Pennies From Heaven

Dearest Rachel –

So yesterday, after Mike and Linda came by to measure the kitchen for remodeling, Jan also came by to work more with me on the office.

You might remember it looking something like this. Or not; it’s been a long time since either of us has been upstairs to try and use this room, or any of the rooms upstairs.

Bear in mind that this isn’t the first day we’ve been working in the office; we did get started on Monday, and spent a full day there. But this is the day that we really started to dig under the skin. And I don’t mind telling you, some of it did hurt. I was put to work sifting through the bookshelves, mostly the one full of your collections.

The general rule of thumb is that, if I know I’m not going to read these books again in my lifetime, there’s no point in keeping them. But I know how many trips you took to Drummer & Thumbs (that old secondhand bookstore downtown that’s now occupied by a shoe repair place, of all things) to try and complete your collections of certain writers. It’s not just discarding books at this point, as much as jettisoning years of effort on your part; searching and gathering to complete your collection as best you could.

Personally, I have no sentimental attachment to these old paperbacks, but just knowing the attachment you had to them makes it so hard to throw them out. And yes, I know I’m not throwing them out myself, but rather donating them. On the other hand, I don’t know how likely they are to be offered for sale by Goodwill or Half Price Books (which ever I should decide to send them to). You might recall that HPB, in particular, has admitted to us in the past that if they decide that a book is not likely to sell, they’ll just pulp it. So while I might not be throwing these things out myself, I might very well be just one step away from that process. And again, I don’t know that I’ll miss anything from Lloyd Alexander, Anne McCaffrey, L Frank Baum or Ruth Chew. But to see these collections of books just taken out, with the possibility of being discarded completely, doesn’t sit well with me.

Then again, if I’m not reading them, and Daniel’s not reading them, what difference does it make?

Of course, that’s not all that we’ve been finding in the office. Of the boxes on the floor (most of which were taken from your parents’ house in Macomb) there were some… unusual items.

I actually thought this might contain some more film that I needed to take in for development…
…yeah, no. To reference Lewis Carroll’s mad gardener: “Were I to swallow those, I think I should be very ill!”

Meanwhile, Jan was digging through the floor of the closet (no, we haven’t even begun to sift through your clothes up here), and she found this:

It’s the deed to our house, complete with purchasing documentation and all that. We were looking for this last year in the village asked us for a plat of survey so we could put up a shed.

Now, for the most part, we could just shrug and say well, it’ll turn up eventually. But there was a point in time when I thought I was going to have to go to the Cook County Board of Records, and pay to get a new copy of all this documentation. Oh sure, we knew it was in the house somewhere, but for a while there it looked like we would need it before we could find it.

And in fact, we did engage a surveyor to look at our property, and create a whole new plat for us to submit to the village in order to get that permit. I won’t say it was a waste of time or money, but finding this would’ve saved us some headaches. Oh, well… at least we have it now.

And, seeing how it’s all on legal-size paper, I understand why we didn’t put it into our fireproof kist – that old metal box can just barely hold letter-size paper.

And somewhere in the midst of everything else Jan was pulling out of that closet, she found a fairly small box that was pretty heavy. Once she opened it up, she could see why:

That’s right, there are two plastic bags literally bursting with pennies. All Jan could do was roll her eyes, and announce that she had added one more topic to that list of things she wants to discuss with you when she crosses over and finds you again.

Look, we understand keeping money around. Pennies are legal tender just like every other denomination of cash. But they don’t really do any good just sitting around, stuffed in a closet, where they can’t be put back into circulation. It’s not like they’re going to appreciate in value over time – unless there are a bunch of wheat pennies in those piles, and I have yet to see any as I’ve sorted through some of them.

Still, I know you always prided yourself on being Johnny-on-the-spot whenever I was paying for something in cash, and I needed a few of these in order to not get more of them back when the cashier handed out my change. I could always turn to you, and you’d have pennies in your little purple (yes, of course, it was always purple) coin purse to hand me – or to the clerk directly.

Sometimes, when I’m paying in cash these days, and they quote me a number with an odd amount at the end, it’s all I can do to keep myself from turning to where you would be to ask for the appropriate amount of pennies.

Have I told you recently how much I miss you?

Anyway, one last thing from the office, this being one that I found. After clearing out all bank statements and bills from the filing cabinet (why was I keeping all that stuff anyway?), I pulled out the bottom drawer, to find this:

The bottom cabinet was all yours

Now, some things I could actually throw out. There’s no point in keeping old coupons from pizzerias that may or may not still even be in existence. Those instructional brochures from the hospital about breast-feeding are probably unnecessary too. But those folders marked “Daniel’s Masterpieces” – I mean, they’re just pages from school that he’d colored, but I just can’t bring myself to get rid of them. Now it may be that I just don’t feel like I have the right to, since they are Daniel’s masterpieces, but I wouldn’t be able to get rid of your artwork – if there had been any – either. So that’s one drawer that I really didn’t do much in. And now I owe Jan an apology for shirking my assignment.

At least, the place looks like we’ve made a lot of progress up here:

Compare this to the top of this letter

Given what I’ve told you about things being thrown out, I doubt this would’ve entirely met with your approval, but things are what they are. At least, the room is just about in a place where it could be used again. Now if only I knew what to use it for.

That’s the thing. I’ve gotten so used to being restricted to the bedroom and the family room as far as actual living space, that I really don’t know what to do with all this extra space anymore. After all, I’d made all those arrangements to have my office at the folks’ place as much to look after them as to separate myself from you and Daniel so as to keep me ‘on task.’ So what do I need an actual office in my own house for?

And then there’s the question of how to decorate the place. I forget whether it was Kris or Jan who pointed out that the decor in the place has nothing of my touch to it. And, being a guy, that shouldn’t be a surprise. But now the house is ours – Daniel’s and mine – and there’s so little of it that reflects us. I suppose we have time to think about this going forward, but it’s just weird to have to absorb that.

Well, it’s not an overnight process. In fact, we’re not even gonna be working on any further cleaning until next Tuesday. So we can put off any decisions until then.

Until then, honey, wish us luck. We’re going to need it.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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