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Free is a Very Good Price

January 23, 2017

Cleaning out the apartment of a deceased parent can be traumatic, but I’m the sort of person who always looks on the bright side, often finding humor in the most unlikely of places.


Mom had some nice pieces of furniture but Mrs. Chatterbox and I already have a house stuffed with furniture, and our son CJ didn’t want much more than a few mementos. We contacted a consignment store that had previously sold items for Mom when she downsized into her apartment. The consignment store refused to take the items I was most eager to see hauled away, so I made numerous pilgrimages to Goodwill. I think I made up for that time I talked them down on the price of a frame, for which, you might remember, I received much flak.


Closing my mother’s estate required a lot of effort. Mrs. C. handled much of the paperwork and I tackled the rest, including cleaning out Mom’s apartment, which would have cost us three hundred dollars a day in rent if we hadn’t been able to empty the place and turn in the keys before snow shut down the city. As it was, the flakes began falling just as the movers unloaded the last of Mom’s things into our garage, items I couldn’t give away or find homes for.


Before the movers arrived, I nervously watched the skies darken as I bagged Mom’s pots and pans, utensils and clothes. I was nearly finished when I checked the pantry, which I’d cleared out a few days earlier. I’d left three unopened bottles of cheap wine, Two-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, bought for Mom to use in her cooking. I have a case of this cheap wine in our pantry and didn’t want to lug the bottles home, but what to do with them? That was when I remembered the “FREE” table near the elevator in Mom’s retirement home.


I walked the bottles over to the table and set them down. It was then that it occurred to me that residents ate and drank in the dining room Mom had shunned for eight years and might not have cork removers. I hunted through the few kitchen drawers in Mom’s kitchen I’d yet to empty, and found a cork remover.


I was too late! When I returned to the “FREE” table moments later to place the cork remover beside the bottles of wine, they were already gone, having vanished like the Road Runner in a puff of smoke. Those bottles had been on that table less than five minutes. Five minutes!




I wish I’d known who took them. I’d have partied with them and told fun stories about my mother.  




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It can be a memory churner for sure. Getting ride of everything can be emotionally and physically exhausting too. Closing another door to the past... leaving one with memories. -- I heard about your snow!
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 23, 2017
It is very difficult clearing out and letting go, laughter and tears very often in the same thought!
By: John Gibson on January 23, 2017
Gosh, I remember having to do that with my Mom's stuff. That's hard stuff to do. Looking back, I was afraid I would give away or sell the wrong things and then regret doing so, but I don't. Can't keep someone closer by keeping their things. It only makes life crowded in at so many levels. Great story about the wine. You made someone happy.
By: Oma Linda on January 23, 2017
There must be a wino living there. At least you didn't have to fight over the stuff. That always seems to happen when one of my relatives dies and the family has to clean out the place. And usually people end up bickering over stuff that's not even valuable.
By: PT Dilloway on January 23, 2017
Well, that wine made someone's day! My wife shouldered the biggest burden in clearing my mother's home. It is a difficult passage though as you note a time for a few laughs and nice memories too. BTW as a view from California wine country, it was best not to stock up on that cheap wine!
By: Tom Cochrun on January 23, 2017
No matter what the age, the wine always goes fast. Glad you were able to empty the apartment before the snow hit.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on January 23, 2017
Did you leave the cork remover on the table anyway?
By: The Broad on January 23, 2017
Partying with 2 buck chuck would leave you sorry in the morning. Difficult time, at least you could find some humor in it.
By: cranky on January 23, 2017
I took it. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 23, 2017
SOMEBODY was drinking a toast to your mother, whether they knew her or not!
By: Val on January 23, 2017
Haha, that's funny. Well someone was very happy! Clearing my mother's house, is not something I'm looking forward too. Assuming she goes before I do, which I often doubt.
By: LL Cool Joe on January 23, 2017
You made someone's day!
By: messymimi on January 23, 2017
It might have not been as interesting a disappearance as you thought...but then again, it might. I am glad that someone wanted that,but I keep hoping they were cooks rather than alcohoilics.
By: Tabor on January 23, 2017
When my dad passed away, we found about a 20 year supply of both Brut & toilet paper!!
By: fishducky on January 23, 2017
It's hard to get rid of some things that your mom cherished but you don't have the same feelings for it yet you want someone to take it so it has a good home. It must have been hard so one finds comfort in some funny things that happen and that free wine is a funny moment. People will take whatever they can get when there is the word "free" beside it.
By: Birgit on January 23, 2017
Cheers to the giver and three cheers to the person(s) who ended up with the wine!
By: Pixel Peeper on January 23, 2017
What a great story! Five minutes must be some kind of record :)
By: jenny_o on January 23, 2017
You'e right cleaning up an estate is a lot of work. First you get rid of all the possessions which you've found out is a lot of work. Then comes the paper work. Everybody wants something.
By: Kline on January 23, 2017
Cleaning out my Grandmother's place a few years ago, we discovered stashes of money all over her house. We always thought she was broke. There were bundles of thousands everywhere.
By: BRETT MINOR on January 24, 2017
Someone was definitely thirsty! I know that was a sad job for you, and I am sorry. It's done now and life can move on, but I hope you saved a few momentos. One of my deepet regrets is taking all of my brother's possessions to goodwill too soon. I should have waited a bit longer to go through everything. Blessings, Stephen- I have been hinking about you these past coupld of weeks and hoping you were ok.
By: Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines on January 24, 2017
Same thing when Becky cleaned out our mom's apartment. She had to get everything out right away, too. We couldn't even give away her furniture even thought most of it was barely used. I did notice while I was there a lot of drinking going on in the front lobby! I was surprised as I thought most of those people were taking meds that would not allow it! May your memories of her warm your heart.
By: Linda on January 24, 2017
what a darling darling story!
By: Kathe W. on January 24, 2017
I am so sorry your mom passed. I know that there was a lot of love behind your gnashing teeth. Arlynda's mother's passing came as quite a shock to us. For we fully expected her to outlive us both. Oh, and she made me realize that there is a big advantage to only having 3-4 teeth left. For that made it nearly impossible for me to actually bite my tongue on a daily basis. (LOL?)
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on January 24, 2017
I put many small items of my mother's in the back hall of her building. I would make a few trips each time, up and down. The items were already gone before I would get back down with the next batch. Very satisfying. No 2-buck Chuck, though.
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 25, 2017
we used to put stuff we didn't want that was still in good shape and useful on the side of the street in front of the house. nothing stayed long. it's like some sort of sixth sense I think for scavengers.
By: Ellen Abbott on January 25, 2017
I'm glad you were able to accomplish that task in time! At least for now, my dad lives in his own home, plus he's getting ready to marry a younger woman, so hopefully there won't be any hurry emptying out his house when the time comes. Not looking forward to it!
By: The Bug on January 26, 2017

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