I was at my dad’s condo a couple of weeks ago, going through his files for some important papers, when I came across this gem: a promissory note for a PLUS loan my mother and I cosigned in February of 1989. That would have been the start of winter quarter of my fifth year of college (yeah, I bogeyed). I borrowed $2,000 at an APR of 8.25%, to be paid back over 46(?) months starting in April of that same year. I presume that was in fact deferred until I graduated in June. All those numbers feel so deeply ancient and weird. Student loan rates are in the low 3’s now, and $2,000 doesn’t get you a cup of coffee at a private university today, much less a decent chunk of a quarter’s tuition. Also—and I assume any statutes of limitation have long since passed—that is very obviously not my signature on that loan. I assume I was hungover that morning after a gig the night before, and someone in the bursar’s office just did the needful when Mom showed up to sign and I was AWOL.
That was just one of several cool archaeological finds in my quick rifle through Dad’s back room. I also found one of my sister’s report cards from seventh grade (she did great!), and what I think was my mom’s last report card from graduate school. She was working on her master’s in art history at Governors State around then, but she never finished it. Her multiple sclerosis was progressing rapidly in those years, and as I recall, she got through the classroom part but never finished her thesis. I have a hazy memory of using my university’s computer lab to scan her incomplete, typed draft, and then trying in vain to use an early OCR package to convert it to text so we could finish editing it in one of those then-newfangled word processors for submission. But the technology wasn’t there yet, and what I got from that conversion was a largely incomprehensible hash of random characters. Retyping all 100+ pages from scratch would have taken no more time. It never got done, and I regret that we didn’t pour a bit more effort into it at the time. I think it was about Mayan art.
I’m sure there’s a whole trove of other fascinating paperwork in that file cabinet at the condo, and at some point soon I’ll go back out there and dig through it page by page. As it was, time was tight and I found what I needed—the title to his car, and an original copy of mom’s death certificate. He was ready to sell his car since he doesn’t drive anymore. (And as an aside, let me tell you, what a time to be a seller of used cars! He unloaded his 2016 Ford Fusion for a substantial profit over what he paid for it just three years ago. Who makes money on used cars? Thanks, supply chain failures!)
He’s also selling a parcel of land south of Tucson that he and Mom bought way back in the early 70’s. Some developer had big plans to build a subdivision out there in the desert, and it was intended to be a retirement property for them. Then…stuff happened. Mom’s gone. Retirement is up here. That developer disappeared. Google Maps shows that there’s nothing but dirt roads and sagebrush at that site, plus maybe an arroyo, or animal trail. I’m curious what these myriad firms who want to buy that land plan to do with it. Anyway, I sent the death certificate to the Pima County Recorder, and when the deed is transferred from my parents’ joint tenancy to his sole ownership, we’ll close that sale, too.
Downsizing. Liquidation. Less stuff. I don’t think it’s part of some grand, concentrated, conscious effort on his part, but Dad’s very clearly lightening his pack. I think it’s a normal, even healthy part of the journey. Ona, the woman who comes by once a week to help him with shopping, cooking, and cleaning, recently went through the closets to clean out and donate what was left of Mom’s stuff. Dad gave Leah her old wedding ring in one of the more moving moments I’ve ever experienced, and I think he’s got some similarly meaningful gifts planned for Danny in the near future as he approaches high school graduation and his own adulthood. Dad and I have also been talking about tidying up the will, and getting the POA documents in working order.
We have a pretty good relationship, Dad and I, but we don’t talk about the larger implications and timing of all these transactions and legal tasks. There’s no need to, really. Res ipsa loquitur.
I’m a bit envious, in some ways. Having stuff is an anchor, and it absolutely will pull you down if you let it. I mean, we all have certain things we require for comfort, plying our trades, or entertainment. (And bless those lucky souls for whom all three of those endeavors are one and the same.) I’m no ascetic, nowhere near ready to start shedding my own kit, yet, but I am absolutely done accumulating, now.
Nothing on any part of this path is guaranteed, and I don’t want to speak any bad karma into existence. There’s a lot of subjunctive mood afoot at the Circle K, you know? Let me just say: I’m hopeful there will be a long gap between my current point on the t-axis and Dad’s. And, further, I hope there’s yet a sizable space between that future, blessed moment when I finally get out from under capital’s yoke, and the late-stage offloading. That’s the window to really enjoy, should the universe bestow the health, prosperity, and security to let it be so. For that, and for it to be enjoyed in the company of loved ones—who could hope for more?