Stolen from The Capital Press
Reflecting on pack rats, roosters and one Mr. Potato Head

Friday, July 09, 2004

By Bill Duncan

One goes through life just doing the best they can. Certainly not thinking what impression "doing the best they can" is making on others - including their grandchildren.

I have lived on the same acreage and in the same house for 27 years. That makes a heap of memories and more than a heap of stuff one could not get along without but never uses.

I am a pack rat. The barn is full of what the pack rat couldn't get along without; so is a massive storeroom across the back of the main house; so is the garage; so is the greenhouse and even the pump house. They say when the caveman filled his cave with too much unwanted stuff, he just abandoned it and moved to a new cave.

My wife and I have talked about moving to a new cave, one without a steep hill and steep stairs and with just enough land to plant a garden.

Sometimes the issue is serious, and at other times we reminisce about how comfortable our old shoe is. My wife just casually mentioned our thoughts about moving to our granddaughter, Melissa, who now lives in Sarasota, Fla.

Melissa's response took us both aback. It is one of those wake-up calls that comes in late life when you discover doing the best you can made a lasting impression on others.

Melissa, her two brothers and our daughter, Margaret-Mary, lived with us briefly waiting for their dad to find housing at his new job in Nevada. Melissa was under 6 years old, but listen to what she remembers after learning we were thinking about moving from the country to town:

"I wish I could see that house one more time. My favorite things were the sound of the rooster, the smell of coffee, eggs, bacon and toast early in the morning.

"Mr. Potato Head was my favorite toy to play with from the toy cabinet. I remember the chickens, the cat and the dog. I remember how beautiful the church was that we went to with stained glass windows.

"I loved the way it sounded when cars drove over the rocks and pebbles in the driveway. That was my favorite sound and to this day I still love it.

"I loved the stairs and the closet that you had underneath it. I always wished it was a secret passageway and a hideaway for me.

"I remember the little dog named Lady that didn't really like us.

"I think I remember a shed that we weren't allowed in, under grandpa's stern injunction.

"I remember the tulips in bloom. Of course I could hardly leave that one out as I remember getting in trouble with grandma when I beheaded them. She was very angry.

"I always liked the step down to the family room. I remember the TV being up kind of high. I remember asking you and my mom how you got the seeds out of your seedless grapes. I am sad that you are selling that house. I remember going to the river on an overcast day, a park that had swings and tall trees.

"I have nice memories of Grandma and Grandpa's house. Will you send me a picture of it please. So that I have something to remember it by?"

Well, Melissa, your old grandpa will send you a picture, and because he is a pack rat who never discards anything, he is sending you Mr. Potato Head that is still in the same round oatmeal box you remember.

Bill Duncan can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.

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