Thursday, March 30, 2017
Life, on the rack
Look, I'd be dead wrong to ascribe some sinful motive here, some kind of crass materialism to my mother-in-law's decision, once upon a time long ago, to buy her husband this leather jacket. She wasn't trying to keep up with the Jonesmas or the Jansmas. She likely saw that men like the man she married were wearing leather jackets, took a shining to them, and then went out and bought one, brought it home.
My mother-in-law was no shopping-aisle junkie. She liked to get out to Sioux City now and then, but she was as Depression-era as anyone her age. Her father died when she was just a child, when there was no societal safety net, so his death ended her school days and put her to work. Mom knew something about poverty.
I'm sure she never maxed out a credit card or ran up bills that threatened to blow them away. She generally chose not to use the word wholesale. This jacket--a large, which means it's too small for me--was likely expensive, rich black leather, still supple and almost totally unmarked with wear because my father-in-law likely wore it only to church and the Alton Cafe.
We moved him last week. I'm not sure we're finished yet totally, but we moved him, this time will probably be the last. No matter, we couldn't help thinking how much stuff he still had. First, years ago, there was the farm auction when they moved to town. Then, when Mom's health was failing, to the Home; then, when his was, to assisted care, and now to comprehensive . After all that winnowing, moving still took a couple days, and it's still not over. There's still stuff around.
Like this fine leather jacket, perfectly wonderful. I put it up on local Facebook sites and got nary a nibble, so it's hanging down here with nowhere to go. I can give it away--there's a Goodwill-ish place just up the street. We aren't in hard need of cash, but I'd just love to give it the kind of good home it was purchased to get.
Besides, it would hurt to find it on a rack with a bunch of old hoodies, a piece of masking tape stuck on the collar with marked with $2, handwritten. It's a cut above that--maybe two or three.
When they moved to the Home, my folks-in-law gave the church the lion's share of their furniture, and the church held an auction right out in the parking lot. It was a perfectly horrible night. The weather was fine, but the crowd was meager and furniture she'd picked out thoughtfully went for a handful of nickles--ten bucks for a gorgeous oak dinner table--with leaves.
My mother-in-law, who wasn't well, chose not to go at all. Smart. It would have killed her to watch the slaughter.
It's just too easy to stick on a bible verse here about the lillies of the field and how they toil not, neither do they spin, how all of this is meaningless, meaningless. My father-in-law probably wouldn't have kicked up dust if she'd had him dressed like John the Baptist or simply kept him in bibs. Truth be told, this was in all likelihood the only leather jacket she ever bought for him, and she probably didn't invest until she was sure they could afford it. They weren't profligate, and that leather jacket isn't sin.
I suppose it's just the life I can't put away or give away, the clear and painful sense that something real, something vital, something that, once together after the war, gave birth to the woman I love, that life is finally in its very last days.
Once upon a time, my mother-in-law told her husband, early evening probably, after chores, to put on a good shirt after he had a shower because she wanted him to try on a jacket. When he pulled it over his shoulders, she looked at him as if he were in a magazine, likely straightened the shoulders a little, cocked her head sideways a bit, stood straight, and said, "Well, I think it looks good--what do you think?'
The next Sunday, he wore it to church.
That's the life that's here in this leather jacket, and I can't just put it on a pile with some old nappy blankets and haul it away.
Interested? Just let me know.