May 10, 2010

the auction

Morning comes too soon. I’m yanked from my slumber by a knock on the glass door 15 feet from the couch where I sleep. The army of men are there, ready to work. As we struggle to get ready for the day, they carry out The Memory Pieces and lay them in the yard. The cabinet from the doll room, hearts cut from door, where fabric used to lie in wait. Many times, we opened those doors, searching for the perfect piece of fabric for whatever project we were working on with our sweet Memaw. They speak to us in broken English and each other in Spanish, using words so casual for the things they’re carrying out. “La mesa, tambien”, they call. The table around which we ate so many dinners, celebrated so many holidays. The table that held the centerpieces of dead leaves and acorns that we worked so hard to create. Yeah, la mesa tambien. The man of this house sits frozen in his chair, watching as his life is being carried out. I squat next to the chair that reminds me of him. “Are you ready for this?” I ask. The movement is barely detectable. A shake. I pretend not to see the tear in his eye that never moves from the doorway through which his life is being removed, one piece at a time. “Neither am I,” I promise. None of us are. “It means my time is almost up, you know?” He whispers. And I shake my head. It can’t mean that. “It just means it’s time to go to Michigan” I manage, with a smile on my face. He looks at me for the first time this morning and smiles. I plant a kiss on his bald head. “You’re a sweet girl, you know that?” He asks. I nod, and leave through the same door that his eyes have been on all morning. He watches me go and knows I’ll return.

We’re quiet as we watch. We have no words. How could there be words? He holds up his cup when he’s ready for more coffee. I pour and return. I lean down for my “tip”, a precious kiss on my cheek. I return the favor. There will never be enough of these sweet moments with my grandfather. The kisses I give him in passing. The hugs. The “I love you”’s. Never enough. As hard as I try to convince myself that what he said to me this morning isn’t true, I know that it is. And all day I will try to keep the tears away. I have to stay strong. If I break down, we all will. And so I watch The Memory Pieces be carted off by someone else, loaded into cars. I can’t picture these things in anyone else’s home. I shouldn’t have to. I want them to stay. She tried not to cry last night when she told us that his time is short. We know it. So does she. The reality of it is too much to bear. I was kicked out of the room. I sat on the couch, eyes on the tv, mind on something totally different. My precious Poppy. What comes next?

The man that spends more of his day asleep in his chair than awake manages to stay outside all day. We know the strength he had today was a gift from God. While Danny sits up in his trailer, auctioning off the house that holds so many memories, I sit between them, holding each of their hands. As they reach a new price, I shout it out so that my grandfather can hear. I kiss their hands over and over. They’re okay. I’m not. As soon as the house is sold, I leave. I return to the house that is no longer ours and break down in the empty dining room. Moments later, mom comes in. We hold each other and cry. How can this be happening? It becomes my job to watch the house. I lock the door and turn on the television. I turn it up loud to drown out the hundreds of strangers that have come to pay too little for the things that mean so much to us. They’re loud on the yard. I want them to leave. But I can’t make them go.

Both Memaw and Poppy spend the whole day in the yard, sitting in lawn chairs, making comments about how much these people were paying for their belongings. I check on them often. I’m in charge of bringing water and coffee. I make sure they eat and are warm enough. First thing this morning it was cold. He said he didn’t need a blanket. I brought his out anyway, told him not to argue, and covered him up. I find her sun hat when she asks mid-afternoon. I follow her around and make sure she doesn’t pick up too many things to return to the house.

At 7:15, it is winding down. The dolls are the hardest to let go. We knew they would be. By the time we get to the doll table, everyone is tired. Few people are left on the lawn. We return most of them to the garage. She says she can't watch them be sold for only a few dollars. I know it is an act of defiance. She has watched too many of her precious belongings go for so little. We help her carry them back in. Everyone has a tear in their eye and no one argues when she refuses to let them go.

We order pizzas for dinner. Sarah and I go to pick them up. We eat in the nearly-empty house. Homemade chocolate pie for dessert. Sarah rose early to bake it. It was a small piece of sunshine on an otherwise dark day.

I thought about taking pictures, but when it came down to it, I didn't want to document the day. Instead, I'll share the last picture I took of my Poppy on his tractor. He will never ride that tractor again. It's been a rough day, but it's over. We made it. And by this time next week, they'll be in Michigan, which is where they need to be.

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