Mr. A In Time Of COVID-19

I popped in on Mr A in March this year. 

“Finally found a buyer.  Sold the house.  Have to be out by the 1st of May,” he said.

A frown furrowed his forehead.  

“Couldn’t do much clearing out over the winter.  I’m fed up,” he mumbled.  “Arthritis is killing me.”

He looked tired and on edge.

“You’re allowed to be fed up,” I reassured him.  “At your age.  It’s a lot for anyone to deal with.”

Self-confessed hoarder.  Mr A’s garage is bursting with stuff.
My fed-up friend, Mr. A, at the entrance to his packed garage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pulled out my phone to take pictures to post on Kijiji. Of random stuff he might be able to sell.

Like these –

A treasured, dusty collection of miniature cars .
A ferocious coconut pirate head hanging from the basement ceiling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stars of the silver screen. 
Hollywood hotties of yesteryear …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some items he will not part with.  “That’s coming with me to the retirement home. Not selling!”

… this little tin bucket. “My grandma brought milk home everyday, when I was a little boy, in this pail.”
… Grandmother’s kitchen scale, a real beauty of an antique.
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“These things I want to keep ….:

 

Framed family photos are definitely not for sale! 

The chalet he grew up in on a Swiss-German mountain village.
Framed photo of grandparents stiffly posing in Victorian attire.
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Little mother holding a log as large as she is.  “Dad chopped the tree down. She was a strong woman!”

Rickety sheds scattered around the sprawling backyard, all bursting at the seams – 

He built the sheds himself with bits of this-and-that …
… and kept adding makeshift structures in the backyard …

 

 

 

 

 

 

… to house the increasing mountains of stuff he kept finding!
Even the abandoned outhouse is probably full of useless things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr Albert nursing a beloved miniature car he hopes to sell. “It’s hard to say farewell to a lifetime of memories.”

 

We said goodbye and I promised to come back again soon. 

Then lockdown happened.   Two days later. 

The world changed.

Hadn’t been out in 12 days when I drove past the mall some days back.   A long weekend Saturday and there wasn’t a single vehicle in the parking lot. 

Strange, surreal sight, but angst at being away from home urged me on.  I didn’t stop to take a picture.

Wore a mask, of course — dust mask left over from home renovations — and disposable rubber gloves.  I felt foolish and looked ridiculous.

Pulled into the supermarket parking lot and encountered masked, gloved figures like myself, hurriedly dumping bags of groceries into trunks and backseats. 

Didn’t feel all that foolish after all.

The line-up stretched out into the street.  I was thankful we weren’t in the dead of winter.

At every turn, grim warnings and reminders of the strange season we find ourselves in.

Cautionary warnings posted on  glass doors and windows.   A grim-eyed security guard waved me in.  He was masked, no gloves.  I snapped a photo of the poster on the door, but dared not ask if I could take a picture of him.  

My mask and see-through rubber gloves blended beautifully into the collage of crazed shoppers.  

Designated shoppers feverishly foraged for food.  Tension hung tight in the air.

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Masked mother and son in produce section
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The look in the eyes above the mask speaks volumes.

 

 

“Gotta get out of here!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ominous urgency.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The bakery aisle was empty of flour.  Not one bag left.

No flour in the baking aisle. (Forget about finding yeast.) The whole world is stuck at home baking their hearts out — and posting pictures of their products on Facebook, of course.  Boredom births maestros!

 

 

Flour is now the new toilet paper it seems.

 

Masked cashier, behind a plexi-glass screen. Surprised to notice how many store workers were not wearing masks or gloves.

 

 

 

Hopefully the lot from my cart will last the next two weeks.

Called Mr A to check in on him.  He’s unhappy.  Naturally.   Unable to visit the wife in the nursing home, time hangs on his hands.  A friend gets his groceries, he told me, when I offered to do his shopping. 

“There’s only so much time you can spend in a day feeding the birds and visiting with rabbits,” he mumbled.

He was worried he wouldn’t be able to move on May 1st.  Anxious about the mountain of stuff to be discarded.

I told him not to fret.  “A bunch of girlfriends and I will head out there with mops, brooms and garbage bags.  We’ll come.  When lockdown is all done.”

He sounded relieved. 

The last time I visited, we walked around his yard.  I watched as Mr A fed the birds and wild rabbits and shooed the neighbour’s cat away.

“Keeps coming back. Terrible fellow,” Mr A grumbled. “Steals the rabbit’s food!”

I almost twisted my ankle when I tripped over a bunny-burrow mound rising from the raggedy grass.

Tea time and Bunny popped out of his burrow. 
His handiwork. One of the many hand-built bird-feeders in the backyard, with metal cones at the base to deter thieving squirrels.
Mr. A pumping water from the well he dug himself over fifty years ago.
Snack-time for the critters. A squirrel nibbles his way through a fine feast. 

 

This structure with grim graffiti was from a former place of work. Used to store petroleum, I think he said.

 

Then the world changed.  Suddenly, in an instant.

The enforced isolation is hard on seniors,  particularly those who live alone and aren’t willing or able to navigate technology.

Like my dad.  And Mr A.

Mr A’s wife owned a computer – she was an accountant by profession – but she’s been in the nursing home for the past few years.   A single landline phone sits on his kitchen table.  His only connection with the world outside.

Mr A sleeps on the hospital bed his wife used until she was moved to a nursing home. He pressed buttons to show me how the head and foot of the bed could be raised and lowered when required.  It’s now for sale.

 

“You must miss seeing her,” I murmured.

“What do you think?” he replied.

Wish there was more I could do.

 

 

Then, on a brighter note … Bunny is back!  

Spotted the rascal hopping outside my study window last week – the bunny, my-sworn-enemy!
Caught occasional glimpses of Bunny in the winter, staring at the stone rabbit by the chair under the apple tree, then he was gone for weeks at a time.

 

Who’d have thought I’d be happy to see him? The wretched creature chews up my flowers!

Bunny’s my reminder that life goes on nevertheless.  That Nature won’t pause.  And Joy will return.

Thankful the weather’s getting nicer. Finally.  Pruning and digging time again. 

                                            Garden went from this in the summer —

 

 

 

 

 

To this —

 

 

 

 

And now this mess that I can’t wait to started on  …

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Thankful for technology in this time of stringent distancing.  Thankful for Zoom family and other online gatherings.  

Oh! The blessing of Zoom! A church committee meeting.

Puppy can’t believe everyone’s home.

Puppy checks in on anyone who’s not to be seen.  He can’t believe the good fortune that keeps us all home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful for family dinners.  All four of us.  Together.  Everyday. After ages.

Thankful for time.  To write –

That’s me!

 

 

 

 

To stop and stare –

Time to catch my breath and take delight in a light-and-crystal shadow show on the window sill …
Time to stare at pink streaks of setting sun glowing on the bedroom ceiling …

 

Life changed. Overnight.  An un-imagined, dystopian pause.  The world over. 

Our front window – a call to prayer for safety and protection of the nation and our frontline workers.

When normal returns, we’ll forever be changed.  What will  that normal be?

While we wait, what do we do with this time on our hands?

A pause to ponder and re-prioritize?

Perhaps.

 

 Stay safe, stay home.  Reach out. 

Be thankful. 

Love this precious life. 

Our entire street stood outside on their driveways one Saturday night and banged on pots and pans in appreciation of our medical and frontline workers.  Listen …

 

Until next time,                                                                                                  

 

 

 

 

PS: Click here  to read Mr A’s story in Goodbye Yesterdays

Click here for Thursdays With Harold by Selina Stambi                                                                                                                                                                                                           SelinascoverKobo
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Goodbye Yesterdays

Summer’s done.  Trees begin to burn with autumn angst.  

Backyard bursts with bloom.  Garden glows.

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A glance through the dining room window, just as sunlight spills all over the kneeling angel under the apple tree.  Heavenly moment …

A shaft or sunlight swoops down on Kneeling Angel.  She shines against an emerald veil of vines. My heartbeat halts for a fraction of a stunned second and I’m all awash with the delight of summer past, the fascinating fragrance of my Secret Garden.

Such a summer of serendipity it has been.  Such finds …

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View from the bay window where I sit at my desk to write.  Summer garden of 2019 — my living museum of broken, abandoned and unwanted things.
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A once-upon-a-time fondue set preening on a tree stump by the fence.
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I found this beautifully rusted, ancient wheelbarrow abandoned on the kerb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I’m pushed to pass by just when this stuff is outside, begging to be taken and pleading for a new destiny.

Click on the arrow below to savour 30 seconds of my Secret Summer Sweetness …

 

Which brings me to my Last Summer Serendipity 

Saturday morning, off to the mall.  Spy something intriguing as we drive by.  Little vintage school desks.  The kind with a bench attached to the front of it.  There’s a pair of them.  In front of the old house that has a pile of stuff out each week, ancient things, free for the taking.  Sometimes there’s a handwritten sign on a large white board: For Sale.

I have an image in my head.  Of a chronic hoarder, who’s amassed stuff for years, urgently requiring to rid himself of a huge pile of junk.   

“Could we check them out on our way back?” I ask.

Husband nods.

So shopping done and happy hubby holding the first new suit he’s acquired in years, we head homewards.                              

The desks are gone.                                                

It’s only been an hour …

I’m crushed.

“Maybe they took them back inside,” he suggests.

“Why would they?  There must be someone like me on the prowl! We should have stopped right away!”

“But there was no room in the car.”

True.  

I feel forlorn.  

I remember from time to time in a sad kind of way and when I do, I whisper, “Please, if he’s right and the owner took them back in, let me pass by when they’re out again …”

A fortnight goes by.  Then one day, on my way to the dentist, my gaze strays to my left … and …

Whoa!

 … they’re back.

U-turn, park in a by-lane and trot over to inspect.  These are not from the ’50s as I’d guessed … the two darling desks are relics from the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth century.

Straight out of a late-Victorian era classroom or Anne of Green Gables novel.  There are holes for the inkwells and circular openings in the ornate cast-iron legs to bolt them down to a wooden floor.

Be still, my heart!

The munchkin school furniture is chained together on the grass by the kerb.  The chains are solid.  Rusty.  I waltz up the driveway.  There’s an elderly gent sitting on an aged white garden chair, staring out into space by his garage door.

Waiting for customers …

“Are these for sale?”

“Yes.”

He’s all I imagined he’d be.

Self-confessed hoarder.  Eighty eight years old. 

The house is hidden behind the trees.  Possibly the last of the original homes on the avenue. 

“I have a garage full of things,” he mumbles.  “I’m tired now.  Just want to get rid of them and go.”

The desks? 

He shrugs.  “Found them downtown. They were tearing down an old schoolhouse, I think.   Don’t remember.  I pick things up. They’ve sat in my garage for over 30 years. ”

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Late Victorian schoolhouse desk.  The little beauty that took my breath away.  The bench folds up. Dear hubby was right.  The desks were taken back in as the owner had to visit his wife in the nursing home and couldn’t risk his possessions being stolen from the kerb.

We agree on a price.  For one of them. I’d like to have both, but the other one’s already taken.

I ask if he’s got old books.  He shows me. A load in the entrance-way, tidily packed in boxes for donation, awaiting pick up.

“Help yourself,” he says.  “They belonged to my wife.  I never had time for books.  But was she ever a reader!”

Mustn’t be greedy.  I’m running out of shelf space at home.

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My library of vintage and antique books bursts at the seams.  No shelf space left!

 

 

 

 

 

I pick 20 hardcover copies — many from the fifties — several first editions and a 100 year-old beauty.  The books are in marvellous condition.  Most of them in vinyl cover-protectors. They look brand new.  

Cared for by a woman who delighted in her books …

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This book, over a century old …
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… contains some fascinating historical photos and maps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He invites me inside and I enter a rabbit warren of rooms in the Land that Time Forgot.

There’s some medical equipment, fine china and a collection of miniature cars.  I take pictures and promise to put the items on Kiji on his behalf.

We sit at the kitchen table and chat awhile.

“My wife had a computer.  She was an accountant.  She did all that kind of stuff.  Now she’s at the nursing home and that’s all I have …”  He points to an old wall phone from the seventies, looking lost on the kitchen table.

“I live like a hobo, I’m sorry,” he adds.

“Don’t be,” I reply. “I’m amazed at how you’re coping. I’d love to help.  Could I bring you some meals – dinner once a week, maybe?”

“No.  Food is not a problem.  I take those.” He shows me a crate of protein shakes.

“And there’s a collection of china teacups and stuff … my wife used to have tea parties. People don’t do that kind of thing anymore …”

“I do, actually!”

He mentions the wife a lot.  I admire the faded cross-stitch pictures on the walls — her handiwork, he tells me.  “But no one does that kind of stuff anymore.”

I do, actually!

“Could I take a photo of you with the desk?”

“But I’m honest,” he protests.

I smile.  “Not because I don’t trust you.  I’d like to record this moment.”

“Oh … okay!”

He sits and strikes a pose.  I click. 

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My new friend and the antique school desk (picture used with permission).

He picks the desk up with effortless ease.  It’s heavy.

“You’re strong,” I comment. 

“You don’t know what I had to do for my wife until two years ago,” he replies airily.

There’s something endearing about him.

“It’s hard to dispose of your entire life,” he adds.

I see desolation in his eyes.

“I can only imagine,” I sympathize softly.  

His sadness reaches me. 

Goodbye Lifetime of Yesterdays … 

Mr A.jpg
All alone.  Mr. A taking me to the shed in the sprawling backyard, to show me his grandparents’ stuff.  He built the shed himself using old garage doors!  My kinda re-purposing guy!

I remember that I’m not as young as I used to be and reaffirm my resolve to squeeze every last precious drop out of the rest of my life.

I’ve been back to visit a couple of times.  Bought more stuff for myself and on behalf of a friend.

His name is Albert.  I call him Mr. A.  

It’s kind of a privilege to have met him.

suitcase
This suitcase would already be old if it were checked onto the Titanic.  There’s a single handle located on one side.  With solid wood trimming and brass embellishments, it certainly wasn’t designed for air travel! I plan to turn it into a coffee table
sewing machine
This beautiful Singer treadle sewing machine is over a hundred years old.  Mr. A purchased it 40 years ago from an old farmhouse.  The carved drawers hold the original machine accessories, bobbins, needles and spools of thread.  It weighs a ton and I have no idea how he and his son carried it down the narrow flight of stairs ready for pick up.   It’s now my whimsical new foyer table

                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I said … such a summer it has been, of delightful discoveries and intriguing encounters.

Sweet, surreal serendipity …

 

Until next time,

sincerely

 

PS:  Pause to breathe and linger in this year’s Secret Garden.  Take a stroll in the Garden of Dreaming 2019 and savour the splendour of this summer past …

 

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