Packing Stories

       We’ve spent this past week packing and moving my Dad’s apartment. It’s the sort of thing all families have to do occasionally, one of the final steps in saying goodbye. My Dad passed away last Friday, March 31. He was 88.58 years old.

       It would’ve been a much bigger task had we not moved my mom and dad from Hobbs to Midland in 2011. They’d lived in Hobbs for 42 years, which means they accumulated a lot of stuff. I made dozens of trips back and forth from Hobbs, hauling boxes.

       Since their apartment at Manor Park didn’t have room for most of their furniture and belongings, the bulk of it ended up in my garage and attic. Deciding how to handle all of that was not a small problem. I still have a lot stored.

       This time all we’ve had to pack was the bit of furniture and odds and ends he needed to live, and my Dad didn’t need much. Most of what was in the apartment was what we moved in for him in 2011, and it was mostly in the same place where we first put it.

       Well, except for a significant collection of Southern Gospel CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes that his sister, Betty, brought for him to enjoy. I packed at least eight banker’s boxes full of those. We are expecting Aunt Betty to take them back home with her.

       We found …

       Clothes belonging to my Mom that had been in the same dresser drawers for at least ten years. Apparently, Dad didn’t need the space.

       Clothes belonging to my Dad, all completely worn out. He wasn’t the sort to pay attention to details like clothes, and he only bought more when someone told him to. Except for cycling gear, that is. He had several jerseys and shorts. None of us ever saw him in shorts until about three years ago; then, they became all he wore.

       An assortment of magnifying lenses and devices, a variety of hearing aids, all things he added to adjust to the changes in his own body during the past years

       A handful of doggie sweaters for his little jumpy dog, Lucy. Growing up, he never even allowed dogs in the house. They lived in the backyard. Now, not only did Lucy have free run of the inside, but she had sweaters.

       Boxes of notes and records from his twenty years of genealogy research. I found a cousin who will take these and make sense of them. Whew!

       An N-scale model train kit that he got for Christmas. He was hoping to reboot his hobby of train driving, but his eyesight limited his ability to do detailed work more than he anticipated.

       Ski clothes laid out ready to go on the First Baptist Church Men’s Ski Trip. He was planning to stay warm. I found six complete pairs of long underwear in his suitcase, all for a three-day springtime ski trip.

       Of course, moving is more than boxing belongings. It’s about stories. The stories we tell over and over, the stories we keep in our heart, the stories we cherish to remember people we love, and the stories that define us. All of those stories are linked to the artifacts we keep around us in our home. So when it comes time to move, it is a process of editing and filtering stories, not just thinning the load. It is never a small thing. It is a nontrivial process.

       I was reminded of the days when life treated my mom and dad more gently, before Alzheimer’s, when daily living came a little easier. It was a subtle lesson on how two very different individuals accommodated each other and leaned into each other for 59 years. How they made space for each other in their crowded lives.

       Packing up someone else’s house is the triage of life - keeping things of value and painfully leaving the rest behind. Not because the past was unimportant, but because life is about the future, about grand ideas and bold plans. We have to make room for what it still to come.


I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32