This is like no downsizing I’ve known.
My forty-four and a half years as an ordained deacon and priest have come to a screeching halt. And the worst part about it right now is the chore of cleaning out my last, my very last, church office. Although I have not been exactly a hoarder all these years (you could argue that), I have saved virtually everything that I’ve ever attached any importance to. Sermons written on yellow pads and scratch paper from the 1970’s, cassette tapes of sermons and lectures from the ’80’s and ’90’s, folders of photographs, Bible studies, courses, clippings, articles, columns I’ve had published in newspapers, personnel files, confidential counseling files, and drawers of memorabilia. I’m not even counting pencils, note pads, wrenches, incense, candles, greeting cards, and old boy scout badges. I have no intention of holding on to very much. But what to do with it all? Toss it. Easy for you to say.
I’ve tossed aplenty. Bags and bags of paper to be recycled. More bags of junk to be carted to the dumpster. Still more boxes and bags to be taken to the thrift shop. And all of this follows several dumpings of yore.
Yesterday I gave in to what I have mostly avoided in scrapping files. I sat down and went through an old letter file that I have kept since college. Most of its contents date from the years when I was 20-24. Love letters, cards, mail from friends, and a stack of correspondence from those dearest to me—my grandmother, my mother and father, my two brothers, the girl that I married and her parents. I discovered some interesting things that have lain hidden away in file drawers and cabinets in that old box for fifty years. Snippets of family history that I’d forgotten or repressed. An old address I wish I’d remembered thirty years ago. People who once were on center stage of my life long since faded to and then off the margins.
To tell the truth, I held on to many of these things imagining that some day I would be important; that my life would be worth researching; that somebody after I had become famous would care about what I ate at lunch in high school or why I had a mother complex. It has obviously not been worth the trouble for me to pore over these things in decades. And yet they are a part of a life I love—love! I pulled a fair sample of letters from the dead thinking to send them to one or both of my daughters who might find them a fraction as interesting as something in People or US Magazine. I question whether they’ll find any more time to read them than I ever did. And I care nothing about what they do with them.
It is just easier to pass a few things on for another generation to dispose of. They can do it so much more objectively, unimpeded by clogged sentiment.
© Frank Gasque Dunn, 2016