Friday, June 30, 2006

Two Days 'til Home

In a way, being with my parents is as much home as any home I've created on my own. The familiarity of walls lined with shelves crammed with books, post-it notes hanging off of everything, a 2 lb. block of cheddar cheese in the fridge, an over-sized, over-stuffed, ugly recliner in the living room and the smell of Rain Bath hanging in the bathroom after a shower. These are familiar. Stacks of papers printed out on any variety of topics on the edges of tabletops, and stacked on top of books, notebooks filled with Greek, Hebrew, sermon notes, radar information, mathematical texts of all descriptions, and a preacher's library fit for a small seminary.

Bottles of pills, both prescription and vitamins crowd the counters, all the things that try to keep my dad alive and comfortable, along with the pills that try to counter the effects of some other pills. Eye drops, insulin, alcohol swabs. Nasal canulas (is canulii the plural?), hand sanitizer, blood glucose meters. Such are the accoutrements of diabetes, apnea and renal failure. All the wonderful things that happen to a body that cannot regulate it's own blood sugar levels.

In my parents' home, you can find pens, pencils, markers, highlighters, scissors, fingernail files, nail clippers, magnifying glasses, rubber bands, paper clips, combs, and other wonders beside every chair, on every desk, and in every nightstand or bookshelf. Most locations will also have rubber cement, tape, a screwdriver or a pair of pliers as well. It's quite a change from my house, where I often cannot locate any of the 6 or 7 pairs of scissors, dozens of clippers, pens, markers, etc. that I replace fairly often. Where they go is a mystery. Perhaps they somehow wind up in my parents house through an unseen portal.

Here I can find the answers to all my quantum mechanics, physics, chemistry, calculus, statistics and algebra questions in easily accessible textbooks. I can also find reference books on any number of physical conditions, look up medications and their side effects and study anatomy. Sitting in their living room I can see six 6 ft. bookcases. These are not the bookcases of an HGTV designer show, with selected books displayed with carefully selected pottery and artwork. No, these are stuffed stem to stern with books, baskets, papers, clocks, cd-roms, and record albums. One of the bedrooms has another 7 or 8 bookshelves as well as tables and desks for more books, office supplies and computer equipment. While this means that the guest bed is an air mattress laid out under the table each night, surrounded by the blue, red, and green lights of various computers, printers and such, it still feels like home.

Mom reads her library books and various magazines, while Dad's computer screen is invariably displaying Greek text from whatever Bible passage he is studying at the moment. The daily language lesson makes my head spin. I was a straight A student in Honors English in college and have never before heard of some of these parts of speech and their tenses.

Mom enjoys a trip to the local thrift store searching for treasures among other people's cast offs. The beautiful Chico's jacket I am bringing home probably came from one of those perfect homes, where everything has it's place and the moment it is unneeded it is discarded. We have never been such people, though I admire them greatly. How do they know when they are through with something? One of the traits that drove my previous employer batty is my filing system. I always have a basket or tray with papers I just can't decide what to do with. There they lie until either I need them (and thus know I must keep them and where to put the paper) or it has been about three months or so. After the paper has been in the tray for 3 months, I can then sort the stack and fairly easily see that I do or do not need the paper in question and probably 90% can go straight in the shredder. The remainder is then easy for me to file away, and their classification becomes clear to me. works for me.

For years I carried around a pink rabbit, handcrafted by a friend of mine. Covered in polyester lace and adorned with blue ribbon, it was cleverly designed to sit on a shelf. At the same time, she gave me one of those 5 or 6 inch straw hats adorned with fake flowers, more polyester lace and pastel ribbons. For a brief period of time I attempted to decorate around these pastel pink and blue gifts, but afterwards kept moving them with me and displaying them everywhere I went. The problem is that I dislike pastels, particularly pink (to decorate, that is), hate cutesy, and really abhor polyester lace. What I loved is my friend. What I loved is her thoughtfulness, her cleverness, her handiwork. But it took me years to understand that the things were not her. I was not treating her with disdain if I didn't keep the things she gave me. My friend Jana helped me with this, unknowingly. Jana is one of those people who discards things easily. She has culled her possessions into the few things she really loves, and anything broken or having outlived it's usefulness is gone. We have a "no guilt" agreement between us. Whatever I give her she is perfectly free to like or dislike, keep or give away without any hard feelings, and the reverse is true. In fact, when a bowl she had given me broke, and I was staring at it trying to figure out if I could glue it back together, I knew how proud she would be if I were to simply put the pieces in the trash. So I did. It was freeing!

I was checking my camera to see what pictures I have taken while here. I was surprised to discover no pictures of Beverly Beach, and almost none of the mountains. No pictures of the Willamette River either (pronounced will a' meht, the a is a long flat a sound like in apple). But I have better. I can't show you, but in my head I have recorded the sights, sounds, smells and feel of those places. I have bird song, surf, the feel of sand under my feet, the sight of little crabs scurrying away and of creatures burying themselves in the sand. I have mountain vistas, Boiling Bay, Cape Foulweather, and Yaquina Point Lighthouse stored away. There are the smells of saltwater, seaweed, lush undergrowth, cedar, drops of oil burning on the catalytic converter, masses of petunias in a roadside produce and flower market, and of the rosemary bush I bought and planted outside their front door. Hopefully I have enough mental recordings of my Dad's voice to keep with me once the man himself is gone.

Of Dad's things, yes, Kris and I will probably have discussions about various portions of his library, but I most want his walking stick and whichever of his Bibles has the most handwritten notes inside.

1 comment:

Beth said...

IMHO, your children are someday going to so value these comments as it gives one an almost palpable impression of your parents' home. I admire you for taking time to write down all these details.