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    THE STUFF OF LIFE

    Date:

    By Jill Wild

    I knew this was going to be hard. In fact it will be the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. As I slide open my late father’s wardrobe door, a sickening feeling of invading his privacy overwhelms me. ‘I’m so sorry dad but I must do this. Please just have faith in me’.

    His trousers, shirts and vintage grey suit all hang exactly as he left them. His reading glasses are still in his dressing gown pocket. For some strange reason I take them out and put them on. I have no idea what to do with them. I guess they will eventually be thrown away; but not today.

    I cautiously open his chest of drawers.

    The smell of mothballs smacks me in the face. An array of jumpers, polo tops and flannel pyjamas are all neatly folded. Dad was fastidious with his belongings; everything had its place. Freshly laundered handkerchiefs sit in perfect piles in the bottom drawer. He didn’t go anywhere without a clean one.

    There is one last thing I need to do before I bag his clothes up for the Op Shop. I take out his favourite navy-blue jumper and hold it close to my face. That salt of the earth, manly aroma; a smell I’ve known all my life. A smell that I will never again get to breathe in. It is the very essence of my beloved dad.

    When the bedroom is done and dusted, I move on to the bathroom. His electric shaver is still sitting on the bench. So too are his Steradent tablets and tooth brush. The vanity cupboard is a mish mash of various toiletries and prescription meds, all orderly arranged. I recognize the unopened gift pack of David Beckham cologne and shower gel that I gave him last Christmas. I think it was a tad too fancy for him; he was an Old Spice man from way back.

    Before he trained as a secondary school teacher, dad was a cabinet maker. An old school master craftsman, he produced a collection of exquisite pieces of furniture over the course of his long life. His exceptional talent earnt him the award of ‘Victorian Outstanding Apprentice’ in 1951. As I sit in his favourite armchair I am still blown away by their magnificence. The Grandfather Clock that commands pride of place at the front entrance. The Queen Anne style crystal cabinet, coffee table, dining room table and bedroom furniture. All with their precision Dovetail joints. All made with extraordinary attention to detail and all very much part of our family’s history.

    What do I do with all these timeless pieces of art? Keep them in the family? Perhaps, but we all have too much furniture already. Sell them online? Perhaps, but would anyone be interested in these dated classics? Give them to charity? Perhaps, as a last resort. I can only hope that wherever they end up, they are appreciated and respected for their stunning beauty.

    My piles of ‘Keep’, ‘Op Shop’ ‘Bin’ and ‘Undecided’ are growing as I work my way through each room. It’s a daunting process but I’m winging it. My dad’s study was his haven. He once told me it was there that he ‘did all his thinking’. Rarely did I see him wear his glasses; on the odd occasion he would put them on to read the Herald Sun. Why then did he feel the need to stockpile fifteen pairs of them? Sixteen if you count the pair that I found in his dressing gown. All of them in their original leather cases with the little lint cleaning cloth folded underneath. I also unearth multiple supplies of lead pencils, ball point pens, coloured markers, paper clips, post it notes, copy paper and envelopes of every shape and size. ‘Thanks dad, I won’t EVER have to go to Officeworks again.’

    Of all the things to sort through, the hardest will be his tools. These were his pride and joy; an extension of himself. More precious to him than his gold Citizen watch. They all had their designated place and were looked after with meticulous care. Some of them date back over sixty years to his apprenticeship days. I have already decided to keep them all. If the family can’t use them, then they will be put away for the grandkids who may want to follow in his footsteps. I know he’d be super chuffed if they did.

    The day has been an emotional rollercoaster. I can only hope that I made dad proud of the harrowing decisions that I had to make.

    At some stage in our lives, we are all going to have to sort through a departed loved one’s belongings. We die and leave all our worldly possessions behind. FACT. It is a confronting process, but it can also be an incredibly healing one. I am just grateful that my father was such an organized soul, who apart from stockpiling reading glasses and stationery, didn’t believe in accumulating too much ‘stuff’.

     

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