Saturday, April 2, 2016

In which Primo and I start to sort through the boxes he brought home

We had talked about how to approach the stuff. Primo was overwhelmed. I was not. Primo sees tasks as enormous projects that cannot be completed. I see bite-sized chunks that can be managed in pieces.

"There is no way to sort through all of this!" Primo said.

"If it were me, I would start with the photos and approach the them this way," I said. "I would do an initial sort and pull out any photos with Ted, Jack, Stephanie, and the kids. Then I would send them to them. Then I would pull out the photos of Nancy and send some of those to your brothers and the kids. Then I would pick the best of the remaining photos and make an album."

I set the timer for 30 minutes. "Let's go."

Primo pulled out the smallest box of photos. I pulled out a handful and started sorting - Nancy, Nancy and Primo, Nancy and Primo with Sly and Doris, photos with nobody from the family, i.e., of trees, of hospitals, of random buildings.

Primo started panicking. (That is what he does.) "Stop! You're going too fast!"

"No I'm not. Just pick a batch and start sorting!"

He didn't want to do that. He wanted to sit side by side while we reviewed each photo together.

Can you say, "A task that will never end?"

"That's not efficient!" I said. "I am not making any decisions - I am sorting these into piles that will be easier for you to make decisions about."

Let me segue here to talk about my friend Bruce, who had lunch with us yesterday as he was driving back home. He runs estate sales. He charges $125 an hour to sort through junk.

"My record is 78 pounds," he said.

Primo said, "That wouldn't work for me. I am a control freak."

(That was not news to anyone.)

"I would still have to look at everything before they threw it out."

"They don't throw it out," I said. "They categorize it so the client can make the decision."

Bruce nodded his head in agreement.

"But I would still have to look at everything!"

"You mean you would not trust that someone you are paying $125 an hour to sort for you actually got the category of 'check registers from the 1940s' correct?"

"I would still want to look."

I sighed. Reader, this is my life.

So I sorted photos  into these categories:

  • trees
  • buildings
  • flowers
  • Nancy as a little girl
  • Nancy and her cats
  • Nancy and Primo, Nancy and Sly and Doris, Nancy and grandparents
  • Nancy with the black eye that apparently a boyfriend had given to her
  • Nancy and her skanky boyfriends
  • Nancy topless on a beach on vacation with Sly and Doris
  • Nancy pointing at her Marilyn Manson poster
Primo got all stressed out, which is understandable. He said, "All these people are dead. My family is dead. I can't just get rid of this stuff!"

He did agree to throw away about 10% of the photos - the photos of the trees and buildings. The rest, no. I suggested a compromise. "I didn't think about how emotional this would be for you, sweetie. Let's do this. Let's leave the photos and work on the financial papers instead. Those won't have so much meaning. And if you don't want to do the photos at all this year, then let's just get some of the boxes in the basement instead. I don't care about getting rid of these boxes in particular - I care about getting rid of overall junk. I am willing to trade boxes in the basement for the stuff you brought from your mom and dad's."

He agreed. What this really means is that the boxes of photos will reside in our basement until we move away from here or until Primo dies, whichever comes first. 

In which Primo is shocked, shocked at my ability to find a company that provides the services he would need and that would give him no reason to keep the reel to reel recorder

Primo: Look! You can't even see all the stuff in the living room now. Not if you look from this angle.

Me: The mission is to have it all gone by Christmas.

Primo: Christmas! I wanted to relax!

Me: That is one month from now. Thirty minutes a day is 15 hours. There is no reason not to be done with that in 15 hours.

Primo: But it's so much!

Me: Primo. You can get rid of that stuff. You should at least be able to get rid of 90% of it and put the rest in the basement to be done later.

Primo: But I already spent months going through things in Florida! This is the reduction! This is what's left after 90% is gone!

Me: You mean the reel to reel tape recorder made the ten percent?

Primo: Well. There are also tapes my parents made of Nancy and me when we were little. That's why I have it.

Me: OK. Then we will get those tapes transferred to CD. That is important stuff. We had cassettes my dad made for us kids when he was in Vietnam. He would tell us stories and read books to us. My brother and sister and I recorded over them.

Primo: You didn't do it right!

Me: Nope. We recorded the American Top Forty on them.

Primo: Not doing it right.

Me: Anyhow. Yes. The reel to reel tapes. You can get those transferred.

Primo: Probably not. There is not anyone who does that sort of thing.

Me [three seconds later]: "Whether it’s old family 8mm film, 16mm industrial film, Beta, VHS, 8mm video, 3/4” or mini DV tapes, technology is making all of these obsolete. M** Media Transfer & Duplication can solve your technology related audio or video problems by converting any of these outdated formats into digital files and optical discs."

Primo: What?

Me: Yeah. No excuses. They're right here in town. Get the tapes transferred and get rid of the recorder. It's. Junk.

In which Primo and I talk about exercising and old age and how Sly was immune to the laws of nature

Primo: I should start doing some upper-body exercise.

Me: Yes.

Primo: I hate exercising!

Me: Yeah, I exercise because I like it so much.

Primo: I don't want to.

Me: Remember what Rob said at our reunion? The word we want is "spry." When we are old, we want to be spry.

Primo: I guess. My parents sure were not spry.

Me: Nope. They didn't even try. At least my mom gets on the treadmill. I can't convince her to do weights.

Primo: When my dad had his knee replacement, he was supposed to walk as part of his recovery. Not just walk around the house, but go outside and walk. That's it. Just walk.

Me: And?

Primo: He didn't do it. Not even once.

Me: Not once?

Primo: When the physical therapist came to the house, he did, but not on his own.

Me: The laws of biology didn't apply to him?

Primo: Nope. He was special. He was different.

Me: So glad that my taxpayer money funded his surgery.

Friday, April 1, 2016

In which Primo and I argue about what of his parents' junk we are going to keep (i.e., none of it vs all of it)

Me: Let's get rid of those walking sticks.

Primo: No! They were a gift for my mom's 25 years of service to blah blah blah.

Me: So?

Primo: But my mom!

Me: I guess I can use them to stake tomato plants.

Primo: Noooo!

Me: Then for what?

Primo: For hiking! They are hiking sticks!

Me: And when is the last time you hiked?

Primo: You said you would maybe go hiking.

Me: I lied. And if I do do it, I want "leisurely stroll," not "need a stick to climb."

Primo: You don't want to go on that hike like we did on Point Reyes again?

Me: Nope.

Primo: But it was beautiful!

Me: So you were going to take the sticks on the plane to California?

Primo: I dunno.

Me: Could we please stop accumulating junk?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

In which Primo thinks I should be all excited to see him and his stuff

Primo: You don't want to get busy? But I've been gone for over a week!

Me: Yes. And you have just returned. And you have brought into my house the ashes of dead people, boxes and boxes of junk that we will have to sort through, and a cockroach.

Primo: That doesn't get you excited?

Me: Shockingly, no.

You can't even see what's behind the sofa or behind me in the dining room. Sly and Doris, reaching from beyond the grave to still ruin my holidays.

In which I get work done on the book because I am ALONE

Me: I got so much done on my book today! It was perfectly quiet and I could work.

Primo: So you get work done if I'm not around.

Me: Yes!

Primo: But you would have no material if you weren't married to me.

Me: I guess not.

In which Primo brings home junk from Sly and Doris' house and I am so thrilled (not really)

It is Thanksgiving Day. Primo just got home after a day of driving.

He brought stuff with him. An entire carload of stuff.

So far, I have identified

  • human ashes
  • five hangers
  • three little white bowls
  • two walking sticks that Doris got at a 25th anniversary of the Nature Conservancy or something
  • huge framed photos of Primo and Nancy as little kids
  • boxes and boxes of loose photos
  • boxes and boxes of uncategorized financial papers
  • a reel to reel tape player
  • a coffee maker
  • a paper towel stand
  • lots of beer from the Beer Tour of 2015
  • a box of aluminum foil (good)
  • a big box of Cheez-Its (also good)
  • did I mention boxes and boxes of stuff?
And - surprise!


I have not even thought about cockroaches since we moved to the frozen north. If you have cockroaches up here, it's because you have a dirty house. If you have cockroaches in Miami or Houston or other places in the south that I have lived, it is because you are in the south. 

Primo is freaking out about the cockroach.

Sly and Doris. The gift that keeps on giving.

(And now we have to take the rental car back to the airport. That's an hour out of my life doing work for the estate. The estate that is not paying Primo. We negotiated that he would charge the estate the mileage to the airport. "I should at least get a few cups of coffee out of this," I argued.)

This is what we ate.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

In which Ted's friend says he is taking a break from Ted and of course Primo and I totally get it because Ted can be such a jerk and his nice moments don't make up for his jerkiness

Primo: You remember Ted's friend? The one who lives by my mom and dad and who came to the funeral?

Me: The one whose wife, whom your dad barely knew, Sly asked to wash his urine-soaked clothes?

Primo: Yes.

Me: He seems so nice. Why is he friends with Ted?

Primo: I can't figure it out. But he called me this weekend when I was in Florida. I guess Ted told him we would be scattering ashes.

Me: That was nice.

Primo: He is a really nice guy.

Me: Why? Why is he friends with Ted?

Primo: Anyhow, he called to see how I was doing and all, because of the ashes. Then he said that he was taking a break from Ted. I guess even Ted's friends get tired of him.

Me: Yeah. I can see that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In which Primo cannot give away his mother's family photos

Primo stayed with Doris' cousin and Doris' cousin's partner and they buried Sly and Doris' ashes next to Nancy's in the small family cemetery where the cousin lives. DC had supper waiting for Primo when he arrived last night. She got takeout BBQ and you cannot go wrong with takeout BBQ in that part of the world.

But DC did not want any of the boxes of family photos. (Sly and Doris were the polar opposites of my mom, who has all of her photos in albums or in books she has created online. The actual photos are labeled with the date and the names of the people in the photo, which I used to think was dumb.* Then I got photos of my own that are 30 years old and I look at them and think, "Who the heck was that?" My mom also has a lot of stuff, but it is all boxed and labeled. She does not throw away as much as I think she should, but her house is not cluttered or messy. It is neat and tidy and welcoming and if you want some yellow thread or a pink button or a photo from 1973 of my cousins, my mom can put her hands on it in two seconds.)

Anyhow. DC does not want the family photos.

I do not want the family photos.

Primo does not want the family photos.

The difference between Primo and me on the photos is he feels guilty at the idea of throwing them away and I. do. not.

What will happen to the photos? I do not need to import junk from Sly and Doris.

Primo will use the argument that when my mom dies, I will bring her stuff to our house, but he will be wrong. All I want of my mother's is the big yellow mixing bowl she has had since I was a little kid. That's it. Nothing else. I don't want photos or her Lladros or her paintings or books or dishes or clothes. Nothing. I don't need her things to remember her and to love her.

* She also still has all of her negatives and THEY ARE LABELED.

** My mother could run an army.

Monday, March 28, 2016

In which Primo is sad because he is leaving his mom and dad's house for the last time (with a car full of junk that I want nowhere near my house)

I was up too late again. There was too much to do!
The car is packed full.
I promise that I will get rid of stuff after I get home.
It is weird to be about to leave here for the last time.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

In which Primo wants to bring home more junk from Sly and Doris' house and I don't want him to

Primo is at Sly and Doris', clearing out the last of the things so he can leave the house for the last time.

Turns out the realtor had accidentally taken the push broom, so that mystery is solved, but someone must have stolen the laundry detergent and the knife.

Who does that? Who goes into a stranger's house under the guise of seeking a house to buy, sees a bottle of Tide, and thinks, "I've been meaning to wash clothes! How convenient! I will take this bottle with me!"

Or the knife. What goes through the mind of someone in that case? Is it someone seeking a convenient murder weapon that cannot be tied back to him? Or her?

Well, the joke will be on the thief, as Sly and Doris never once sharpened their knives in all their years of marriage. (Which is why Primo and I got them a Good Knife as a Christmas present one year.)

Primo is going through the kitchen and asking me if I want stuff.

I do not want Sly and Doris' stuff.

My answer to this was no.

My answer to this was no.

So I had to say yes to this.

I hope we are done. (I would rather have had the bottle of Tide.)

In which we revisit the scene of the bad bacon-eating crime

Primo: Jack, the kids, and I went to the beach last night and scattered the ashes.

Me: How did it go?

Primo: It was the same place we had scattered Nancy's ashes. We called Ted and he was really nice.

Me: Good. It's about time.

Primo: I am cooking breakfast now.

Me: What are you having?

Primo: Bacon.

Me: I was just working on the Bad Bacon Eater scene in my book!

Primo: So this is a fitting end - this is the last meal I will have in this house and it's bacon.