Friday, August 14, 2015

A not-so-happy task

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

When I was 12 years old, my parents named me the executrix of their estate.  Wow, that's a LOT of responsibility to put on a kid's shoulders. But of course, I wouldn't need to do that sad duty for decades. But I was always rather proud that they trusted me to take care of things for them.

I didn't have to do a thing when my Dad passed away almost six years ago. Everything went to my mother (and my younger brother got his tools). My Mom handled everything. Now that she has passed, it's up to me.

Our first task was the funeral parlor. The last two times I've had that sad duty it was ... sad. My younger brother came with me this time and he handles death with humor. So he had me and the funeral director laughing like crazy, which was certainly better than crying. (And I've cried buckets these past two months.)

We've had to deal with insurance companies, and pension plans, and banks, and a black-sheep family member who has thrown stumbling blocks in our path, but the hardest thing for me has been the job of clearing out my Mum's house.

My mother had hobbies.  She was a quilter, a knitter (both hand and machine) and sometimes she did needlepoint. Or at least she thought she might LIKE to do needlepoint, because I've found bags and bags and bags of projects that I know were somebody else's unfinished project that she thought she might like to finish one day.

I've found unfinished quilts, sweaters, doilies, socks, afghans--some she started, some she bought at yard sales.  But most of all there's her quilting material and her yarn.  We're not talking a few skeins or a few cones of yarn, and we're not talking about a few fat quarters of quilt material. We're talking hundreds of skeins of yarn, scores of cones of yarn, and about 15 LARGE tubs filled with quilting material, all stored in a damp basement.  (The dehumidifier died some time ago. Guess who went out and bought a new one on Wednesday?)

I've been finding yarn and quilt material scattered all over the house.  So far I've got four HUGE (leaf) bags just full of hand knitting yarn.  I've got bags and bags and bags of unfinished projects. I've got boxes and jars filled with nothing but buttons.  I've got a BIG shoe box just filled with over 100 packages of seam binding.  I've found at least 14 pairs of scissors; 10 or 12 pin cushions. Six quilt rotary cutters (and tons of plastic quilting templates). Hundreds of spools of thread.  She had 8 sewing machines and 5 knitting machines.  There are dolls.  Lots of dolls.  I knew she had a collection in a glass case in the living room, but I've been finding more and more dolls squirreled away in closets and boxes.  Some of them are wearing clothes she knitted. Baby dolls, Barbie dolls. Unfinished cloth dolls.  Dolls in cradles. Dolls still in their original boxes.  And scores of teddy bears, too.

Trying to sort like-items has been a Herculean task. All I've seemed to accomplish so far is make the house a total mess.  We're going to have a sale soon, and perhaps after that first sale, we'll be able to better assess what's left. 

Sadder still:  After my mother passed, I brought the mother's day balloons back from the hospice home.  That was two months ago. They still have helium in them and I can't bear to pop them and toss them away.  They're starting to sag, so one day soon I'll have that unhappy task, too.

It's just me doing all this (for reasons we won't get into, because I don't understand them myself), plus trying to write, plus trying to keep a house of my own. Some days I just stand in my mother's living room and cry because I'm so overwhelmed. But I've got to get the job done.  They trusted me to do it.

Have you ever had to clear out a loved one's home?  Did you come up with a system to make it easier?  I really would like to know. (Thank you.)