Monday 24 Oct 2016

Hoarding Dad
AJ Robinson

My friend, Ron, has many, many “irons in the fire,” as the saying goes. One of them is a pilot for a new television show for one of the myriad of cable channels out there these days. It got me thinking of how many such shows air and that one about hoarders.

My Dad was a major-league hoarder.

Oh, if my Dad were alive, today, they’d do an entire episode just on him! He wasn’t just a hoarder; he was the king of the hoarders. Why it was that he could never bring himself to part with, well, anything, I will never know. Yet, it was true, the man kept almost literally everything you can possibly imagine.

He kept the envelopes that all of his mail. He’d stack them by the phone as message pads. Yeah, this was back in the days when people had an actual house phone, what people now call a “land line” and your phone sat in one spot in the house. What an incredible concept is that; right?

My father kept the foil of television dinners. Again, this was back in the era when a television dinner went in the oven and had to cook for about thirty minutes. Metal trays and covers are okay in that type of oven, as opposed to a microwave. I remember finding a stack of such foil covers in a cabinet after he passed away. I have no idea what he thought he was going to do with them, but he had them.

Hoarding newspapers was Dad's specialty.

There were newspapers, too. Oh my gawd, did he have newspapers! There were copies of the “Vineyard Gazette,” the chief newspaper on Martha’s Vineyard, and an old favourite of his. Then there were the copies of our local paper. Now, having old newspapers around isn’t such a bad thing, provided there’s just cause to keep them. A paper containing an article about a major historical event was a keep; I’ve done the same myself. Dear old Dad was reluctant to part with any newspaper.

I’d say to him, “Dad, I know you don’t want to throw them out until you read them, but I think this one is pretty much done for. The headline predicts Carter will win over Ford. Wouldn’t you say any news in that paper is slightly out of date?”

I said that to him during the second Reagan administration.

He still wouldn’t throw the stinking paper away. That was when drastic measures were called for. I had to sneak trash out of the house. My brother, Steve, was invaluable in this endeavor. We developed a simple process to get it done. Every couple of nights, as Dad slept on the couch, I’d go around the house and scoop some trash from the various piles.

My brother, Steven, and I would sneak newspapers out of Dad's house in the middle of the night.

I had to be very circumspect. I couldn’t just take the top items, as Dad would notice them disappearing. No, I put the topmost items aside, grabbed some things from the bottom and then put the top ones back. Once, I had a goodly portion assembled, I’d wait for Steve to come by in his Volvo. He’d park out back, come in the house. Dad stayed sound asleep. Steven and I would haul everything out to his car. A quick goodbye and off he’d drive to get rid of the stuff at the dump.

Dad never knew. I always found that so funny, as he kept adding to those piles, yet he never seemed to notice that they didn’t get any higher.


Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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