Friday, August 28, 2015

The Coveted Medallion

The meticulous and oft-tedious nature
of sorting through a lifetime of another persons stuff
will grey the hair and melt the shoes right off
the most determined
most organized
most prepared.


Perhaps your parents
unlike ours
realized they would not live forever.
Perhaps they sorted through their own
and lightened up their lives
so you wouldn't have to do it after they were gone.

Not mine.
No, the only way I can make sense of the 
flotsam and lifetime of accumulation my parents left
to be addressed by my sisters and myself
is to believe they just figured
they were never going to die.

In which case
someday, yes
they would have possibly needed those 85 baby food jars again.

They'd wear the faded, threadbare short-sleeve shirts again;
or the flannel ones with the elbows worn through;
the ones still brilliant in color on one pocket
because the vinyl pocket-protector
exactly that.
Orange plaid is still
after all those years
and just on that one pocket,
orange plaid. 

If your parents were pack rats
and mine were among the pack rattiest of them all
(so I know something of which I speak)
you will find beyond the grief of their passing
which will
at various times

If you're anything like me
the wonder and mystery of
diving into the closets and drawers
and garage attics
of people you thought you knew so well
will very quickly find you calling your local
dumpster guy
and having him deliver 
the biggest empty box 
he can fit into the driveway.

And you'll fill it.
Three times, maybe.
You'll fill it
with all that wonder
and mystery
and those fabric napkins, too..
(the ones with the big cherries on them)

still in their plastic packages
from when your mom purchased them
in 19-something-or-other
for a special occasion
that apparently never happened.

It'll all be piled there under the old lamps with rotted cords
the sixty-three pairs of black socks
all alike
and woven picnic baskets
non-working vaporizers
and half-used jars of Icy Hot.

If old issues of
Good Housekeeping and 
Readers Digest and
Family Circle and
the Farmers Almanac
were worth a nickel
on EBay
you'd be planning an exotic vacation.

But they're not.
So you'll likely just be dreaming
of the day the dumpster is filled
for the last time
and vacation will simply be
never having to look at any of the stuff

When it's finished
it's a big day.
A very big day.

Ice cream
or your particular vice of choice
will be
on this day
entirely appropriate.

Then comes the paperwork.
If you're lucky
like me
you'll have a sister
who dives in
elbows deep
and takes responsibility
to make sure all the
i's are dotted
and t's are crossed.

She'll call you
and tell you 
we must all meet at the bank
and we must all sign papers.
Important papers.

They'll tell you
papers of this sort require
more than a notary.
They require something
a medallion guarantee.

We've never heard of this before
but visions of such important
medallion kind of things
will dance in our heads.

A medallion, huh? 

Sort of Presidential.
Ohhh, we'll feel so important!!!!

Great Job! In Gold!
Well heck yeah,
plowing through 60 years of accumulated stuff??
I'd call that a GREAT JOB!!!!
We've EARNED the medallion!!!

Sounds fancy!
Frankly, we couldn't wait to see it.
It seemed sort of appropriate
the piles of paperwork
endless phone calls
dotting ALL those i's
and crossing ALL those t's
would end up being the
yellow brick road
that led us to our reward,
this elusive medallion.

You can imagine
our collective disappointment when
all lined up
like dutiful little chipmunks
across the desk
The Important Bank Person
that she pulls from her desk
a little ink stamp
like something your
might have used to check out books
back in the day.

No gold.
No glitter.
Green ink.
Not shiny.
Not even
a little hurrah.

The Medallion Guarantee
turns out to be
a very important exercise
but very

Kind of like
the fourth week
of hauling your folks
hoarded mysteries
to the dumpster.

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