RUFFIN-IT: THROWING AWAY ALL THAT GOOD STUFF, PART III
“What we need to do . . . .”
When she is the one saying them, these are frightening words to any man who loves his wife.
There I was, with over forty years’ accumulation of tools and materials, from a John Deere diesel tractor right on down to the tiniest of screws, the kind you use to repair glasses, and here was a woman about to serve as choreographer of a drama that I wanted neither to star in nor watch.
“Do you seriously need another hammer?” “There are already four wrenches like that in the toolbox.” “You wouldn’t use that many screws and nails in another lifetime.” “Why are you going to do with all this lead?” “Screen wire, cyclone fencing, hardware cloth . . . .” “What is left for you to wire? We don’t need all these rolls of wire. And all those electrical boxes and stuff . . . .” “How many power drills do you have? Do you need?” “Are you doing to be using all this reloading equipment?” “What about this duffel bag with softball bats and a glove in it?” “What are we going to do with this big cast-iron bell?” “What is this filthy thing?” (She was holding up a Swiss Army pack that I traveled across Europe with an eternity ago.)
I warrant you that I have not quoted her properly on some of those lines, and I further guarantee you that that is just a fraction of her lines in the play. She has the leading role. I am just the chorus, and I don’t even know the tune.
Gradually over the past month and a half we have been sorting through my working man’s life and determining what to keep, what to throw away, what to give away, and what to sell.
We had a seventeen-cubic-yard dumpster brought in, and it is level full. I have had to use the front-end loader with both bucket and forklift attachment to compact the contents. Still there are things that must be put in it, wedged in wherever there’s a little space.
We haven’t finished one of the outbuildings, and we haven’t touched the greenhouse.
Now both my shops are divided into shelves of stuff that I’ll be keeping and stuff that we will sell at some sort of yard/garage/porch/estate/junk sale in late spring. All my tools have been shifted about and rearranged in orderly fashion by a woman who has no idea how to use a star drill but has a fairly strong feeling that we don’t need two of them. (I hammered holes through stone and concrete for over thirty years with the battered things—they don’t come with the heads flattened out like that. The fact is that I will probably never use one again.)
We gave one of my axes and chainsaws and my “crackerbox” welder to Amber’s father, but I was allowed to keep my acetylene outfit and my MIG welder. I can keep one drill press but need to sell the other. Since I’ll probably never do metal milling and lathe work anymore, my Smithy will have to go, along with attachments galore and all kinds of wonderful brass material I intended to build things out of.
The table saw must go and the radial-arm saw, one of the parts washers, and all my cement-working and tile-laying tools. Two of my Makita drills must go, along with some Craftsman drills and my router with dozens of cutter heads.
We have probably sixty gallons of treated gasoline as backup generator fuel, now of questionable quality, and five-gallon buckets of old oil and transmission fluid to dispose of, with a case of Toyota brake fluid, and dozens and dozens of cans of spray paint, all of which must be taken to a hazardous waste facility for proper disposal.
My fishing equipment, most left over from my days fishing over in the Mississippi Sound, will go into the sale, as will almost everything else that I am likely never to use again.
I have felt a great sadness watching all the things that have been for so long a part of my life go into the dumpster or onto a shelf to be sold, and she knows how I feel about letting them go, but we both agree that I have hung on far too long to most of those things.
The fact is that I am not certain that I will ever walk unassisted again. Even if I do somehow recover to that point, I doubt that I will ever build another building, rewire another house, put on another roof, lay another sprinkler line, rebuild another tractor engine, or cut down and split for firewood another tree. I accept my limitations: I have plenty of compensations.
I am fortunate enough to be able to afford to have done for me most of the things I used to do, and I can always observe and advise, even when that observation and advice are not wanted: “Hey, boss, there’s this guy pushing a rollator around telling me how to fix his stove . . . .”
Oh, sure, in all probability I’ll weld again and reload ammo again, and I will continue to make electrical and plumbing repairs when I think that I can handle the work without doing more damage to my back, and I may even garden again. We have plenty of gym equipment to provide exercise.
Deep down I feel nothing but gratitude to my wife for guiding me through a long-overdue purging of the shop and outbuildings. She has been gracious and understanding, and I think that at times she has actually enjoyed going through the boxes of books and photo albums and old writing. In fact, she ran across the first column I ever wrote for the Item, and she’s found several initial handwritten versions of some of my old stories and poems.
We’ve had to throw away lots of things that we shared earlier in our marriage, but when we agreed that something had to go, it went into the dumpster or onto the sale shelf: first lawn chairs, first bedstead, first Christmas tree (artificial, but with enough grime on the needles that I’m certain a good part of it was alive, first kitchen table). Hey, memories are just as real as wood, plastic, and brass.
We hope to find a smaller place over near the lake and live a simpler life, free of much of the clutter from our old one, though with a sufficient number of tools and adequate DIY materials stashed away to make me still feel useful around the house.
I keep wondering, though, how my tractor is going to look parked in our new living room or den.