When Time Flips the Vinyl

Mrs. Clancy’s husband died in his leather recliner — an island surrounded by half-empty pill bottles, moldy food on plastic plates, man-sized diapers, and Car and Driver magazines. Mr. Clancy, in his prime, had owned a car dealership. He bequeathed his unhappy wife substantial funds from an insurance policy which she spent liberally to satisfy bizarre hoarding impulses.

After Mr. Clancy’s stroke, Mrs. Clancy stopped opening unwelcome mail. Bills accumulated like dust bunnies, and Mrs. C never asked for help or welcomed visitors.

When news of Mrs. C’s death reached the Clancys’ grown children — estranged for 30 years — they flew to Anchorage from the East Coast to manage the sale of the house. They also hoped to carry home family valuables.

They were unaware that their mother had become a hoarder. They took one look at the layers of “stuff” in every room, and promptly hired a crew to dispose of junk and sift through the house for keepsakes.

Perhaps Mrs. C anticipated her husband’s recovery — for as he lay in his recliner, she continued to fill Mr. Clancy’s closet with suits and gaudy ties befitting a topflight car salesman. Dozens of loafers, golf shoes, and patent leather footwear rested in peace there, too. Thousands-of-dollars-worth of high-end garments and costume jewelry engorged Mrs. C’s own closet as well. She also “collected” teacups and tableware, found in hundreds of unopened boxes, along with sheets and bedding, rugs and tapestries. Stuffed animals (tigers, lions and teddy bears oh my!) were crammed into dozens of giant-sized garbage bags.

 No one knows when Mr. Clancy and his recliner became inseparable, or when Mrs. Clancy slipped into an obsessive state of mind. But for years after Mr. Clancy died, Mrs. C continued to find solace in what she could unload from her Cadillac — in the dark of night so the neighbors couldn’t see.

The Clancy children found no heirlooms or caches of money to excite them. All that they carried home was a legacy of guilt and disappointment.


Time will “flip the vinyl” on all of us someday, and play tunes we do not choose. Heredity, lifestyle, and health will determine the notes in every measure. Decisions will fall to our families regarding our care in the last years of our lives.

Will our sons and daughters perform caregiving with grudging obligation, resentment, or empathy and love? What will determine their attitudes when our eccentricities bind them to relentless monitoring?

While we still have control of our futures, think ahead!

Be that father or mother whom family and friends say, “I love being around her! I leave her presence feeling hopeful.”

Or

“Listening to him encourages me! He inspires me.”

Banish bitterness (the offspring of unforgiveness) and exercise smile muscles. Present a sunny demeanor — even when it hurts.

Why? Because we are building the foundation for our frail season, when the shelf life of our independence has expired. 

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

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