For the past 10 days or so, I have been spending part of every day at my now-dead friend Norm’s condo, trying to do all the things that are necessary following the death of the owner/occupant. Norm had lived there 40 years, and has 40 years of “things”…some quite valuable, others just the “things” one accumulates over the course of the years.
I touched on this in another recent blog, and remarked that I had already packed and given away all his clothes. Aside from the time it took to pack the 13 garbage bags and 2 or 3 cardboard boxes, it was a fairly straightforward task.
But what do I do with Miss Piggy’s nose? It’s a perfectly good nose, made of pink rubber, and has a thin elastic strap that fits over the back of the head to hold the nose in place. It was in a drawer in his den, along with several decks of playing cards, a lint roller, the remote control for a long-gone television set, a couple rolls of film, six crystal balls of varying sizes apparently once part of a chandelier, a badly dog-chewed tennis ball, and a number of other things, most of which I was unable to identify. Not one of these items simply appeared in the drawer out of nowhere. Norm put them there for whatever reason, and they all once belonged somewhere, served some purpose, meant something or nothing to Norm.
In the bookcase I found a Day Planner for 2002, apparently never opened, and a like new two-volume Funk & Wagnall’s Dictionary. There was also a very nice brick, apparently used as a door stop. There are several shelves of gardening and horticulture books, some of them obviously quite expensive when purchased. The fact that Norm enjoyed plants and at one point went to school for some sort of degree in horticulture is not coincidentally reflected, for those who have read my Dick Hardesty Mystery series, in Dick’s partner, Jonathan, having an associate’s degree in horticulture.
Probably as a reflection of his interest in plants, various closets held four huge and expensive ceramic planters, along with at least a dozen others of varying sizes. There are walkers and seats for the shower and bathtub which have never been used. One tub chair still has the price tag ($145) attached.
And yet what am I to do with them? A yard sale in a 35th floor condominium is a bit impractical, and even if it were practical, the time to price each item would be unimaginable.
So I plan to call in an art appraiser to give me an idea of the worth of some of the more valuable pieces, and hope the appraiser might direct me to a source of potential buyers. When that has been handled, I’ll look for estate buyers—those people who buy the entire contents of a home or apartment—to handle the rest. They pay only a tiny fraction of the value of what the items would bring if sold separately—literally pennies on the dollar—but again it spares the time and expense of trying to sell everything off piece by piece.
Wanting to get as much as possible for his things is not a matter of greed on my part. I’m merely the executor, and all the money, of course, goes into the estate, as will the money from the sale of the condo itself, and there are at least six worthy charities named in the will. I know they will appreciate and make good use of every dollar they can get.
But I never forget that every single thing I am charged with disposing of was Norm’s, not mine, and I can’t help but feel as though I were somehow…what words to use?…“taking advantage of him” certainly doesn’t fit, but there is an element of that feeling…treating it all as if it didn’t really matter; as if it all were just a bunch of things. It’s as if each item had existed in some sort of vacuum and had nothing to do with the real person who bought and enjoyed them. And it is true, of course: a book is just a book, a planter is just a planter.
But oh, Miss Piggy’s nose….
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com: