One in an occasional series.
Bill Lyon is a retired Inquirer sports columnist
We're selling - we hope.
It's called downsizing.
What it really is, is uprooting.
The place in which we have lived the last 42 years . . . the place in which we have raised three generations . . . the place into which we have stuffed a basement and a garage and an attic and a backyard storage shed with . . . with, well, good grief, and did we ever throw anything away?
But we will be now, because we're leaving it.
Each day the pile of discards grows higher.
The casting aside is done with great, wrenching reluctance. The tear ducts work overtime. What you hear a lot of is: "Hey, look what I found. Remember that?"
And that is the crusher.
Remember? That one damnable word:
Well, do you?
Maybe . . . sorta . . . I think . . .
That's the tricky part, trying to cut through the gauze of memory and fight through the cobwebs in your brain.
The haunting lyrics of a Barbra Streisand song tease: "Memories . . . misty water-colored memories of the way we were . . ."
Well, do you?
Sometimes, yes . . . in bits and pieces . . . fragments for no apparent reason . . . disjointed . . . hopscotching around . . . and up there in that three-pound marvel of gray-matter engineering The Pinball Wizard is in a rat-rat-tat frenzy, all for your dining and dancing pleasure, and don't you just love it when he leaps into one of those streams of consciousness?
Uh, where were we?
Toss or keep
This is what makes Alzheimer's so cruel, so different from other, more conventional diseases. It goes straight for the brain, there to set about systematically dismantling it. And it does so at its leisure.
So here we are, amid cartons and assorted boxes, helped along by family and by those friends who weren't fast enough to alibi their way out and console themselves with the thought that at least there will be beer and pizza once the rooms are spare and ghostly barren.
And in the background there is the hum of inquiry: "Keeping this?"
And I know he's here. Al . . . my Alzheimer's nemesis. The Little Rat Bastard who first introduced himself a few weeks after my diagnosis.
It helps to have a face on your enemy.
And Al is a slimy little runt who fills the bill and reminds you of the mantra that keeps us going:
Never, ever give in. . . .
And as for that toss-or-keep quandary, I have been told it helps to affix ID tags to items that look familiar and can later serve as memory joggers.
Anything to flummox Al.
Selling your house, are you?
Then I suggest you pour yourself a stiff one.
Make it a double.
What the hell, leave the bottle.
Because this is nowhere as simple as it looks. Because your revered domicile of the last 42 years, that roof under which you amassed all those misty water-colored memories, is going to be inspected. Stem to stern and back again.
Put it this way: Imagine your home is a man in for his annual physical and the doctor has just snapped on his rubber gloves. Get the picture?
So you get yourself a Realtor, someone to pave the way, run interference, convince the buyer he's flat up against the second coming of the Taj Mahal, and what do you mean the basement floods?
So, come now the walk-throughs and the Open Houses, a steady stream of the curious, the window shoppers, the get-out-of-the-rain refugees, but no bidders . . . at least for a while.
You are banished, the farther away the better because you need to be out of earshot, because, well, because the shoppers, some of them, cast a critical eye . . . a little too critical and you'd like to get your hands around her throat.
And then there's staging, the real estate version of cosmetics. Or liposuction. Furniture is moved, rearranged, make this room appear smaller, this one bigger, ditch that picture over the mantel. . . .
A friend cast a jaundiced eye on all of this and offered a cogent summation: "Looks like they're trying to put a bra on a pig."
Anyway, when the For Sale stake was plunged into the front lawn, we sat back and waited for the stampede. What we got was the concourse at Grand Central Station. Lots of foot traffic; actual customers, not so much.
We launched in the golden glow of early autumn, hopeful, oh so hopeful, because we were assured this was the Prime Time . . . so we piled it on in the Trick or Treaters bags . . . and Thanksgiving came and went . . . Christmas, too . . . and then a New Year. And Prime Time packed up and went South. Our moods began to waver. Some days, or nights, we were summoned to a walk-through, often on an hour's notice, when everything had to look pristine. It was like living out of your suitcase.
The crusher came early in the campaign. The couple loved our place, and, yes, they'll take it and then the night we were to go to settlement, only hours before it was to be consummated, they backed out. No reason. No sorry. It was the Realtor's version of coitus interruptus.
It gets late early
It has become one of those stories you repeat to every ear willing to listen and to some who aren't, the clucking sound of the person who says, in disbelief, "They just pulled out . . . no excuses, huh? Imagine that. . . ."
And what they are really thinking is "Better you than us, kid."
What has become obvious to us during this portion of our journey is that almost everyone has a story about moving and it resonates with us for the most elemental of reasons:
Misery loves company.