31 August 2008

Cleaning out the shed

I joined my family in Adelaide this week for my grandfather’s funeral. The funeral itself was relatively untraumatic. Actually it was a really nice ceremony; simple, solemn and dignified – just as he wanted.

The more emotional part of the week was spent in the shed Poppa had built behind the old family home. He was the sort of man who could never throw anything out. Everything was kept, squirrelled away in the shed because “It might come in handy one day.”

My father and I had the task of sorting through the contents of the shed to decide what should be kept, what should be passed to the church fete, and what should be (lovingly and respectfully) thrown out.

There were timber off-cuts from a hundred old home improvement projects (some completed, some not), scrap metal, old oil rags, unused photographic paper, dried up paint in every colour imaginable, empty oxygen tanks and at least twenty different kinds of spanner. We could have set up a museum exhibit entitled “Plastic and metal containers of the twentieth century” and still another entitled “The evolution of computer hardware from the nineteen eighties onward.”

But among the dust, we also found undeniable testament to a man who loved his family and treasured his memories of them; old boy scout handbooks, my aunt’s thirty year old stamp collection, various high school wood-work projects and at least five boxes full of souvenirs from family holidays all over the world. None of them were necessary, and they certainly weren’t useful. But they were important.

I’m looking up at my shelves as I write this, contemplating the amount of stuff I have in my room. I’ve only been in Sydney for just over a year, but I can already see considerable piles of evidence that I may have inherited more from my father’s side of the family than just grey hair and a taste for Barossa Valley reds. But I think the most conclusive proof that my grandfather lives on in his descendants came when I took my eight year old cousin into the shed to look for spare parts for her cubby house. When she requested that I dig out an oddly shaped wooden step ladder out from behind a stack of cardboard boxes, I asked her what she wanted to use it for.

“I don’t know,” she replied, “but it might come in handy one day.”

Far from home



Garry with 2 Rs
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