WENDY VICTORA: When things matter more than people



While I stop short of calling my father a hoarder, that might be generous.

The truth is that when he died about 10 years after my mother, their 3,000-square-foot home was filled with things others might consider junk.

As he grew older, so did the stuff around him. As he fell apart, so did it.

There was the wooden boat he built in the 1960s that had been parked in a dilapidated boathouse for decades. I can’t remember the last time it felt the wash of muddy river under its bow. We had a hard time giving it away after his death.

In the cavernous attic, dozens of shoe boxes tied with string were stored — one for each year. The boxes contained every check my mother wrote, accompanied by record books of expenses. He had every Christmas decoration we ever bought, his mother’s china and a few sentimental pieces of my mother’s clothing that no one could bring themselves to throw away.

But mostly he had books. Hundreds and hundreds of books, along with cabinets filled with magazines and news clippings of interest only to him. And in the room that was supposed to be a third bathroom but never actually held a sink or toilet, he kept hundreds of video tapes. On many of them he had recorded television shows that he meant to go back and watch again.

There was still room for him in the house, but only because of its size. Had his socioeconomic status dictated a smaller homestead, it would have born a sharp resemblance to the folks who are formally labeled hoarders.

I have no doubt that his stuff afforded my father a mental ease, and that getting rid of any of it would have been a trigger. What if he needed it someday? What if he wanted it? What if he had a question that could only be answered by one of those books or clippings?

These days, he’d have the internet if a steady flow of information was really what he was seeking. I don’t think it was.

I think holding on to things was easier than letting go of a life that hadn’t been fully lived. I think he could convince himself that he had everything he needed if he never threw anything away.

And I think, in the end, given a choice between the people he loved and the things he loved, he would have chosen his things.

Daily News Managing Editor Wendy Victora can be reached at 315-4478 or wvictora@nwfdailynews.com.