I didn’t think garage sale folks were the type to buy cement mixers. “That should go on craigslist,” I told dad. “Yeah? You think you can sell it on there?” His look said, “I’m not so sure about this, but you’re my daughter, and know more about technology than I do, so I’ll let you try it.” He knew of the many things I had done with craigslist – found roommates, found apartments, found a subletter, bought a bike, sold some furniture – but he didn’t really trust it. “I’ll need a picture of it,” I said. “What else can you sell on there?” he asked as we looked around the odd collection of stuff in his barn. I took pictures of a sink, a tub shower, and an air conditioner. “Wait – let me show you something,” he said and took off towards the pool. “You think you can sell this?” he asked. “What is that?” I asked. “It’s an old pool cleaner. Still works.” “Who knows,” I said as I snapped my picture.
That day I posted his stock on the craigslist site for our area. The next morning, as a friend and I drove up the hill towards my parents house to do more garage sale prep, I saw a pick up truck coming in the other direction with a cement mixer in its bed. “You think that’s your dad’s cement mixer?” asked my friend. “Do you really think it’s anyone else’s at 7AM on a Saturday morning?” I responded. When we got to the house I asked dad, “Did I just see your cement mixer going down the hill?” “Yeah – isn’t that amazing? That guy drove a few hours to pick that thing up – and he even paid me for it!”
Dad couldn’t believe it. By the next morning he found a taker for the pool cleaner and decided I should post an ad for some paving bricks. “They’re 4×8. I have about a thousand of them,” he told me. The next morning I posted the ad with my dad’s cell phone number and went about my business. An hour later dad called. “Craigslist is amazing.” No hello, no how are you. That was his first line. I laughed. “You have to show me how to use that. I’ve got all kinds of things I want to get rid of,” he told me. This from the man who steadfastly refuses advances in technology until he’s forced into them, and then promptly becomes their biggest fan. I had converted him.
There’s a certain kind of joy in teaching your parents something new. For years and years and years they’ve taught me new things, provided me with advice and insights. I know I’ll never repay them, but in some small way I feel like I decrease my debt each time I open their eyes to something.
I’m helping my parents get ready for their garage sale this weekend. This is a momentous occasion as they have lived in this house for over 25 years and in that time have had only one other garage sale I can recall. On the other hand, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen stuff being moved into their house. They take a Honda Odyssey when they drive from NY to NC to visit my sister. When I was younger, that van was filled with kids. Now-a-days, they return with it full of antiques they found on their way back. Mom has enough furniture to furnish a whole other house. Which, I must admit, comes in handy as I don’t own much in the way of furniture. People ask where my end tables came from and I say “the Gallo Family Collection,” as if it’s its own brand. And my parents actually are thinking of building another house (though that was not on the horizon when most of the furniture was bought). But I’m not entirely sure they’re building a new house because the property would make a great place for future grandkids to visit or simply to house their extra furniture.
Having helped mom work her way through some of the basement last week, she offered to help me work my way through belongings I still had in the barn. I have just about everything I need where I live now, so didn’t have much trouble parting with the remnants in the barn.
Then mom and I started looking around the rest of the barn. And here’s my question: How many coolers does one man need? We counted 11 on the second floor of the barn (yes, it has not one but two floors of stuff). And these were just the coolers in the barn. Mom and I both knew Dad had a few more in the garage. And who knows how many elsewhere.
When I mentioned the plethora of coolers to my father, he said, “Yes – but these are really good coolers.” As if their quality has anything to do with the number of them a person needs! “That’s fine,” I said, “but how many do you really need?” With a huff he started looking at them and pulled four off the towering pile. “But you know – your brother might need one of these,” he told me. “Ok – so that’s one. You’re telling me you need the other six?” His patience with me was waning, so I let it go, happy of my success at getting him to move four out of there. “These are good coolers,” he said again as we brought them down the stairs. “How much to you think these are worth?” he asked. “No idea,” I said. The only cooler I have is one dad let me borrow – a small one that fits on the shelf under my microwave. And he’s never missed it. “I’ll have to go to Kmart tomorrow and find out what these things cost, because they’re worth something.” Apparently they are – worth so much that the man thought he should “invest” in 11 of them.
When I told a friend I was helping my parents prepare for their garage sale, she said, “Oh – good to do that now. Otherwise you’ll be stuck doing it later.” She meant when they passed on. Which made me realize – they could easily live another 25 years. Twenty-five more years worth of stuff? I pushed that thought out of my mind remembering the best line I learned in Philosophy class: Epictetus said, “Don’t worry over things you can’t control.” It’s a good policy.