When you reach a certain age, you realize there is a lot more behind than ahead. Ouch. How does that affect your behavior? How does that change “What do I wanna do when I grow up?”
Overly Long Preamble
My wife Devon and I have reached that certain age. Even more than age was the event of selling our beloved Cloud House and choosing not to buy a house to move to immediately. We chose to be homeless. Conveniently for us, our son Ryan and his wife Gina had a spare house in Santa Rosa, where we could stay between travels.
This temporary housing eased our transition immeasurably. With a place to land temporarily, we could postpone the decision of where to live long term. For convenience, we found a place in Texas. For the long-term, we gained the freedom to postpone the decision.
Even with the freedom to postpone the choice of a long-term home, we still faced a pile of “stuff” to sort out. Give to the kids, give to neighbors, store, sell, recycle, or just throw away? We tried all the possible alternatives. Kids don’t want “stuff,” neighbors are very picky about “stuff,” Goodwill won’t take most “stuff.” So the only two alternatives are storage or trash.
Devon and I quickly decided on a hard rule of nothing to storage. We knew too many friends who paid every month for storage units full of “stuff” which never came out of storage. Trashing some of our valuable stuff hurt so much, but there was no other choice.
Finally, Back to Passing the Torch
Of our many torches, one was the aforementioned “stuff.” We tried family traditions, we tried monetary value, we even tried guilt. Silver plate serving dishes, silver flatware, china sets, even coin collections simply found no resonance with our children. Furniture did not stand any chance.
Ironically, we found a few folks willing to take some of our silver serving dishes and other items. These folks were recent immigrants to the US, whom encountered as we prepared the house for sale. We got to know Pedro, a Mayan native from Guatemala, very well. He could do almost anything with almost any tool. He had a good designer’s eye and we came to depend upon him for recommendations as well as just plain good work. Eventually we offered to him and his wife a complete china set, a large flat panel screen, a few sofas and several tool sets. We preferred things to go to our kids, but they declined. So we let them go to Pedro, a recent immigrant to the US. The odd circular destiny in giving family heirlooms to a recent immigrant seemed wierdly appropriate and in the tradition of the Statue of Liberty. It eased our angst in letting go.
We advertised several furniture items on Craigs List and other internet lists. Our beautiful Italian bedroom set, matching bed, bureau, and side tables finished in black lacquer, had followed us through four relocations and we loved it. A young couple saw it on Craigs List and drove almost fifty miles to get it. We had to let it go.
Books. We love them, and grew up in maybe the last golden age of books. At one time we had collected several thousand books, housed in a stately oak bookshelf that covered one wall in our study in the Cloud House. With the stern encouragement of our daughter, the books went to a used bookstore, and then the bookcase left too. We had to let them go.
For many years I have been the unofficial, and often unreliable, ringleader of our family reunions. My mother wanted her ashes carried back to Galveston to be buried with her husband and daughter in a tiny cemetery in Village Mills, Texas. She was the matriarch of the clan, so I organized a family reunion around the event of burying her ashes at that cemetery.
This reunion presented an unusual opportunity to pass the torch on the reunion project. Rather than doing all the organizational details myself, I asked the next generation (children of my first cousins) for volunteers to run specific events at the reunion. A few folks took the challenge and did organize the Family Oscar Night, where we presented awards to various family members. It turned out surprisingly well, even if different than I expected. All I had to do was ask, and then let go.
Our son Ryan set up a family website for us as a gift many years ago. It contains audio recordings of almost every cousin. I have many ideas to add more content to this website, but neither the time nor energy. With a little encouragement from us, a volunteer from the next generation stepped up to take over the website and even collect and edit the next set of stories written by cousins, volume 2 of “Leaves from Family Trees.” We published volume 1 back in 1991, when books were still a thing, and websites did not exist. The website and the next book won’t be my vision, but they will be the vision and creation of the next generation. All we had to do was ask for a volunteer, and let it go.
We have been blessed with a little more money than we need. We could keep it, help it grow, and simply pass it on to our children when we die. That might be another 20-30 years or so for my wife Devon. We decided to give them some big chunks right now when they could enjoy it, and give some money to set up scholarships for other young folks to improve their own lives. We decided to let some money go, too.
A Small Lesson
When it comes to passing the torch, at some point you gotta let go. Hold on too long, and you may get burned.