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Thoughts about ‘holding on’

I don’t know about you, but when friends and family pass on, they stay in my address book. Erasing the dearly departed seems disrespectful – a disconnect not wanted, a good-bye refused. And the same for my e-mail: People may die, but they stay with me on AOL.

So I hang on. Let me tell you the ways I hang on. My mom left the planet six years ago, but she hasn’t left my life.

She’s with me in the lipstick color I use (Persian Melon, her favorite), the scent in my hand crème (rose), the odd things I do at the dinner table – like offering to taste the ice cream of my kids to “make sure it’s not poisoned” – a bit of dessert humor now passing to a fourth generation.

And yes, I hang on with boxes of unfiled photos, slides, certificates of this and that – including my oldest son’s graduation certificate from Little Beaver Nursery School in Tucson, Ariz. Oh, the pull of those images – the photographs and the scrapbooks. And yes, even the corny awards and plaques – the bo-bo feathers of life – still live on at my house. I have my mom’s Red Cross certificate from 1942. I have my brother’s baby bracelet from 1933. But most people don’t take it to the extremes I do.

Or do they? Am I the only person who only recently threw away gardenias from a long ago baseball captain boyfriend who probably isn’t even breathing anymore?

“They” call it downsizing – getting rid of stuff – a supposedly sensible thing to do as one moves to a smaller home as an older person. But I am not sure anyone should downsize good memories of good people.

If my garbage can were still here, I’d go back and get those gardenias and let my kids throw them out for me when I fall off my twig. Nobody is as relentless as one generation cleaning up the detritus of another. Sure, the kids are smart enough to hold on to the china and the silver, but you betcha the old magazines and recipe cards will end up recycled. And so it should be. Otherwise we’d all be buried by our stuff. And our mother’s stuff. And her mother’s stuff.

Still, I won’t cross out dead people from my address book. OK, OK, I won’t recopy them to the new address book. But I keep every address book and every calendar date book. Ask me what I did in Sept. 3, 1968, and I can tell you. Ask for the addresses of people I knew in college. I can tell you.

Just don’t ask me what I’m doing tomorrow. Besides holding on.


The author of four non-fiction books, Mel Walsh is the host of Second Wind on KVMR-FM 89.5, Wednesdays, 1 p.m. Write Mel at primetime@theunion.com or at 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945. More info at http://www.melwalsh.com.

What do you want done with your stuff? By now, you may own collections, furniture, dishes, photographs, books, art, jewelry, tools and so forth. Do you want your kids fighting over these things or sharing them peacefully?

To learn how to go about this sensitive process, look at http://www.yellowpieplate.umn.edu. It’s a great service of the University of Minnesota. The site presents the emotional and practical issues related to the question: Who gets Grandma’s yellow pie plate? Look there for the free articles such as “Families and Personal Property Inheritance: A Top Ten List of Decision Making.” Putting three words – yellow pie plate – into Google will also get you to this site.

And don’t forget you can always donate the non-sentimental stuff blocking your closets to non-profit organizations such as Hospice of the Foothills. They have three area thrift shops. Look in the Yellow Pages under Thrift Shops. At last count, there are 19 area shops that want what you don’t want anymore. How perfect is that?

And if you really can’t part with anything, don’t call me. I can’t get out of my garage. The National Geographics are too high.

– Mel Walsh

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