How Many Coats Do You Need?


The General and I are not always on the same page. I’m not suggesting that she is wrong and that I’m right, I’m just saying we don’t always process information the same way. She’s been on a “get rid of stuff we don’t need” kick for the past several days and the pressure continues to mount for me to do my part.

Miracle of miracles, she even packed up our daughter’s collection of Care Bears to send to my niece’s three-year-old. I failed to mention she also included a full collection of Cabbage Patch dolls. I noticed that there is another box of some kind of dolls that will soon be shipped as well. The lady is on a mission and she’s taking the self-imposed “if we don’t need it – toss it” directive seriously.

A couple of days ago she made some comment about our need to do something with the coat closet in the entry hall. I had the distinct impression that she saw me as being responsible for the problem. I may be a contributing factor, but I’m not totally responsible. For one thing, there are two vacuum cleaners crowded into that closet. In addition, there are leaves for two different tables also snuggly wedged in between clothing and the wall.

Don’t stop reading because I’m not done. There is more. Are you ready for this? We still have the high school graduation robes that both our son and daughter wore at their high school graduations. They, too, are tucked safely out of sight. They’ve been tucked safely out of sight in the entry hall closet of every home we’ve lived in since they graduated from high school. Trust me, the number is greater than you might think. So why do we need them? You tell me. On the other hand, graduation robes are pretty flimsy. They don’t take up much space. Whether they stay or whether they go is not an issue for me. I don’t care. I don’t have a dog in this fight. It is the General’s call.

Sunday night we talked with my son and daughter-in-law on the telephone. My daughter-in-law mentioned in passing that she wants it to be clearly understood that they don’t need any of Craig’s things left over from childhood. On the outside chance that we still have mementos from Craig’s high school years, they don’t want or need them either.

Bless his heart, my son is dealing with the same issue at his home that I’m dealing with at mine. The big difference is that he is a lot younger than I am. When he was telling me his woes, I had the sensitivity and presence of mind not to warn him that once it starts, it never stops. Poor guy! He has a long road in front of him. At my age, I’ve got to be almost done. Consequently, I suspect the General and I will amicably choose to disagree on what to keep and what to give away until the end of time.

When I recently blogged about “one man’s trash being another man’s treasure”, my son responded that his wife informed him: “If your things don’t bring you joy, throw them away.” If she had stopped there, she would have left well enough alone. My son would have been oblivious that she was talking about his stuff. However, she reportedly went on share with him that he has a lot of stuff that doesn’t bring her joy.

I could have told him that was coming. Do you have any idea how many metal boxes of shell casings he owns? He has enough to load bullets for rifle ranges for the Houston Police Department, Dallas Police Department, and Austin Police Department and a host of other ranges. Honestly, why does anyone need all those shell casings. The General wouldn’t have put up with that for a minute. Actually, that’s not true. She’s the kid’s mother. She’d cut him a lot more slack than she’d even consider providing me.

Out of curiosity I asked: “Could you give me an example?” He responded: “Absolutely, that is not a problem. For starters, she doesn’t think I need to keep my college textbooks”. Are you kidding me? That never would have crossed my mind! Who in their right mind keeps their college text books? They’ve lived alternately on one coast or the other for twenty years. Don’t tell me they’ve been hauling college textbooks back and forth across the country for the past two decades. Why would anyone hang on to college textbooks? That is a particularly appropriate question for someone who has been out of school for over two decades.

Actually, at the risk of being a little too transparent, a couple of reasons come to mind and both could relate to “good ole dad”. This may be a little off the wall, but stranger things have happened. Who knows, maybe reading the textbooks were pre-requisites for Craig getting his academic degree. Actually, I’m sure that in essence they were. Do you think there is an outside chance that my son didn’t actually read the books while he was in college, somehow managed to somehow earn his degree anyway and now he is guilt-ridden?

Guilt is a strange bedfellow! Yes, that could be the reason he won’t part with the textbooks. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to figure out things like that. Just look at all the variables at play and make the best judgment call that you can.

I may be on to something here. I like playing Sherlock Holmes and you have to admit that I’m really good at it. Maybe my son got his degree without investing the time to read the books required for the course and now he feels guilty? With guilt comes remorse and feelings of shame. That would be one explanation of why Craig won’t part with his books. He’s obviously hanging on to them until he can find the time to read them. Of course, if the text books had been written by Louis L’Amour or Larry McMurtry, he would have already read them several times over and committed them to memory.

Did I mention that guilt runs high on my side of the family?  I have my mother to thank for that. After all, “What would other people think?” is a question she repeatedly drilled into our heads during childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, middle age and the memory still haunts me in older age. After all, there is always a back- story of why we do the things we do. You’ll have to check with Craig and ask him about my theory, but I think I’m on to something.

Of course, the other explanation could simply be: “He is his dad made-over.” I’ve still got a few old books leftover from college. One of the books in my possession is a psychology book that includes some really strange explanations for why people do the things they do. I remember thinking: “I need to keep this book in case I ever need an alibi. It could come in handy”.

Getting back to the coat closet in the entry hall, I determined to do something to make the General happy. After all, I do have a few self interests: “Happy wife/happy life”. I should at least get honorable mention for trying. I decided to move my coats out of the entry hall closet and place them in one of the bedroom closets. As I removed my coats, I was surprised by the number of coats I actually had in the entry hall closet. I was even more surprised by the number I’ve never worn. Over the past couple of years (maybe even three) I’ve bought them on sale. Most of them are lightweight coats, but a couple are really nice heavy leather coats. Even on sale, they were pricey.

Did I mention that sometimes I just can’t seem to win? When the General learned that I’d moved coats from one closet to another, she was less than thrilled. Actually, she didn’t even try to camouflage her unhappiness with me. She was hot! Maybe it had something to do with the coats. Of course it did. It had everything to do with the coats.

At any rate, I was sharing my sad tale of his mother’s displeasure with me to my son when he asked: “Dad, how many coats do you have.” I answered that I was giving two to Goodwill and that I was keeping twelve. I have to tell you, “I’ve never been quite so surprised.” I got the lecture of: “Starving children in third world countries and cold homeless people in Austin. Why did I need twelve coats? That was ridiculous! I should give them away.”

Long story short – He may be his father’s son, but he is also his mother’s. He sounded just like the General.

All My Best!



3 thoughts on “How Many Coats Do You Need?”

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