Auctioning memories

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By Calen McKinney


“I’ve got $1, will anybody give me $2?”

For the most part, no one would.

It was painful to watch the man who didn’t know my family selling my family’s possessions to the highest bidder.

My family auctioned my grandfather’s home and his possessions earlier this month. We had to.

As you may have read before, my grandfather now lives in a veterans’ home and has only moments of clarity after two serious strokes. He doesn’t know that his home has been sold or that his possessions now belong to someone else. We just couldn’t tell him. He wouldn’t have remembered anyway.

I knew going to the auction would be hard for all of us. I watched as people pawed through my grandfather’s possessions looking for a valuable find.

Auctions happen all the time, I know, and they generally attract people looking to pay a few bucks and get something worth $100. That’s just how it goes.

But auctions have always seemed sad to me, like a display of everything left that the family doesn’t want any longer and needs to disappear.

We spent months sorting through my grandparents’ possessions and keeping what means something to us.

At the auction, I quietly watched as strangers looked at my grandmother’s dish sets that she used to cook many a family dinner. I saw people looking through the “junk” that everyone seems to collect over the years.

Some people were interested in buying my grandfather’s bed, television set and rocking chair. It hurt when people looked through the items my grandfather considered valuable possessions and bid $1 for them. It would have hurt him, too.

I panicked when I saw my grandmother’s handmade quilts on a table ready to be purchased by strangers. They now rest on my bed and my grandmother’s quilt rack, which has a new home at my house. It might seem strange, but I feel comforted when I sleep under a quilt she made. Other family members got some of her handmade creations, too.

I learned a valuable life lesson during the auction.

Yes, a person’s “stuff” is important and having it helps us to remember them long after they are gone. But it’s not what is most important.

What is most important is that we remember the many wonderful times we spent at the house that no longer belongs to us. Those can’t be sold.

I’ll admit, tears came to my eye when the auctioneer sold my grandfather’s home. I was fine until I looked at the man who was buying the home in which I had spent so much time as a child. He looks like a grandfather himself.

And while the day was sad for my family, I also took away some happiness, too.

I remember the Christmas when we found a mouse under the tree with our presents.

I remember when my grandmother gave me a bath as a little girl and I slept in her bed at night, tucked in tightly with her and my grandfather.

I remember playing with my cousins on the farm and feeding Pickles, the goat.

I remember my dog, Charlie, who lived on their farm.

I remember that my grandparents loved me, even if one is now gone and the other doesn’t always remember who I am.

Those memories are priceless.