight glimpse of the man I fell in love with back in the 60’s. The glimpses are few and far between, but just enough to be a reminder.
Riley doesn’t work the way he did when our relationship was new. He doesn’t have much to contribute towards any part of sharing a home or being a husband. The truth is, that part of him was gone when he decided he liked life better as a drunk than he did as a husband. I didn’t throw him away even when I separated from him. I may not have been in his life on a daily basis, but I was always there – in the background being silent and watching him choose his own direction.
For the grandkids, Riley is disposable. In the kid’s defense, Riley has made himself become disposable. He doesn’t participate in family activities and is unable to have conversations beyond guttural noises and heavy sighs. He cannot and does not want to relate to them. The result is that the kids have thrown him away and moved on to focus on other family members. I understand.
There are times when I feel sorry for Riley. I see this physically debilitated man who can no longer remember what happened the day before and must take several naps a day. He has no sense of smell and his entire right side is weak and nearly useless. He doesn’t have the strength to carry in the groceries or help me move boxes around the garage. He can’t drive. His life is all contained in his room with re-runs of NCIS. I’m sad for him. That’s where I’ve softened. In spite if it all, Riley still has value. He washes the dishes and puts away the groceries. He cleans the bathroom. Since his memory of the far distant past is better than his ability to remember what happened yesterday, he shares memories of a better time over our morning coffee. I will miss those things when he moves on to his next life.
Those soft episodes of emotion for him aren’t long lasting. I take a step back to remind myself that Riley is in the condition he is in because of his own doing. He created his situation and now must live with the consequences. He denies that alcohol had anything to do with him having a stroke or heart attack. He claims that alcohol isn’t the reason why he can’t drive or live alone. It’s easy for me to go back to being my naturally bitchy self.
Going through the boxes and sorting out the good from the bad, useful from the useless and historical from individual memory… I know to throw things away is not in my nature. It’s hard to make those determinations. I’m not a hoarder, but I’m not a discarder either. I value what I have and see worth where others see none. I can live with that.
at 8:45 AM