I think part of the reason the concept of cleaning up our father's house is so overwhelming is that my brother and I are confronted with two mind-boggling concepts. One is grasping the truly monumental task ahead, and the other is the idea that we finally get to peek into those shelves and drawers, enter into those closets, and investigate under the beds and wardrobes of rooms or areas of the house that we had been forbidden to enter, touch, change, clean-up or move around in any way.
The bedroom is a case in point. As children we were allowed to enter my father's bedroom, after knocking and hearing the command "come-in," only on Sunday mornings when we were also allowed to get into his bed. We got to cuddle as he read the Wall Street Journal. I guess, in retrospect, it was this weekly ritual of affection that spawned my love of wordy print newspapers. But at all other times, we were not allowed to enter the bedroom. My father had been not only extremely possessive about his numerous private spaces, documents, photo albums, and personal belongings. He also had been extremely possessive about his untouched piles of 10 year-old junk mail, unread physics journals long obsolete, and his 37 pairs of old worn-out shoes. Sorting out the trivial from the treasures is something that neither my brother nor I want to delegate to a clean-up crew. Maybe this little story will explain why.