Sunday, June 08, 2014

Looking Back, Looking Forward

     Spent Saturday afternoon helping my baby brother clear out/rearrange the garden shed and garage at my Mom's (former) house, part of preparation to "stage" it for showing by the realtor.

     It's a strange-feeling thing to be doing.  Oh, it's not uncommon -- a lot of people have to do just what we're doing as their parents age.  But it's a thing you do once, clearing away clutter and debris that includes the things you grew up with, sudden memories from a scrap of paper, a decorative flower pot, a beat-up "handyman" vise.  We worked pensively, trying to evaluate what could be thrown away, what mustn't be, what wasn't going to be needed again with Mom's gardening days over (most of that can go to my big sister, but she's out for most of the summer with a fractured pelvis from a car wreck).

     I recovered some big things, a couple of them long forgotten.  The bulk of a Collins 212A audio console (1947 vintage), I had not forgotten, but it's a two-person lift and awkward even at that; it's in the back of my car, where I'm going to have to disassemble it for storage and, maybe someday, rebuilding.  But I didn't even remember the big box of late 1970s electronics magazine in not-so-good shape and another of mid-1980s SF magazines (Analog, Amazing, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Galileo, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, maybe even a Galaxy or two). All forgotten, or all but; ditto my 6" metal slide rule (a present from a former boss), a glass full of pens (several Rapidographs), a box of pinfeed paper (trash) with a ream of canary newsprint second sheet on top (either trash or treasure -- it was dirt-cheap and you used it for first drafts and carbons when writing using a typewriter. I have been unable to find it for sale in recent years), a couple of radio handbooks and a submission draft (two errors or less per page!  Oh, you kids barely know...)  of a story I wrote about the same time I was reading those SF mags, "Barn-Burner," a middling-lousy title for a middling Sturgeon-esque trifle.  I may try recycling that -- I remember that kid; she had some good ideas.  (I still miss the typewriter that was typed on, a pre-Selectric letter-series IBM electric, easily one of the best first-draft tools I have ever used: you flipped the switch and it was quivering to go, a warm, thrumming hum muting outside sounds...  It weighed at least ten times as much as a laptop and used about a hundred Watts and is perhaps more golden in memory than it was in reality.)

     We swept and rearranged, threw away and discussed, "Hey, remember...?  Oh, gee, that thing's still around?"  There was a lot of Brownian motion but by the end, the shed was neatly arranged with plenty of open space, and so was most of the garage.

     One comes home from an experience like that pensive, with a fully-loaded car, pregnant with memories like an old maid about to birth a dusty mummy.  It's a look through the wrong end of a telescope and it's a long, long way down.

     I'm past the halfway point in my life unless I live to be 112.  Not a bad plan, if medical science keeps up; but they seem to be a little too busy inventing dick pills and anti-depression medicines that don't turn most users into homicidal maniacs ("if used as directed"), so I'm not holding out a whole lot of hope.

     Is it all downhill from here, or does the roller coaster have a few peaks left?  Either way, it looks like a frightfully abrupt stop at the end.  It's a little late to admit I'm scared.  But I am.


     In other news, I finished the Heinlein biography (I cried; I still remember buying my second copy of Locus, ever, to read that Clifford Simak* and RAH were both gone.  Never bought another) and started on the Alice Sheldon one -- you may know her better as Racoona Sheldon or James Tiptree, Jr.  Gone, all gone, dammit.
* If you have never read Way Station, you've missed an excellent novel, one of the classics of the genre.  The Goblin Reservation is another fine book, and SF despite the title.  Simak's approach to his characters and worlds was unlike anyone else's, his protagonists more resolute and enduring than conventionally heroic.  His work holds up well even now and generally "reads" well ahead of its time -- the two I cited are from 1963 and 1968 respectively and IMO, SF didn't really catch up with them in style, tone and attitude until the mid to late 1970s.


Carteach said...

I'm also on the upside of the half century mark.

Are there some peaks left to the ride? Could be. Could be.

Anonymous said...

How I envy you that job - my Mothers house burned to the ground. It was a total loss - along with all of my childhood memories.


Robin said...

I've got two decades of Analog, complete, in four file boxes, that I ought to throw away but I just can't.

Roberta X said...

An excellent point, Merle.

fillyjonk said...

My parents have unopened boxes from the clear-out of my dad's parents' house (some 30 years ago, now).

Every time I'm up there I suggest to my mom that I'd be willing to help her start to clear out the garage, because I suspect that will be a far more emotionally easy task for me with my mom standing beside me than....well, than AFTER would be.

Never seems to happen, though.

Ritchie said...

Recently excavated a yellowed copy of "They Walked Like Men" to pass along to a youngster. He'd already devoured "Footfall".