Confronted with a need to dispose of some possessions in order to make enough room to live, I found myself debating whether to give away my father’s old tape recorder. Few things still attach him to me and I was tempted to keep the recorder as tangible evidence of his presence. But I realized I would never use it, that it was a fantasy to imagine I would make another recording with it and the recorder was a pretty stupid way to hold onto my father. I gave it away.
I was sensitive to the issue because earlier this summer I had, hastily and thoughtlessly, given away a huge antique dresser that had belonged to my father. The dresser was too big for me and seriously in the way, and I offered it to a young man who does fix-it-up work for us and had just gotten divorced, leaving all his furniture behind. Foolishly, I revealed to one of my sisters that I had given the dresser away, with the result that she became very angry with me and after a few testy emails, cut off our relationship.Then my other sister wrote to ask, did I still have my father’s bicycle, which I had given away years before because it was too big for me. I had the sense that my sisters were trying to stay in contact with our father through things he had owned and if so, I knew where they were coming from.
It’s hard to want things you can no longer have. My brother, for example, owns a large house on Nantucket which, when I was married, I was invited to regularly, for weeks at a time. Thirteen years have passed since I have been there. I have never been invited back, although my sons are, regularly. I broke something in them in breaking my own life, I guess. So here we are, my sisters wanting scraps of my father that I no longer possess and me wanting to be restored to a space I once loved.
Friends, someone once said, are God’s apology for families.