120 suitcases

Actually, seventy suitcases were delivered to my church last week, but as the days went by, word of mouth by people who enjoy a good story, nudged the number closer to 120.

The minister found a call on his answering machine from a woman in the church that she was leaving town rather unexpectedly and that seventy suitcases would be delivered to the church the next day. Not, “would it be okay?” no, just “they’re being delivered.”

Panic set in. There really is no room in the tiny church to deal with 70 suitcases. A plea went out by e-mail for people to drop everything they were doing, if possible, and get over to church to begin sorting. Everybody was told if they did so, they could leave with four empty suitcases. LOL.

I spent Saturday afternoon with four other people and we were the second fleet of volunteers. By the time I left there was plenty left to do for the next batch of people early the next week.The suitcases were locked, so one of the volunteer’s job was to cut off the locks. We set up five large tables and began sorting through used clothing, unused new clothing, shoes,handbags and other items all with the store tags on them, collectible teddy bears, memorabilia  of a certain pop star from an earlier era, brand new children’s books, children’s movies, Harry Potter, Beatrix Potter, books about faeries, books about gardening, a small fortune in spare change, old family photographs, old letters, and on and on.

We were, of course, sorting through someone’s life, and given a glimpse into its more poignant aspects. As it turned out, I knew the owner of the suitcase from my work. She lived alone, and, as far as I am aware, never married. Whenever I saw her leaving work or coming to work, she dragged a suitcase. Occasionally she wore earmuffs, even in summer, and I suspect that they offered her some sort of protection against voices. If people didn’t know “Mary” they might not be inclined to talk to her because of all her oddities, but in fact, she was pretty smart and articulate, and, she held down a responsible job. But, the price of being different was loneliness, and Mary was terribly isolated, which made her oddities more pronounced than they otherwise might have been. Her life, her many obsessions, were there in the suitcases.

There would have been no one for Mary to to turn to when it was time to clean out her apartment, so Mary did the church a favor. She simply picked up the phone and announced “suitcases are coming.” The minister had initially wanted to divert the taxi cab for a drop off at one of the local charities, but when the head of the bazaar committee got wind of this, she said, “Absolutely not! We’ve got a bazaar coming up in October. We’ll call in the troops.”

Mary, through her generosity and quirkiness, has organized the bazaar for us, and will ensure that a tidy some of money is raised. We hardly need any more donations.

God Bless you, Mary. Good luck in your new home.

Bless you, Doris Lessing

Thanks to Beyond Meds for bringing to our attention Doris Lessing’s thoughts on schizophrenia. “So, craziness is not as far away as we’d like to think,” and she goes on further in the article to give her thoughts about loneliness bringing on craziness and how what we call Alzheimers and dementia might be linked to the loneliness of old age.

My mother started to develop signs of dementia about the same time that Chris began developing signs of dementia praecox (schizophrenia). I don’t know what really caused this, we tend to think of it as something that just happens in old age, but I do know that it began to develop around the time that my parents decided it was time to move back to Canada from Florida to be closer to my sister. The timing of this has convinced me to avoid making any life-changing decisions involving moving great distances when I am that old. My mother was a very intelligent woman and she was panicked by dementia. But, it was noticeable that she would “rise to the occasion” as my father would say, when they had company. She otherwise would spend many lonely hours in a house and a town she didn’t know or care for, humming to herself. For a while, she could still win at bridge.

My sisters and I wanted my father to get a break from being a twenty-four hour caregiver, so we tried to persuade my mother to check out an activities program at the local hospital. She sensed something was wrong as we drove into the parking lot. She started to curse under her breath that there was no way in hell she was going to go to a “program.” Miraculously, she pulled herself together on the tour on the five pin bowling room and the art therapy class. You would never know she had problems by the way she asked appropriate questions and professed great admiration for the set-up. She thanked the staff very nicely and then went home and refused to go back.

We once left Chris by himself for a week when my husband and I were both on business travel. This was at a time when he seemed to be well enough for us to chance it. When I got home, he was acting really strange He had drawn all the blinds and was talking gibberish and acting “spooked.” This took a few weeks to work its way through. It was enough to convince me that being alone, being abandoned, is the almost worst thing that can happen to someone.