Friday, May 03, 2002
Some Things You Keep
Some things you keep. Like good teeth. Warm coats. Bald husbands. They're good for you, reliable and practical and so sublime that to throw them away would make the garbage man a thief. So you hang on, because something old is sometimes better than something new, and what you know often better than a stranger.
These are my thoughts, they make me sound old, old and tame and dull at a time when everybody else is risky and racy and flashing all that's new and improved in their lives. New spouses, new careers, new thighs, new lips. The world is dizzy with trade-ins. I could keep track, but I don't think I want to.
I grew up in the fifties with practical parents - a mother, God bless her who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then re-used it- and still does. A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.
They weren't poor, my parents, they were just satisfied. Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Fifties couples in Bermuda shorts and Banlon sweaters, lawnmower in one hand, tools in the other. The tools were for fixing things - a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things you keep. It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that re-fixing, re-heating, re-newing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant there'd always be more.
But then my father died, and on that clear autumn night, in the chill of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn't any 'more'. Sometimes what you care about most gets all used up and goes away, never to return.
So, while you have it, it's best to love it and care for it and fix it when it's broken and heal it when it's sick. That's true for marriage and old cars and children with bad report cards and dogs with bad hips. You keep them because they're worth it, because you're worth it.