Table Manners

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 11:32 am
By: Doug Lund
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Linda has been on a mission of late; to rid our house of “stuff” that hasn’t seen the light of day in years. She goes on these tangents occasionally. They’re usually brought on by anger and frustration over having to move a mountain of boxes to get at something stored deep in the bowels of the basement closet under the stairs. Or if  she wants something she thinks is in the bottom container of a tall stack of containers teetering precariously in the laundry room next to the downstairs fridge. “Why do we have all this crap?” I hear her holler from the nether regions as I relax in my big upstairs living room chair with remote in hand adjusting the volume upward so she doesn’t drown out the sound of “This Old House” on TV; one of the many “how to” shows I regularly watch from a reclining position but put to no practical use in real life. I know when she’s coming upstairs because her basement allergies have set off a distractingly loud series of sneezing. When she appears at my chair and looks at me with her itchy red eyes, I hit the pause button and fully expect her to give me a much deserved arse chewing for being such an insensitive, unhelpful, lazy oaf. But, instead, she smiles and hands me some items.. things she’s salvaged from boxes destined for the Goodwill or Salvation Army; including this picture of the Keloland TV news staff in the late 80’s.

Recognize any of these folks? Jaine Andrews (top row second from left) and me are the only two people in the photo still on the Kelo payroll.

Recognize any of these folks? Jaine Andrews (top row second from left) and me are the only two people in the photo still on the Kelo payroll.

“Why are you so determined to go through these things now?” I asked.  “Because I don’t want our kids to face the same situation as what we’re dealing with at mom’s.” she replied.

Mother Mary Trudeau passed away late last summer in the Alcester nursing home just a few blocks away from the house where she and Len raised 8 children. It wasn’t until after she died that her family realized just how much stuff she’d accumulated in that house over 65 years and have to decide what to do with it all. The big items like furniture and appliances weren’t a problem; they were claimed by and distributed among all the siblings and grand siblings amicably. But there was..and still are..drawers and boxes stuffed with things that Linda and her family must determine whether is trash or treasure. “It’s been physically and mentally exhausting, she says, and I’m determined to spare our kids from having to make those kinds of decisions after we’re gone.”  

To be fair, I have offered to help but I think Linda knows she wouldn’t get rid of much if I did; too attached to things even though I’d forgotten they existed. I wouldn’t say I’m a candidate for “Hoarders” but the sight of some old object can trigger memories that distract me for hours; making me reluctant to let go. I am being pressured, and rightly so, to make a decision on clearing my bedroom closet which is crammed full of suits and shirts and shoes. I still have delusions that I’m going to one day lose weight and wear them all again even if they haven’t been in style for 20 years.

One of the things from Mother Mary’s house that Linda had no qualms about requesting was the ornate oak table that was used as a living room TV stand.

They always called it the library table

They always called it the library table

It will be assuming a similar place of prominence at our place. My lovely wife has finally convinced me, her old stick-in-the-mud hubby, that after 17 years, it’s time we changed the look of our little dwelling which means relocating the oak table and chairs that came from MY boyhood home. They will  now be the focal point of our rarely used front room which is being converted into a formal dining room.

I’m glad we got that table when the family divvied up the Lund estate. I’m flooded with nostalgia every time I look at it.

table lunds 001

It’s  where my brothers and I all had our birthday parties. Mom would put in both leaves to make room for everybody and everything; cousins, friends, loads of food including a lamb-shaped birthday cake lovingly created by Aunt Leila and, of course, a few presents that were not to be opened until after we ate.

 It was on that table where mom served up the best roast beef, ham, chicken and turkey dinners (sometimes at the same meal) ever consumed by mankind. Guests would go on and on about how delicious everything tasted while mom, with typical Norwegian humility,  would reluctantly accept the complements but be sure and point out her perceived culinary shortcomings. It was at that table that my cousin Grouse and I would nearly explode from holding back laughter when dining with Uncle Conrad, who straddled a fine line between coherence and dementia for years and never failed to tell the same two jokes before every meal. Jokes that were too corny for Reader’s Digest. He’d hold up a napkin and ask, you know what they call this don’t you? Mistake Paper!..and he’d roar.  So would Grouse and I but we were laughing AT..not with him. Shame on us.

It was at that table where I did my homework..although I don’t ever remember doing much homework. But it was there that mom tried desperately to drill Sunday School memory work through my thick head.

 I also recall her sitting alone at that table for hours on end with her hands at the keys of an old, old typewriter. She was practicing up her long idle typing skills learned at secretarial school when in her teens, so she could help dad at his new job working for Farmer’s Mutual Insurance.

I was amazed at how fast it all came back to her.

 It was at that table that dad would set up the movie projector to show the films from our latest trip to Yellowstone or Canada to invited company who’d just consumed one of mom’s big meals. Exciting as those home movies were it was tough to remain alert and awake even with my father’s stirring narration.

It’s at that table where the projector was eventually replaced with a breathing machine which kept the suffocating effects of the old man’s emphysima at bay for couple years.

It was also on that table where mom displayed all the sympathy cards received after dad gave up the fight and took his last breath.

There, now you see why Linda can’t count on this sentimental old slug to be of any use whatsoever in saying goodbye to stuff.

18 Comments

  1. Lonnie A. Callies says:

    Nice Doug…but it would be real sweet if you could identify most in the picture from the eighties. I picked out some of them, but a list would be great! Thank you.

  2. Beth says:

    Loved your blog, Doug, especially your reminiscing about those special times around your family’s dining room table…those are the BEST. Thanks also to Linda for finding (and you for posting) the pic of the KELO 80′s crew…brings back fond memories.

  3. mom says:

    Me too Doug–me too.

  4. Sally says:

    Funny that you should write about this today….we are going through my mother’s home disposing of her things as well. The home is where my sisters and I grew up and continued to be a place of refuge even after my mother was in a nursing home. My mother passed away this past spring. Your comments about the things that you have that trigger memories really hits close to home. That is why it is hard to give some of those things and places up…..what seems valuable to us is not necessarily viewed in the same way as others……but I find the pictures we are going through really help hold on to those memories. I think it is something our generation is going through….Thanks for expressing it in words, Doug.

  5. Cam Lind says:

    Don’t rid yourself of stuff too quick. My folks had each of us mark one item to get for free when they were gone. Then everything else went on the auction. The most unique thing Mom saved was a cigar box full of small pieces of string laid end to end and marked: STRING TO SHORT TO USE. The auction let us get more stuff without fighting over it and if you did not bid you didn’t get it. And actually one lady from Salem bought small box of stuff we had not checked out. She called me and said she had all of our 4H pins. We handed them out to each other. Real cool.

  6. Jaine Andrews says:

    We are die-hards, you and I! I can’t decide what’s sexier, my Farrah Fawcett-wanna be hairstyle and those awesome shoulder pads, or seeing my husband in the front row sporting a ‘stache! Good times, my friend. Good times!

  7. grouse says:

    God forgive me, I’ve been using Uncle Conrad’s “mistake paper” line for years. I know the man wasn’t right in the head all those years ago, but the line was too bad to just pass away with him. I’ll hold up that paper napkin with a Conradesque gesture, and loudly ask “Know what this is”??? “Mistake Paper”!!! Then I’ll laugh like a semi-lunatic. What scares me is that impressionable kids and teens still will laugh along with me. God forgive me, but I’ll probably do it again this Thanksgiving. God forgive me again, but I’m sure to do it at Christmas too.

  8. howsitgoinn says:

    … Thanks for a great story Doug, … we are still going through pictures that came from our childhood home. … lots of them. … one of my Sisters was kind/thoughtful enough to keep them all and has brought a big box with to recent family get togethers, so all siblings have a chance to look through them and keep ones we want….. thanks again for a great story that brings back good memories of my Mom, … she was full Norwegian. … I was never hungry as a kid

    life is good.

  9. Tom says:

    Great memories Doug. Having “stuff” to trigger these wonderful memories is a good thing. I got the Fostoria dishes that Mom served all the delicious meals on when we had company. The memories always run deep whenever we use them. We lived too far away to get a special table or some other piece of furniture, but your blogs and the dishes keep the great memories alive.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  10. Jerri says:

    Thanks for sharing memories of people we spent many hours with! Coming from families who saved everything and cherished what they had makes me realize what a disposable generation we have become. Those things we save are tangible memories~Sometimes the tangible becomes to deep and we start being overwhelmed by it!

  11. Marlys Vander Wal says:

    Doug, Ray’s parents owned the same dining set as yours. We are now using it proudly in our home. Grandpa purchased it as a gift to grandma when their daughter Marcia was bone. Lots of awesome memories. Thanks for the memories.

  12. Patricia Koerner says:

    I too and going through my mom’s stuff as she just recently passed away. one of the first things I found was a photo of my dad holding me when I was very little and I don’t think I’d ever seen that particular photo before. so I’ll take my time going through her “stuff” and finding priceless treasures.

  13. GMAX9 says:

    A word to the wise ~~ take the time to write identifying information on the backs of all those family photos – who, what, when, where. Do it ASAP while somebody still remembers who they are and why you have a picture of them.

    Most of what’s left of my mom’s family gathered in WI last week-end to celebrate our aunt’s 80th birthday and there were all sorts of family pictures to look through. Unfortunately, if my aunt didn’t recognize the people in the pictures they are now unknowns in the family album. We discovered a picture of my grandfather as a boy w/his brothers and – lo and behold – he had a sister that none of us knew about. Of course, she’ll be forever nameless but I’ll always wonder what happened to her.

  14. grouse says:

    GMAX9 is exactly right! Having grown up on grandpa’s farm (who came from Norway at age 17 by himself) we had hundreds of pictures from 1882 and on up. I’m sure some came from the old country too. I remember asking my dad in my late teen years, “Who are these people?” Well, time has a way of fading memories and quite frankly he didn’t remember. GMAX9 has just prompted us to go through all of the photos we have acquired during our 45 years of wedded bliss and name names and dates and why the photos are treasured by us. And then someday soon (before the Lord calls us home) we need to sit down with our kids and tell them all the stories we can tell. Family stories are a treasure. We need to tell them early and often (warts and all). Not that any of our families had any warts.

  15. Sweeps says:

    Getting the stories and not putting it off are very important lessons. If my mom’s cousin (unknown to me) had not contacted me several months ago, I would have gone to MY grave being very unsure of a “rumor” that was terribly wrong and fortunately not true. I’m so grateful she contacted me, because now we have another resource for that side of my family.

  16. Larry says:

    Thanks for the memories like you I have more than50 years of memories in every crack and corner of our house and my better half gets so mad when she finds something ive just bought because id lost the one i was looking for

  17. Eric says:

    Everything alright Doug? I am ready for another post.

  18. Tim says:

    Doug is probably at a loss for words after the election.

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