The elderly man who lived across the street died some months ago. He’d lost his wife years before.
The house sat empty for a long time, the faded dark wood exterior illuminated every night by a single bright fixture that must have been on a timer.
Then, we saw his grown children appear. They removed some items, moved others around.
An estate sale company came this weekend to sell it all. I walked through a day after the sale began and there were still piles and piles of things to be sold. Depression glass. A floaty blue peignoir that looked like it was from the 1950s. Crochet trimmed handkerchiefs. Stacks of silver plate and “made in Japan” knickknacks. Worn towels and sheets. Vintage Christmas ornaments. At least 500 faded greeting cards that must have been in the wife’s files for use one day: birthday, Christmas, thank you–all kinds. (I have a file like that.)
Stuff collected over maybe eight decades of life and almost as many of marriage and child-rearing. Mementos.
I looked around, remembering how we sold our parents’ things one weekend in western New York more than 10 years ago. That’s what kids do after their parents die. They go through all the familiar things and sell it all to others. Or throw it away.
Who will do this for us when our time comes? I wondered. We have no children.
I thought about my own knicknacks, towels and dishes. The things I acquired on wonderful trips. One day those mementos will no longer be the repository for memories. Happy ones. Sad ones. Emotional ones.
Some company will come in and sell it all to strangers who may or may not make their own memories of them.
But who will make that arrangement? I can’t shake that question.
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The couple two doors down from him are in their 80s, too. The wife bought the man’s walker for $25, my husband told me.
“Do they need a walker yet?” I asked him.
“No, but they recognize that time is coming and those things are very expensive,” he told me.
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We aren’t in our 80s, not by a long shot. But we are aging and we have to start thinking realistically about what that will mean.
That’s why we decided to throw caution to the winds and book a June trip to London, not long after I return from a girls’ trip to New York City.
We don’t normally do two overseas trips in a year, and India’s been on our November schedule for a long time. But we both adore London, started talking about it and within two hours had booked a week there.
Life is short.
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This is the first year that I’ve acknowledged that I don’t need furniture that will last longer than 20-25 years. That the next car we buy may be our last. That I’m glad I won’t live long enough to see some trends that seem foolhardy come to fruition.
I’ve turned a corner. I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but it happened. Thoughts like these have been sneaking up and surprising me.
People younger than I are sick, seriously sick, life-changing sick, the kind of sick which means they’re unlikely to outlive me.
And yet, I have friends older than me, significantly older, who are living not just spry lives but active ones, healthy ones, lives in which they are doing things of substance, writing, teaching, making music. Living independently.
“Life is short,” I find myself telling them, urging them to take those big trips, to throw caution to the wind and spend that money.
They are in fact, older than I and chances are I will outlive them, and miss them terribly when they are gone.
Life is short at this end of it.
Life is so short.
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When you eat, appreciate every last bite.
Appreciate every last bite of life.