Why Cleaning the Garage Takes So Long

I haven’t written a Grumblings in a while.  It’s not that I haven’t been grumbling, but if I tried to sit down and write about it, I wouldn’t know where to start or when to end.  I know that a significant percentage of my fellow countrymen/countrywomen decided in 2015-2016 that the United States was no longer worth preserving, so it was time to tear it down and toss hundreds of years of progress away.  There’s plenty of blame to go around, and maybe someday someone will narrow it down so we can try to save what’s left of what used to be a promising place to live and maybe take one more crack at it.  But not today.  Today I am writing my shortest Grumbling, and it’s about fruit flies or doubt or redemption or love or something.

I have been trying to clean out the garage for over ten years.  Now, granted we have moved six times in those ten years, but I never once cleaned out the garage except to move it to the next garage.  There are reasons.  In over twenty storage tubs that have made those six moves are many books.  I’ve written about them before.  But there are also many tubs that have been labeled “Mark’s Memories”.  Basically, it’s all the stuff I can’t throw away.  There are copies of most of my newspaper columns from the Petoskey News Review and the Northern Express.  There are old photos.  There are scorecards from most of the baseball games I’ve attended with my children and my grandchildren and my stepchildren.  There are lineup cards from games I’ve coached from Ann Arbor Greenhills through Owosso, Gaylord, Harbor Springs, and Boyne City.  There are summer travel team lineups and Little League lineups.  In short, there’s a lot of useless stuff that for some reason I can’t walk away from.

So today I finally tried.  Lisa would have been proud to see me pitching out old electronics that maybe should be in a museum. Wires, cords, parts of tools, owners manuals, broken picture frames, trash, trash, trash.  Referee uniforms that are so old that even if I could fit into them, would not get me past security at any high school in Michigan.  That was the easy stuff.  

The first tub of pictures and letters did what I knew it would do.  It stopped me in my tracks and had me reading my father’s eulogy, a letter from my mom who’s anger at how her life was going still takes my breath away, and then this curious missive that prompted me to stop reading and start writing.  I know who I wrote it to, but I don’t think I ever gave it to her.  (If I had, why would I still have it?)  So she gets it now, fourteen years after I wrote it.  

The problem when you’re a fruit fly is that by the time you figure out whether there’s anything to be serious about, it’s over.

So over and over again, generation after generation of fruit flies rise up, have a thought, and die before it ever matters. 

So what happens when you beat the system and instead of a life cycle that lasts a mere 24 hours, you wake up day after day wondering (at least for the first few days) why you’ve been given another chance at this “What is there to be serious about?” question. 

Once the wonder melts away, you realize that it’s never really been a question of “What?” but rather of “What if?” 

So when on the next day you are struck by the seriousness of this woman you love, you are no longer allowed to ask the first question.  You’re left wondering “Will she ever be…” or better yet…”Has she ever been as into this as you are today?”…or is she just a fruit fly too?

That was it.  I can’t tell if it’s beautiful or sad.  I know as we approach our fifteenth wedding anniversary, I’m still looking forward to finding out.

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2 Comments on “Why Cleaning the Garage Takes So Long”

  1. richard scott July 30, 2022 at 11:41 am #

    Approaching our fifty years with my wife, I too am struggling to uncluttered approaching eighty we were told by our youngest a year ago our home too cluttered. Much the same as you many bins filled many photos unmarked

  2. Marcia Pontoni August 1, 2022 at 1:24 pm #

    Great column! I’d love to see the letter from mom. Good luck getting through the rest of the garage!

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