A large pile of sticks was all that remained to toss into the dumpster. We’ve been cleaning out my late father’s house for the last month. The dumpster we had ordered the second time was only an 11-yard unit. The dumpster company delivered a 20-yarder because that’s all that had. Such is God’s grace.
We needed every square inch. There were beds and frames to dispose, and old couches and chairs. Dressers to bust up with a sledgehammer. I got good at this through two big rounds of house clearing. There is not a dresser in existence that could survive my unsentimental eye. Even the dresser I recall my parents purchasing from Plastino & Owns in Lancaster, Pennsylvania more than 40 years ago. It’s still just wood, glue and hardboard. And so it’s gone.
This should perhaps have been a sentimental journey. But when you’ve been through the house of your parents and picked out the few things that mean much, the rest needs to move on. It belongs to the universe just as they do. If that seems harsh, then you have never cleaned out the house of your parents or anyone else.
At first, it is gut-wrenching. Then it’s a slog. It’s a strain on the back and the mind. But finally you make decisions based on practicality and purpose. If something is not needed, then it has to go.
Frankly it’s an overall shit job doing these tasks. And like all shit jobs you’d rather be doing something else. Early in life we learn what shit jobs are all about, and try to avoid them. As kids our parents give us chores to do, or jobs to complete. And most kids would rather play than work. My brothers and I learned early on that we loved the grace of sports over almost anything else.
That’s because sports were always an escape. A joyful world where playing and winning were the object, not just moving shit around. Between those worlds was a universe of discipline and fighting. Anyone that says the good old days were better did not grow up in a neighborhood where you either kicked the shit out of someone or got the shit kicked out of you. And when that wasn’t enough, a parent was kicking the shit out of you for being lazy or insubordinate. That world was full of shit jobs and shittier attitudes on everyone’s part.
And that’s why my brothers and I all raised our children without raising a hand at them, and without needing to yell or exasperate. We tried to break a cycle that society constructed and that some people still celebrate. A society of bullies and boors.
So we’re all liberals who found the joy of sports to be a pure and brilliant place to explore and be creative. And when I found running, it was the world where depression and anxiety whether by nature or manufacture could be rendered powerless.
All sport is useless, if you think about it, other than for those purposes. To clear the human mind. To find a purpose beyond shit jobs and the people who force them upon us. To cast joy at the feet of those who try to convince us our only purpose is to serve them, and not in the Christian sense. But to be subservient, and authoritarian, and to abide by rules and ideas handed down without examination.
And as I chopped up and tossed the last of a massive pile of sticks that I’d cut from the apple trees the previous spring and that dried out in the back yard and were hauled to the curb by my father’s caregiver last fall, yet too late to be picked up by the city during yard waste cycles, I reveled in the idea that this was the close of a very long chapter in my life.
Since 2000 I’ve managed my family’s affairs and been caregiver to my father. It has been both an honor and a pain. Such is the rhythm of all such duties. I lost my mother in 2005, leaving my father in my direct care, stroke-ridden and still difficult from the effects. But we made things work despite his unpredictable ways. I learned to converse with him though he could not form words due to the stroke. And he lived through last October in his own home. Almost every day during the last eleven years I had some contact with him, and performed a thousand duties on his behalf even while my late wife went through eight years of cancer treatment and passed away in 2013.
It’s been a heck of a journey. I’ve tried to make the right choices. And cleaning out the house where my parents lived the last 37 years was something of a final step in all that process.
I looked up the hill on our street where I used to do interval training back in college. Recalled all those runs to and from the house during cold, cold winters in the early 1980s.
Some people say there’s no place like home. But when I hear the birds sing outside my parent’s place and realize the cardinals singing are likely descendants of those birds that hung around our place thirty years ago, and how those birds are related to the cardinals I just heard singing out in Arizona a week ago, it makes me feel like home is a very much bigger place than I previously imagined.
Home is the place to which you return when you run or ride. It’s that simple.