Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Friday, February 3, 2012

Old things and wasted lives

The other day I chopped up parts of some old furniture of ours. When we got married in 1969 we bought ourselves a bed and then bought kit-set bedroom furniture. It was mahogany veneer, a headboard (which we still use) bedside cabinets, and corner drawer unit. These pieces have traveled with us all these years though when we moved back to Dunedin they got damaged in the train carriage. After a time we stopped using most of them and they have been sitting taking up space in the workshop. I decided it was time to get rid of the drawers and turn them into shelving units for some of the "stuff" I have in my workshop. As I retrieved the handles and broke up the draws for firewood I thought that if these things could talk what would they say about our journey together? I remembered assembling them with my new wife, and how much care we put into it, sanding and varnishing. They were a special project early in our marriage, it seemed a shame to be destroying them, but the time had come.

Many years ago I assisted an alcoholic friend move out of what was his father's cottage. He had bought it off the estate and had not been able to keep up the mortgage payments. He was a hoarder, worse than me.  The whole house was full of junk, with just a path to a lazy boy chair where he ate, slept and lived. The sheds outside were packed with junk. I helped him move and he threw out some a of his hoarded treasures because they would not fit into his new flat. He still had boxes of it over so I said I would store it for him, and took a van load to our place. I have had them sitting in my sheds for years. We have thrown some out, but today more went to the rubbish tip. The scary thing is there are real treasures amongst the junk. My wife was loading boxes onto the wheel barrow, trying to avoid my looking into them. I did find some treasures. There were tools probably belonging to his father that I thought we should not throw out. I was sad for him as we discarded these prized old car parts, bolts, household junk, magazines and all sorts of assorted hardware.
Just some of the "treasures" I rescued from being thrown out. Maybe my kids will have to discard them?
This hoarder whose junk it was, attended our Drop-in centre last night. He is now in his seventies. His eyesight is not good. He shuffles along the road with a shopping trolly to collect things in. These days he lives in an old rented house full of "treasures", with no electricity and once again little room for him to move. I suspect before too long his old body will give out and he'll be found dead somewhere. I have known him for over 20 years. I looked at him as he sat in a corner devouring our sausages, sandwiches and coffee. He had tomato sauce dribbling down his face, his eyes were bloodshot, clothing disheveled and conversation was limited. He was once somebody's precious child. He had been a car mechanic, but most of his life he has drifted around hooked on booze, gambling and hoarding. He is basically a nice guy, but here before me was a wasted, rotting life. It is so very very sad. There was another young man we have known for several years at drop-in centre. He was wearing a tee shirt that had emblazoned across the back in bright coloured letters, "I've done my time at the Milton Hilton".  The "Milton Hilton" is the nickname people have given to a big new prison south of Dunedin. This young man has so little in life that is good that he has to boast about having been in prison. Another wasted life. Another guy said when invited to read something, "Oh I can't read... er... I've left my glasses at home." We discover so many of our younger drop-in friends really cannot read. Why is it in this day and age, in the midst of a relatively rich developed country that there are people in this predicament?  Today I have felt sad for lives that are a way short of what they could or should be.

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