Tick Tock

It’s a reality many older Americans eventually confront: our adult children don’t want our stuff.

I saw that a few days ago when my older son declined taking our family’s beautiful grandfather clock, even though he was the one who found it years ago — a story I’d loved sharing with friends.

Paul spotted the clock when he was learning to drive. I was giving him a lesson in our minivan when he saw it on the curb with the trash outside someone’s house. We stopped to examine it and, except for some broken glass, it was in good shape.

We took it home and, after some repairs, the clock ran beautifully for many years. Only recently did its movement finally wear out. 

A clock expert said it would cost a lot to fix. I told Paul I’d make the repair only if he planned to inherit the clock when we eventually downsize. I assumed he’d want it since we found it together. But he didn’t, nor did our other son. The memory and sentiment were mine, not theirs.

Reluctantly, I offered it on Craiglist to anyone who might repair it and give it a new home — for free, as I had gotten it myself. Within minutes, I received numerous responses. The next day, the young man in the top photo took it away.

This happened a few days after a Bose CD player I’d inherited from my parents finally died. It wasn’t worth fixing so, after Champa removed pieces of it for art projects, we put it in the trash.

I should have felt lighter and liberated after this, as I did when Champa and I gave away bags of stuff prior to serving in the Peace Corps. But this time I felt sad since both objects had sentimental value, at least for me.

I hope the clock brings joy to its new owner, as other things will for my sons and their families. We all fill our lives and hearts in different ways. As I’ve been reminded this week, though, it’s all stuff, and it doesn’t last forever. Time passes even if the clock breaks. Tick tock.

2 thoughts on “Tick Tock”

  1. Hi David–

    This post really hit home with me since we have been having this discussion with friends recently.

    As an example, Henry and I inherited 4 sets of china–all lovely–from family: 2 on his side and 2 on mine. We have always entertained a lot and we use them frequently, perhaps weekly. One set from Henry’s family has a particularly heartbreaking provenance. His grandparents shipped their belongings to England from Vienna in 1938 expecting that they would follow immediately after; the china made it, they did not. They were subsequently deported to Poland and murdered by the Nazis. So we use it and trust that they would be happy to see us enjoying it.

    But our children live in one-bedroom apartments in New York and Los Angeles, and it’s clear that they have neither the space nor the desire for even one set of ‘real’ china. (They don’t want our Oriental rugs or our ‘brown’ furniture either, I’m afraid.) I anticipate it will all end up in our local thrift store, where with any luck someone else will be happy to use these items and appreciate their beauty.

    Our generation needs to keep in mind your observation about the transience of ‘things’ and the reminder that nothing lasts forever.

    Thanks, Katie


    1. What a personal and powerful story, Katie. Thanks so much for sharing it. I hope your dishes and furniture find a home with someone who will appreciate their moving history.


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