I have grown certain of this. I've been cleaning out an old man's house. Actually he wasn't that old. And he's getting younger. He's about thirty-five. In my mind, now that he's dead. Permanently thirty-five.
My dad. Laughing. Angry. Laughing due to a sudden bout of schadenfraude, no doubt. Piss and vinegar. Olive oil and vinegar. Either way.
A hard working, no exceptions, no excuses, ..I don't care if you baby-sat the entire summer ..I'm going to finally locate your earnings and I'm going to steal them.. kind of guy.
He was a funny guy. An organized guy. A guy with standards. Rooms were clean. Lines were straight. Quarters bounced. There was no tolerance for things like attitude. Or lint. Not like today. And now this. His house. Slowly dissembled by his children. Piece by piece. Every item, each proverbial mayonnaise jar with painted lid, filled with screws, wing-nuts, unidentified powders, and sometimes money (it doesn't matter which, and, admittedly, very useful to me after my recent move) is taken down. Examined. Discussed. Considered. If not taken off of the premises altogether. And that's the goal.
Sometimes, in the final analysis, an item is slapped with a sticker: One dollar (or best offer).
This is not my dad's house anymore. It's not our house, either. And it's not your house. Nor is it their house. This is not a house. There are still some domestic touches. There is an 8 oz. Ice Mountain in the fridge right now (for instance). It looks quite cozy there, next to its hopeful companion, the single foil wrapped pat of butter. And a more unlikey pair there never was. Really.
And there are a few rolls of toilet paper in the house. Yes. And we've got quite a handsome collection of garbage bags, lightbulbs, xacto knives, and small cut up sponges. Yes, yes. And the abundance of Windex that my dad accumulated (or horded, we'll never know) is impressive, and can not be ignored. A Windex museum will very likely be up and running in time for the estate sale. Which would be great in case of a lull.
I have developed the nagging sense that I'm in big trouble with my dad right about now.
It's an ongoing process that seem without end. Yet when it's all over and done with, I know I will wish it weren't. Last week a couple of my dad's neighbors walked past as I stood at his dumpster with my unreasonable amount of garbage. They stopped and laughed and said something about how they "don't envy" me and my family right now. They're nice people, my dad's neighbors. They've been there. They know how it is.
I looked up at them (my face by then covered with asbestos, my hair filled with cob webs, spiders, and smoke, my arm bleeding - freely bleeding - as nature intended, what with my handy paper-towel-plus-scotch-tape bandage failing me by then, and sort of hanging on from just one corner, I was gross, pathetic, unprepared - all three). I pushed down the lid on the dumpster and paused. Paused and looked at them. Maybe for a moment too long for comfort. I lit a cigarette (though, in all honesty, one was already lit and being smoked by me, but I didn't care). I pulled out a fifth of vodka (shaken, plenty of ice, a twist of lemon) and I laughed. With them. At first politely. Then genuinely. Which became heartily. And, finally, desperately as I went into hysterics that, I don't care what anyone says, is the greatest. And they followed suit. My dad's neighbors.
It was that kind of day. And why not laugh? The sun is shining. Life. It's so bad it's good.