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Remembering Dad: His System of Cycling Junk

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Dad was a collector of many things. He had his old cameras, his library, his painted engine collection, and hundreds of his favorite movies on VHS tapes. He was highly creative at using junk in wonderful displays, like his magic garage. However, he also was organized, and did not like junk hanging around the house.

Mom enjoyed many of his collections, and tolerated others. She also does not like junk hanging around the house, but her definition of junk differed from Dad’s definition of junk.

Mom is not a typical hoarder in that she does not seek junk to bring into the house. She is more like a benevolent sentimentalist in that she does not get rid of some things merely because they are broken or useless.

The difference between them was, at times, slight, but it was also significant. For example, Dad did not mind hanging onto an old record player with the tone arm broken off if he could use it to spin the flag display in his magic garage. Mom, on the other hand, would want to hang on to it just in case some day one of us kids, or perhaps a grandchild, wanted a record player and was willing to spend more to fix that particular broken one than it would cost to buy a new one.

Dad had his system of ridding the house of stuff he considered junk but Mom considered worth holding onto.

He would first cycle the item into the attic. Depending on the likelihood Mom may ask him about it, the item would stay there for a month to a year. He could then retrieve it if she asked about it, or if somebody truly wanted it.

The item would then be cycled to the garage for a much shorter stay. It would remain there for a week to a month depending on whether it fit into a garbage can on the night before it was to be picked up, or if it needed to be hauled to the dump hidden among things Mom agreed was junk.

On the rare occasions that Mom might ask about something that had been fully cycled, Dad could say he gave it away to someone who wanted it, that he could not locate it, or apologize for mistaking the value of something like a cup with a broken handle that one day one of us kids, or perhaps a grandchild, might want to repair rather than buy a fully functioning new cup.

It was almost foolproof, with "almost" being the key word!

Dad had some exercise equipment. To add to it, Mom bought him an exercise mat. Unlike the tumbling mats you may be familiar with from gym class, this mat was two pieces of plastic sewn over a piece of foam rubber about an inch thick. Since the plastic did not breathe, any sweat would cause a person to stick to it. It also drew moisture from the concrete floor of the basement, so it required cleaning quite often. Also, foam rubber is not really supportive of weight, so it offered little in the way of cushioning. Nonetheless, Mom was proud of her contribution, so it could not be cycled out through his system. It was also out in the open, so its presence or absence was highly noticeable.

When I got out of the military and had a place of my own, Dad asked me to take it. I did not want it because I had already experienced its lack of cushioning and had been stuck to it when it was in his exercise area, but Dad kept insisting I take it. I conceded, but donated it to a yard sale a slow pitch team I played on was having to raise money for league fees and uniforms.

One day soon after that, I was visiting with them, and Mom asked me about the exercise mat. Without thinking I told her that what I did and that we got three dollars for it. I probably should have noticed the grimace on Dad’s face before offering up the truth! I am not certain if she was more hurt than angry, but she was definitely both.

Later that evening, Dad made sure I knew the correct answer to a question like that was, "I use it daily," or "I love having it."

That incident caused a slight change in his cycling method for a while. He made sure that things Mom was likely to ask about were retained a bit longer.

With Dad being gone now for as long as he has, Mom’s system of retention has now taken over his system of cycling. Consequently, if one of us kids, or perhaps a grandchild, a great grandchild, or even a great great grandchild, one day wants an analog, black and white TV set that currently does not work, a coffee maker that cost twelve dollars new and now needs a heating element, or a cheap clock that only needs a new timekeeping mechanism to hold a battery, she has one that she is not using.

However, if we want the stereo with blown speakers, the imitation grandfather’s clock that makes a loud noise when plugged in, or the crockpot with broken handles, we will have to wait. She still uses those things!

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