It is something of an irony that I am launching this blog on the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day. As I wrote on my Passing It On blog, on April 22, 1970 I had been married less than three weeks and was reporting to my first regular duty station in the Air Force. My wife and I were struggling to figure out how we could manage to live in Northern California on a second lieutenant’s salary.
One of the first big purchases we made as a couple was a vacuum cleaner so we could clean our $155 a month apartment. That really stretched our budget for a while. Now, 40 years and three great kids later, we’re practically over-run with stuff.
For four decades we’ve been pretty much your typical American consumers, buying gadgets suited for a single task and replacing perfectly good items with something else, not because it was necessary but because we could. Some things have crept into our possession apparently without our knowledge because we have no idea why we have them and only a vague idea of what they do.
That’s not to say everything we own is without purpose. You can’t maintain a single family household without ladders, tools, lawn mowers, snow (or leaf) blowers, shovels, a mini-hardware store of, well, hardware and a toxic mix of paints, solvents, lubricants and vegetation and insect killers.
And that’s just for the exterior.
My wife, Linda, and I have lived in our house for 26 years now and we’re all showing what I like to think are premature signs of aging. Truth is, we’ll only get older, and that’s the best-case scenario. We’ve decided to take a proactive approach to the whole aging thing. For us that means staying as healthy as we can for as long as we can and getting rid of some of this stuff while we’re still able to do it on our terms, more or less.
We’ve seen in our own families and the families of friends how a person can go from a house to an apartment to assisted living to nursing care to hospice, sometimes in a short period of time. With each move, a person’s world shrinks a bit more. We know this could happen to us just as easily as anyone else so we’re embarking on our own self-guided shrinking adventure.
I’ll be documenting this trip through this blog. If I can persuade her to, I’ll try to get Linda to offer her perspective from time to time. She doesn’t write professionally, but most people who know her know she’s the real brains of the family. Feel free to hitch a ride with us anytime you want. You can subscribe to this blog (or Passing it On) by RSS feed or by e-mail, or you can just drop by whenever you want. You can also follow my antics as a personal historian on Twitter or become my Facebook friend. I’m pretty easy to find across cyberspace so don’t be a stranger.
About the picture at the top of this column: Linda snapped it through the windshield of our 1969 AMC Javelin as I rode my bicycle from Vacaville to Dixon, California, 40 years ago. I no longer have the Javelin, the bike, the corduroy “Dylan” cap or the cool canteen strapped to my seat, but I likely have a few other things left from our California days. I may even be writing about them.