Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Memories and old stuff

I have a few saved posts that I am not done with, but wanted to put this out there. H and I are big E*Bayers - mainly we have selling all our old stuff. (actually stuff our parents have given us and used airplane parts.) We have been busy selling more stuff - as we clean out his mom's house and our basement. As reformed pack rats there is alot of stuff.

So - in a jar of old jewerey and the like, I found my grandfather's service pins from when he worked for State Penn and then for the State of Ohio. He retired from the State of Ohio in the late 70s. (He had had a heart attack and was of retirement age. I was about 6 or 7 years old.)

Well, I decided to sell the pins on Ebay. I thought a collector might really like to have them. Clearly they meant very little to me - since they were mixed in a jar with old hair clips, some old buttons and so forth.

Well they sold for $60. (there were 5 of them.) I was really pleased, because hey - I got $60 for something that was in my basement and presumably someone that will spend $60 for old pins must really want them and will take care of them. To them they will be meaningful.

So I packaged them up and mailed them off to the buyer and did not think a think of it. Until the buyer emailed me to to thank me for the quick shipment and said the following:

"Received pins today in fine condition. What prison did your dad work at? Do you have any of his badges from the prison? Can't figure out why someone would want to sell items of the family like this but they will all go in my personal collection of Ohio prison items."

Well, the last line of that email bothered me like a bad toothache for the better part of yesterday. I am not really sure why. To me, my grandfather was not a prison guard or the manager of the machine shop for the Ohio Penn. He was the man who puttered in the garage and mowed the grass on his Cub Cadet riding mower. He was the man, who taught me to drive 3 on the column in an old Chevy Impala when I was 14 years old - because it was fun and he was bored that summer. We stayed with him on Thursdays while my grandmother went to her Sewing Circle.

He called the buffet at Elby's "The Trough" and used to meet his friends for lunch there. He would walk around town in ratty old pants and shirt with over $1000 in $20s in his pocket. He loved going to the Hardware store to get the daily update.

He was a good man. He worked hard. During the depression he hauled coal from West Virginia and then would whatever he could back down. He married my grandmother and they were married for 53 years. They survived some really difficult times. He survived the Ohio Penn riots - because he had been fair and kind to the inmates and they had hidden him in a closet. Otherwise he would have died.

He is the reason I got to study abroad in high school. He gave my mom the money to cover the trip. He felt I should go see the world.

He also slipped me money - the last night I saw him alive. The night before I left for Germany. He was in the hospital. He was dying of cancer. We all knew it and we did not talk about it. I had offered to stay home and he told me "Suzy - you are getting on that plane and you are going to experience all that you can, learn all that you can, and love life." He gave me some more spending money and told me to take alot of pictures and bring back something to remind me of my trip. It was one of the only times I saw him cry. He knew he would never see me again. I was so sure he would still be there when I got back.

I bought a Steif Teddy Bear with that money. I still have it. I would never get rid of that bear - but some old pins? For me it is just not the same.

He died while I was gone. He was buried and I missed it all. For a long time that haunted me, but I now know that I was fulfilling my destiny and that is what he wanted. I was getting to see a part of the world he had only read about. I was getting the education that he had never had the opportunity to get. I was experiencing life. What a gift.

This entire train of thought - also reminded me of a conversation that I had with a school mate. who also went on the trip. He had taken no pictures and had purchased very few momentous. I had asked him: "Why not??" and he told me something to the effect that his memories were in his heart and mind and would be with him always.

I did not believe him then - but I do now. The best memories are in your mind and heart. Stuff is just stuff. The experiences stick with you forever. It is not about how many pictures you have, but the memories you nurture and the time you take to care about others.

So, does the email still bother - NO. I have what is truly important.

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