Miss Karen's Coffee Table
There it sat in the middle of the otherwise empty garage, like a lone honor guard standing watch at the gateway leading to the rest of the house. I noticed it one afternoon while I was walking up our shared driveway after getting the mail. Occasionally over the past few weeks, Miss Karen’s overhead door was found to be open and I watched as the garage, initially packed full of assorted belongings and boxes… Miss Karen’s stuff, was pared down over time into this one last remaining item; Miss Karen’s coffee table.
Miss Karen was the quintessential “little old lady” who lived next door. She would say things like “It’s hotter than a little red wagon!” and various other quips that would make me smile and remind me of everyone’s grandmother everywhere. My job as her neighbor had been to take out her trash once a week and bring her mail to her. Miss Karen and I had a system for her mail delivery. I would place it in the newspaper box attached to her house and ring the doorbell 5 times. Why 5 times? Not sure…those were my marching orders and being a good Marine, I followed them!
A few months earlier, Miss Karen had awoken for the last time, breathed her last breath and crossed the river to the other side. No more struggling to breathe; no more constant pain from an assortment of various maladies that had struck her over the 3/4 of a century she graced our presence; no more frustration because she was unable to do much more than watch TV. No more need for her stuff. Hopefully she was off to a more peaceful existence. I must say, I missed her. She mostly kept to herself; but was always kind and upbeat, notwithstanding the fact that she lived in constant pain and was handcuffed to an oxygen tank 24/7 for even longer than the 7 years I had known her.
Over the next several days when the roar of life would quiet, my mind would drift back to that coffee table. Everything has a back story and I wondered what tale this coffee table would tell were it able to speak. Was it a hand-me-down from her family? Did she wander into a furniture store way back when and decide “this is the coffee table for me!"? Did she find it at a garage sale one sunny afternoon years back when the air smelled like spring and her legs worked better? Did she load it up into her car and drive home to find “just the right place” to set it? And why was it, after all this…after all the other “treasures-of-a-lifetime” had been picked through by hawkish relatives, why was it that this one lone table would remain?
It made me think about stuff in general. At some point, Miss Karen made the decision to make this table a part of her collection of “stuff”. Why? Well, because that’s what we humans do. We spend a large part of our lives toiling at our jobs in order to earn enough money so we can walk into any given mercantile and add to our collection of stuff. As George Carlin used to say, “when we run out of room for our stuff, we buy a bigger house so we can fill it with more stuff!” This stuff, though it may bring us happiness for awhile, will ultimately end up sitting alone in our “garage” after our turn is over.
Stuff… in the big scheme of things, I guess we don’t really need it much after all!