Hook and Bullet Club

by Nick Wognum

We’ve been busy every weekend cleaning out a house after my mother passed away. Luckily the weather has cooperated with us, and we can look outside to see snow, rain or a mix of the two.
This has been a difficult task, not just because of the amount of things to go through but because, for me, this is the last house I will be cleaning out.
I remember traveling to Hazel Crest, Illinois when I was a teenager to clean out my grandparents’ house. This was a tough time to leave home since I had just gotten my driver’s license and there was a pretty girl who was willing to cruise Sheridan with me.
Instead I was the youngest one in a group of family members trying to decide what to do with furniture, photos, tools, dishes and a variety of other items.
The only good news was I was the only male so I was left to myself to go to the garage to go through all the things my grandfather had left there. I was definitely interested in the riding mower he had which came with a tiller attachment. This would provide me with a nice income in the spring as I tilled many gardens around town.
Years later we were in Minocqua, Wisconsin and repeated the process of cleaning out my father’s parents’ house.
They also had something I coveted, a pool table. This would be a key addition to our house and become a focal point when friends would stop over to visit and fill the downstairs on a weekend night.
We had the bright idea at our 10-year reunion to pack up the pool table and bring it out to the Longbranch for the night. Let’s just say that was the end of the pool table.
Back to Van Vac and a very large house that holds items from the two homes I mentioned previously.
Along with my two cousins, we are the caretakers of the family history now. That may be a bowl grandma used to serve fruit salad in. Or maybe it’s a set of silverware. Or a painting. Or dozens of other items.
For the photos and letters we’re thankful for the ability to scan and digitally share those items. We came across letters my grandfather wrote to my grandmother as he was going through basic training in World War I. The letters are handwritten but have been photocopied as well. The first copy I found had been previously found by a mouse. Luckily a clean, non-eaten copy was also located in addition to the originals.
That’s part of the cleaning out the house process, determining what should be saved and what can be tossed. Family memories go in the keep pile. Medicare bills go in the circular file.
My friend Dave Merhar shot me a text one day knowing what I was going through:
“There are 3 categories. 1: Must keep 2: Maybe 3: Not a chance. Category 3 will change weekly.”
He’s right, although my wife would disagree. My mother had a library room that holds hundreds, if not thousands of books. Last Sunday I went through every title and saved the ones that meant something to me or that I wanted to read.
There’s still plenty left and we will have to come up with a plan on what to do with all those books. A lifetime of gathering books reduced to boxes looking for a future home. That is what we’ve been doing in a nutshell.
If you’ve been through this, you know. If not, your turn will come.