My dad's Ford Explorer with suede and leather trim is mine now. My brother nudged me to take it when Dad died last year. It was the most wonderful nudge I've ever had in my life.
On the occasional late afternoon when I find myself on back roads and the sun has turned to gold, it's almost like Dad is still here sitting in the passenger seat, surveying the crops and keeping an eye out for deer.
My father-in-law's zippy convertible, the one he bought a year after my mother-in-law died, the same year he turned 86, is parked in our driveway.
Last Sunday I burned a quarter tank of gas, driving with the top down and the radio blaring.
All of our parents are gone now, both of our dads within little more than a year. The most daunting task that follows death is closing out houses.
So much stuff. You start sorting towels in one room and wind up grouping picture frames in another. If you don't have attention deficit disorder when you begin closing out a house, you will by the time you're finished.
Having handled a lot of stuff in the past few years, I've developed some ideas on what I want done with my stuff when I'm gone. The first rule when I die is this: Nobody goes through my underwear drawer.
I've done three underwear drawers now and there's just no dignified way around it. I hereby dictate that upon my demise my underwear drawer become a two-person project. One person holds open a trash bag and the second person empties the drawer.
This will eliminate any commentary about my socks, bras, and nighties. It should also preclude any and all discussion as to whether I actually thought that shapewear did any good.
I won't want every drawer dumped wholesale. There's something therapeutic about going through your loved one's earthly belongings.
It's how you learn that your dad had 14 pocket knives in his nightstand and liked pressed handkerchiefs. When you see that your mother used every spare dresser drawer for tablecloths and linens, it is reaffirmation that big parties are your heritage.
Bagging 43 pairs of dress pants, including a blue seersucker and pink seersucker, etches into your memory that your father-in-law was a fashion risk-taker, even at 97.
Give my clothes to charity when I'm gone, but only the good stuff. We give a lot of garbage to non-profits. Why punish the poor?
After my clothes have been taken care of, I'd like family members to move to the kitchen and take any dishes that make them smile. Maybe it's a serving bowl from a dinner that was a disaster or the pedestal plate that held triple-layer chocolate cakes.
If there are still some nice things left, call my remaining cronies and tell them to come help themselves. (If it's the same set of friends I have now, they'll need coffee and Danish.)
As for the rest of the stuff, have a sale. But make it a respectable sale. I want early bird specials from 8-10 a.m. Honor all coupons and set up a clearance area marked 75 percent off the ticketed price.
The family is headed into the second month of going through things at my father- in-law's. When you consider everybody who has come and gone and enjoyed conversation amid the boxes and the piles, I almost wonder if he saved all this stuff just to get the family together one more time.
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