My wife’s dear Aunt Ginny passed away in October at the age of 84. She had no children, so my wife and her siblings were the next best thing. I’m on vacation this week so I had the pleasure of spending the last two days helping my wife and sister-in-law start cleaning out Ginny’s house. We plan on putting her house on the market in the spring so everything must go, and I mean EVERYTHING!
Ginny was a world-class pack rat. Today I shredded tax returns that dated back to 1948, detailed medical bills from 1964 and sales receipts from when her husband purchased a boat in 1966. She not only saved cancelled checks from 1961 through 2005 but also saved the check registers and extra deposit slips. My wife even found $15 tucked away in various bank statement envelopes. Being that Ginny was always THE BEST hostess (no one ever left her house hungry or without a doggy bag), we saw this as a sign that Ginny appreciated what we were doing and wanted to treat us all to pizza. Thanks Ginny!
Ginny always blamed her rat pack ways on two factors:
1) She was a bookkeeper, (Hey, you never know when the IRS is going to audit your 1948 return because of that campaign contribution you made to Thomas E. Dewey.)
2) She grew up poor during The Depression, so you should never throw ANYTHING away—a fact she shared with my wife and her siblings every chance she got!
Ginny’s house was like a museum to the late 20th century. My daughters were given a history lesson on the record turntable and the LP. The fact that they could speed up the turntable to 45 rpm and make Jerry Vale sound like the Chipmunks gave them hours of enjoyment. They played several albums, their favorites being: Dixie Land Jazz, Big Band’s Greatest Hits Volumes I-III, The Best of Lawrence Welk and GI Jukebox.
We went through her bookshelves and donated six large boxes of books to the local library. The books chronicled the times of she and her late husband Joe’s lives: World War II, marriage manuals, cookbooks, Hints from Heloise, travel, gardening, boating, cruising, bird watching and finally cancer, colostomies and coronary disease.
We still have all of Joe’s slideshow carousels to go through—we counted 52 carousels that each hold 140 slides each. This gave my wife and her siblings nightmarish flashbacks of childhoods when they forced to sit in front of the projection screen and watch hours of slideshows of Ginny& Joe’s latest vacation.
Disassembling someone else’s life feels a little strange and invasive. I think we felt a little voyeuristic as we rifled through their drawers, looked through their files and emptied their medications. I tried not to look at Joe’s W-2 forms or how much their mortgage payments were ($96, according to the amortization table that she saved and dutifully checked off each month,) but I figure…they’re in a better place now and they probably just don’t care anymore.
Thanks for the memories Ginny…but did there have to be that many!