Teenagers think their parents are idiots, and then they get out of college and suddenly, their parents aren’t so stupid, after all. Life’s arch is an ironic one. And the lessons just keep coming, whether you want them to or no.
My Dad was a gatherer. I won’t say hoarder out of respect for his passing. But in reality…? I don’t think my Mom realized how much of a gatherer he actually was until he was nearly immobile for the last five-plus years of his life and she had to find something in the garage. The garage had always been his domain. She hadn’t realized it before because he was incredibly organized in his hoarding. Everything had a place and it was categorized and labled. My Dad was born just days before the stock market imploded in 1929. He grew up with a hand to mouth existence, developing rickets from lack of vitamins or nutritious food. So during his entire life when he got anything, he kept it and he took care of it. But that can be problematic when you live past the age of 90.
When we, his children, got older, and were in no danger of his temper, we would tease him mercilessly about his need to label EVERYTHING. And he didn’t possess just one label maker. He had multiple and they all had his name and phone number on them in permanent marker so he could ensure that if someone borrowed one they would never forget who it belonged to. He was fanatical about that. It made me laugh because I figured if you had a permanent marker to label your label maker, perhaps you didn’t need the label maker in the first place. A head scratcher.
Laminating everything was another of his past times. If he had a membership card he would laminate it. If he received a first aid card outlining the things to look out for with heart attacks, or how to save a drowning victim, he would laminate that. Send him something in email and you might just find it pinned up, laminated of course, over his desk where his ham radio was set up. As Boeing (the airplane manufacturer) cleared out some of their manufacturing facilities in Renton, just south of Seattle, Jeff and my Dad went down there to pick up something Jeff needed for a project. My Dad spotted a laminator the size of a plotting machine. It was huge. He hemmed and hawed and decided not to get it. But he never forgot that laminator, clear up until a few months before he died. ‘I should have bought that thing.’ he told me in the summer of 2019. Of all things you could possibly regret in your life, as you lay dying, that’s an odd one. But my Dad was an odd guy.
When velcro was invented, my Dad embraced it like a miracle sent from heaven. He stuck it to everything, and everything in the house stuck to it. You heard that ripping sound incessantly. He knew you were taking something of his just by listening. ‘I want that back!’ And you couldn’t say you didn’t know it was his because it was labeled and covered in velcro. So strange and, at times, infuriating. After he became relegated to just his bed or his chair, he had a system he set up with pockets and velcro, so he could keep track of everything from where ever he was. Remotes, tools, and the like. The large pockets that hung off his chair or his walker were velcro friendly. His walker had velcro at strategic spots to stick his cane to it or anything else he deemed useful. Ride in my parent’s car and the dash was covered in velcro at strategic points. Random things stuck to them so they wouldn’t move. I used to shake my head.
‘How do you put up with this crap?’ I’d ask my Mom.
‘It’s your father. It makes him happy.’ Then she’d change the subject.
And yet, I was sitting here with Jeff recently. Our Spanish contractor and his crew have dubbed our house Very American. Apparently, we have a lot more things that plug in than your average Spaniard. Which is painfully obvious to us with a living room and dining room with 3 whole outlets of one plug each. And a kitchen with just one outlet over the counter for the entire enterprise. And our Very American stuff all have remote controls. TV’s, the surround sound, video games, stereo, lights. Individual remotes. When the sofa was delivered last week Jeff looked at all of them on the end table.
‘I hate to say this but we need a system, kind of like your Dad’s.’
I choked on my coffee. ‘You’re kidding.’
‘I wish I was. It’s kind of ingenious. We have too many remotes and half the time we lose them. I can’t believe I’m saying this but we might have to buy some velcro.’
I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘Velcro? Next you’ll be suggesting we get a laminator!’
Jeff just smiled. ‘I already bought one of those. You’ll need it for the menus.’
Ugh. But he was right. We do need a laminator.
And then, we were sitting here this morning reviewing The List for the business. I asked Jeff if he had received the email I sent him with all the links regarding the stuff I need ordered on Amazon. He has the Prime account.
‘I did get it. But before I ordered that stuff I wanted to check with you that there wasn’t some mistake.’
‘There’s no mistake.’ I told him. ‘I need it all.’
‘Are you sure?’
I frowned. ‘Yes.’ Had he sustained a head injury?
Eyebrows raised ‘Because I’m pretty sure hell has frozen over.’ He smiled.
‘And why is that?’ I asked, indignant.
‘Well, because there is a label maker on that list. And I know how you feel about label makers.’ He was enjoying this a little too much.
Dear Lord, I knew this was coming the moment I slipped that little item into the shopping cart while crossing my fingers Jeff wouldn’t look too closely. And, right about now I am very sure that wherever my Dad is, he’s laughing his ass off. Because, while it took me until my mid-50’s, I realize perhaps my Dad wasn’t wrong. Well, not about everything.