Monday, September 12, 2011

A Life Reduced

I don't bother with my neighbours much. It really isn't all that friendly of a street, which is okay with me. I'm not sure I want to live in a real life soap opera anyway. I would assume that our commonality is limited to geography, but lack the interest and time to be proven wrong.

Likewise, I don't pay much attention to their comings and goings, unless of course, it impacts me directly. They go about their business and I about mine; a polite wave exchanged when we pass each other on the street(with the exception of the freak who lives next door in his parents' basement and who gives me pause to wonder if I could get away with "but officer I really didn't see him dart out from behind the car" after I've run him down) - but I digress - that's a whole other post.

Lately I've noticed something; or I should say noticed someone missing. The old lady two doors over has generally been pretty low key. I am acquainted more with her ex-husband who moved out a number of years ago. Because she is alone, my Matthew has gone over a few times to shovel snow or rake leaves in return for her signature on his community service sheet. Other than that, we hardly see her. Except in the last little while, it occurs to me that I haven't seen her at all.

Then there was the dumpster - the kind people put on their driveways when a massive renovation is taking place. It was quite impressive; I would think large enough to practically take the house back to the bricks in order to start again. At first I thought "how cool - I don't know any old people who would bother with such an enormous undertaking". I mean really, I have elderly family for whom finally hiring an electrician to replace 60 amp service because they couldn't use the toaster and the microwave at the same time just about pushed them over the edge let alone entertaining the thought of retiring the 1970's wallpaper in the bathroom (darn this newfangled technology!) But then, the dumpster wasn't there for more than a week, and I didn't see any tradespeople coming and going.

Then there was the garage sale this past weekend. Actually no, not the kind you see where people put out assorted odds and ends on the driveway. This has been the mother of all garage sales - two full days - with enough items, large and small, to fill a small store. It seemed to be a full blown contents sale.  And while I have never understood the concept of putting one's unwanted 'stuff' on display on the front lawn for total strangers to examine, haggle over and purchase, I was loath to ignore the volume of traffic and the number of cars double parked on the street as they impeded my comings and goings somewhat.

Fascinating.... and sad. A life reduced, at least in the eyes of others, to the contents of a dumpster and a yard sale. Then my sadness turned almost to horror at the thought of people rummaging through my 'stuff' after I'm gone. Certain things which are meaningful only to me for reasons no-one else will ever understand - the antithesis of 'one man's junk is another man's treasure' (the obvious, if not misguided, inspiration for the modern day yard sale) left behind to be examined and judged by family and the cast-offs to be rummaged through by complete strangers. It is all very sad.

I shudder at the thought. I'm off to de-clutter my closet now......


Westcoast Walker said...

Someone I work with wisely stated that you spend the first half of your adult life accumulating stuff and the second half trying to get rid of it.

The post-mortem dumbster/garage sale scenario is kind of depressing... a good reminder that the stuff we own matters little in terms of defining our lives.

T said...

Postscript: The old lady is in a nursing home; I went outside to find a 'for sale' sign on the lawn, and apparently, the house sold in 3 days.