Sunday, October 12, 2008

Grandmother's Basement

This weekend, I drove 5 hours and joined some of my family members in helping to clean out my grandmother's basement. Actually, the primary reason for my trip was to visit Grandma in her nursing home. She fell last week and broke her hip. She is now in a wheelchair and very depressed. It must be tough at age 90 when your husband of 64 years passed away a year ago. She didn't want to move out of her house and, quite frankly, she doesn't want to live anymore. What do you say to a beloved matriarch in this situation?

But back to grandmother's basement.

Grandma is a bit of a packrat. Perhaps, a "packhorse" may be more accurate. The basement of the house in which she lived for over 65 years (she bought the place before marrying my grandfather) was filled to the brim with food, doll clothes, papers, books, shoes and presents. Gifts that family members had given them, but were not used. Gifts that grandmother bought, but never gave, still in their original boxes with price tags attached. Grandma is still with us on this earth, but it felt as though she had already passed as we went through her things and tried to organize everything for when the day comes that she joins Grandpa in heaven.

We are trying to save money. Grandmother's basement has two freezers and a huge pantry of nonperishable goods. The family decided to empty the freezers so we could turn them off and save on electricity. The food in the pantry would be divided among family and excess could be donated to the food bank when it was still good. We donated 10 brimming boxes of food to the local food bank. Grandma's garden (over 1/4 acre) provided a bounty of beans, fruit and more. Each year, Grandma spent hours canning and preserving the food for the winter months. There are still 4 shelves filled with canned food, and many, many empty antique canning jars. We will have to get back to deal with those.

As I loaded up my station wagon with several trips to the Goodwill and local food bank, I found my eyes welling with tears. My grandparents grew up in the Great Depression. They saved everything because they had to. Now, it seemed so wasteful to take boxes and boxes of things that they never used out of their home. Of course, it felt wonderful to give things to those less fortunate. The cook at the Food Bank called out "God Bless!" as we left the second load of groceries with them. I only hope that those who shop at the Goodwill store in Lacey, Washington will be grateful for the Tupperware and more that we donated from Grandmother's basement. May we never know the pain and distress that our ancestors did.... I hope its not too late.

As I drove back home today, I thought about my grandfather. With the stock market losing 40% of its value in the past year, he would surely have advice for me and my family. Grandpa was a smart man - sharp right up to his last days. I sure miss him, and the happier days.... when I could wander down to my grandmother's basement and not be haunted by ghosts.

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