I am sixty-six years old. For decades I was Mr. Fix-It. I wasn’t born with mechanical skills, nor did my dad teach them to me. I learned on the job, making countless mistakes. I spent much of my life bouncing between poverty and poor, so hiring people to fix our cars or repair/remodel our homes was not an option. I was in my fifties before I hired someone to work on our house for the first time. I stood in the yard and cried as this man painted the eaves of our home, something I could no longer do.
Since 2020, I have been forced, due to my declining health, to stop doing things I love to do. I am a pragmatist. I try to see things as they are, and not how I want them to be. In 2022, I decided to sell my professional camera equipment. I no longer was able to properly hold a camera, so it was time to dispose of thousands of dollars of camera bodies, lenses, and other equipment. (And I have a lot of studio equipment and miscellaneous stuff I still have to sell.) Family and friends alike were shocked that I sold off all my equipment. Refusing to admit that my debility was progressive and incurable, they thought I should hang on to my camera stuff just in case my health miraculously took a turn for the better. I appreciate them not wanting me to “give up” on photography, but I know my body, and it was and is telling me that there will never be a day when I can once again safely do the things I used to do.
Last Saturday, our children came over for “Garage Day.” My tools have been gathering dust in the garage, no longer used by me because I no longer have the strength and dexterity to use them. I knew there was never again going to be a day when I repaired our car or remodeled our home. I decided to give my children all of my tools, save for some hand tools I put in the house to be used for small, insignificant repairs.
I wondered how our children would respond to “Garage Day.” Surely they knew that this was Dad getting his house in order. What did this “mean”? At the appointed time, they gathered in the backyard to divey up my tools. I had already set up tables in yard-sale-like fashion and put my hand tools, saws, and other items on them.
I didn’t go outside right away, choosing to let them navigate who got what. I was pleased by their thoughtful interaction with each other. No fighting or argument over this or that item. Even the red Craftsman toolbox I bought in 1983 quietly went to our youngest son without a fuss. I was proud of my children. I have seen more than a few families fight and divide over “junk.” Our children know that Mom and Dad are not into material things. They are just a means to an end. Nice to have, but not the end of the world if we don’t have them. Family, not things, is what matters.
An hour later, my tools were headed to new homes in Bryan, Stryker, Defiance, and Ridgeville Corners. Time stops for no one. I know that I will die sooner, and not later. I don’t want it left to Polly to have to deal with my stuff after I’m gone. That said, after everyone left for their respective homes, I retreated to our bedroom, sat down on the edge of the bed, and cried. I felt a great sense of loss, yet I knew I had done the right thing. Just because you do the right thing doesn’t mean doing so doesn’t cause heartache and pain. Loss is inevitable, and all I know to do is embrace it.
Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.
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