Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The things left behind

I got an email from Amazon suggesting that I might want to purchase a refill of printer toner. What Amazon doesn't know, of course, is that I used to buy it on Roger's behalf and have it shipped to his house, since he was none too tech savvy. 

I won't be needing to place that order again, since Roger (my husband's grandpa) died in a car crash last July. It's odd and bittersweet the way little reminders come back to you months (and years, I suspect) later.  




Allen just received some of his possessions, including his very trusty travel mug which went everywhere with him...and it even had his plastic flexi-straw in it. Funny story about that: it wasn't the kind of straw that comes with the cup, just the regular kind that is meant to be disposable. Except that this is Roger we're talking about, so he didn't dispose of it. Waste not, want not. I don't even know how old that straw is. And Roger's beverage of choice in his travel mug? Hot water. Roger was quite a fellow. Allen's keeping the straw, though not to drink with. I think he's going to put it up in his shop somewhere as a little reminder of his grandpa.  

Again, it's odd and bittersweet the things that call forth the memories. Why a drinking straw? Why not a piece of art or something more distinguished and destined for permanence? For some people, those would be the kind of mementos which most evoke their presence. Roger, though, was a man of pragmatism. He found beauty in utility and hard work. "Work makes life sweet," was his mantra, adopted from his German-from-Russia forebears. He truly loved working. Teaching, administrating, manual labor: it was all good. Allen is the same way. He'll never retire; well, maybe someday he'd quit a "day job" but then it would be onward to other things. It runs on my side, too. When my own maternal grandpa "retired" it was to start a Christmas tree farm and to be a commercial fisherman. He worked at mowing and farm upkeep until physical frailty prevented him in the last years of his life. My paternal grandmother was the longest serving state employee in Connecticut with over 50 years of teaching at the state college/university. They did what they loved until their bodies couldn't keep up. 

Had Roger not been in the car accident, he'd be maintaining his busy pace today. He was going to go hard till the end, because what else was life about? And you can bet that drinking straw was going to get used until it was too full of holes to function as anything but a sprinkler! His frugality, his work ethic, and his salt-of-the-earth nature somehow are perfectly encapsulated in that humble straw. So although it may be a strange, strange souvenir of one's grandfather, it seems quite fitting to keep it.

What, I wonder, of mine would be treasured and kept? Would it be my writing? Artwork? Or would it be something I can't even predict because it seems too mundane? How much of a say do any of us have in the things we leave behind? Some, to be sure. We live a legacy, for good or ill. But as for the tangible leftovers--the sacramentals, if you will--which will bring a smile or a good thought to loved ones who remain...I don't think it can be planned out to a full extent. That is as it should be. I can stipulate in a will or estate plan if I want certain things to be given to certain people. But I can't dictate the memories of me which people will hold, nor can I control which objects will evoke such memories. In life and in death, we never have complete control.  

Could Roger have imagined that this cup and straw would become an esteemed possession? Likely not; but I think he would be quite pleased that it was still working hard.

Rest in peace, Roger (and Roberta, too). Your work is ended; enter into the joy of rest for a change! ;)


Roger and Ruby, 2011

Roger and Max, 2013

Roberta, Karla, Roger, and Ben, 2013