Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Snapshots of Retirement Living: Downsizing and Repurposing

I flew to PA yesterday to help my parents move into their new retirement apartment in a scenic corner of historic Bucks County. They had experimented with living in Virginia with my brother and his wife, but that situation was not a good fit for anyone. After a little more than a month they called it quits and decided to move back to PA, near where they had lived for the past 20 years and most of their lives.

So here we are at The Lutheran Community at Telford, trying to fit 61 boxes of planet earth souvenirs into a smallish two-bedroom apartment. I find myself winnowing through my parents’ earthly goods and treasures and ruthlessly eliminating duplication and extraneity (is that a word?) while helping to put everything else in its place.

Some of this sifting happened under duress when mom and dad packed up their belongings for the first move to Virginia. But the first move happened kind of quickly, and a lot of stuff was dumped into boxes and shipped south. Many of these boxes did not see the light of day in Jefferson’s fair state, and now we’re opening them to find these kinds of treasures:

  • Hotel stationery from hotel chains that no longer exist, and from trips taken decades ago.
  • Neighborhood telephone directories from the mid-1980s.
  • Three identical sets of 175 Bible memory cards in small red boxes, probably 40 years old, and untouched for the past 20.
  • Three containers each of dried basil flakes, dried parsley flakes, and rubbed sage, plus duplicates of several other herbs and spices.
  • Dad’s work ID from 1938.
  • Dad’s business cards from the 1970s.
  • Two boxes labeled “playing cards,” neither of which contained playing cards. Instead, they held marketing freebies like keychains, fingernail clippers, paper weights, tiny tool sets, and lots of pens.

One entire box was filled with records. Not written records, not medical records. Record records. LPs, 45s, and albums of 45s. I thought I had entered a time warp. I read through the titles:

  • Paul Mickelson Plays for Youth (at the giant Robert-Morton pipe organ), including “In My Heart There Rings a Melody” and “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.” Several albums featured the name and/or location of the pipe organ prominently on the cover.
  • The Chesterfield Broadcasts Glenn Miller and His Orchestra: “Authentic broadcasts of the legendary radio program by the original orchestra—all on record for the first time!”
  • A Treasury of Immortal Performances: “Dance Band Hits” including Tommy Dorsey playing “Boogie Woogie,” Glenn Miller playing “Song of the Volga Boatment,” and Duke Ellington with “Mood Indigo.”
  • I loved this one: Ronnie Avalone sings “The Holy City,” plus “duets with Mrs. Avalone.”
  • A four-album set of audio Bible studies in Galatians by the legendary (if you run in those circles) Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, Th.D. This gem is a podcast of 1960!

Among the 45s I found the ultimate political classic, “Excerpts from Richard M. Nixon’s Nomination Acceptance Speech, August 8, 1968.” Are you old enough to remember one of his most unforgivable lines: “America is in trouble today, not because her people have failed, but because her leaders have failed”? (I’m not, of course, but I do remember voting for him in our mock presidential election in second grade.)

There was more: souvenirs from Honduras, Peru, Spain, Holland, and Germany; imitation cut glass peanut butter jars from the 1950s; no fewer than six dictionaries; and hand towels that carbon date back to the Triassic Period.

Tune in tomorrow for more Snapshots of Retirement Living.

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