“It wasn’t where they belonged, necessarily. It was just where they ended up.”

Those were the last two sentences of this new collection of essays by Sedaris. In Calypso he wrote intimately about his family. The quotation above refers to him, at the airport after a visit and departing the city where he grew up, where his father still lives, trashing the ‘gifts’ his father had given him. I say ‘gifts’ because his father had given him “two Breughel postcards” and “a couple of nature calendars”, one of which was “two years old”.

 

Even though we are probably more different in more ways than we are alike, Sedaris and I have lived through some roughly analogous scenarios. Sedaris’s father became a hoarder in old age. My dad struggled to get his bipolar disorder under control, and went through bouts of hoarding when I was 9/10, 15/16, and in my early 20s. Sedaris’s sister committed suicide, as did mine.

 

I moved out of my parents’ rental (and across the continent) in June 2012, my sister, Mini and Mini’s dad moved out March 2013, and finally my mom in June 2013. By September I was back in California, by my sister’s side, trying to get our dad some desperately needed help. By then he’d moved into a dormitory on a farm. I stayed with him. One day while he was out I cleared the communal fridge, which he’d stocked with various inedible and putrid jars of homemade preserves and sauces. The property manager was exasperated by this and other hoarding. Later that day I went out. When I returned my dad had hauled the trash bag full of unidentifiable containers back inside, in the blistering early September heat, and had not finished restoring them in the communal fridge. I started to take out, again, what made their way back, and he appeared.

“Don’t touch that.”

“It’s bad, dad.”

“I was putting them back in the fridge. You don’t know what you’re talking about. This is good stuff. Your mom made all of this. It’s food.”

“It’s been out in the heat.”

At this point, my dad lost it on me for having thrown them out, and insisted they must go back in the fridge at once. I tried to reason with him.

“So how long ago did you start putting them back? How long have these ones been back in the fridge? And how long ago did you stop putting them back? How long have these ones been on the kitchen floor? How long were they in the trash can?”

We were at it long enough that something else got his attention. After he left again I pulled everything out and drove the bag to my sister’s house down the road, to her trash can, more specifically.

 

“It wasn’t where they belonged, necessarily. It was just where they ended up.”

 

Final Lines Friday – Calypso by David Sedaris
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