THE SUM TOTAL
Recently my neighbor of over 40 years suffered some physical problems and he could no longer live alone in his home just across the hedge from my house. In all the years that I have lived here he has always been there just across the hedge. A Korean war veteran he loved to see my flag flying. A hunter and fisherman I tied special flies for him according to his instructions. I watched his only son grow up, I watched him bury his wife and I watched him grow old. Vertigo in his later years limited his ability to continue to hunt and fish and finally time and chance overtook him. His son put the house up for sale and held an estate sale to clear out the accumulation of nearly 90 years of life. I wandered through the yard looking at the various items now up for sale; tackle boxes filled with various lures, a few old rods and reels, tools, and various items to numerous to mention. People showed up and one by one the items were sold and then all was quiet. Seemingly in a moment a life came down to a few items for sale to strangers. Later, when I spoke to his son as he cleared out the last few remaining items, he noted that it had been hard for him to clear out his dad’s stuff. Suddenly it flashed across my mind that to the son it was only stuff, but to his dad it had been his life.
As I contemplated the loss of my old neighbor I thought that the house was more than just a house to my neighbor, it was a home. It was a place where he came after a long day at work, a place to relax, a secure place when the world did not make sense; in short it was his life. I thought how many nights he had slept in that house, how many meals he had eaten in that kitchen, how many times he had gazed out those windows; in short how much living had gone on there. How much did those items, now sold for a few bucks, mean to the one that used them for years. Those old rods, reels and boxes of lures, what memories did they hold but only for the old man who would never again use them.
Our lives do not consist of stuff, but they are the visual reminders of things that brought us pleasure in our brief sojourn here. Stuff, the history of our lives is written in stuff. The sum total of our earthly pursuits are spelled out in the stuff that we have accumulated. Stuff that only has real meaning to those that possess and use it. Well passed my own three score and ten of allotted time I look around at all my accumulation of stuff; a closet full of fly rods, a cabinet with reels and lines, boxes upon boxes of flies, boxes and cabinets filled with fly tying material, not to mention all the other accoutrements that have accumulated over the years. Shelves groan under the weight of books, canoes, float tubes and pontoon boats take up space in my garage. The time will come when they will be sold for a few bucks, just stuff to those that will become the possessors but so much more to the old man that will never use them again.
Memories are written in our stuff. May we all make many wonderful memories to sustain us when we can no longer use them.