One of my least favorite things to do is to move stuff. And, over the years, I have moved a lot of stuff. Some of it my own stuff. Most of it my kids’ stuff. Sometimes stuff that belongs to neighbors or friends.
The downside of being a kind-hearted soul is that you are often invited to assist in moving other people’s stuff. Those who know that you will say yes. Especially if you own a truck. Double that if you also own a trailer. My son, bless his heart, is helping friends move at least every other week, it seems.
I don’t mind moving stuff around the room or out of the attic. That kind of move is usually short-lived and somewhat painless. A couple of years ago I decided to clean out the attic. I filled up my truck twice and didn’t make much of a dent in the piles of our stuff. A computer from 1992. A deflated football. A microwave that I was going to fix. I chair that I was going to fix.
What I learned is that my attic is full of good intentions. Stuff in need of repair waiting on me to make a trip to the landfill. Things I keep because I’m sure I will one day need them.
The wife holds up a chair leg. “What do you want me to do with this?”
“That’s a good chair. I don’t want to throw it away.”
She rolls her eyes. “Okay, but it’s broken and in my way. Where should I put it?”
“Let’s put it in the attic. I’ll have time next weekend to fix it.”
And there it lies in the heat and cold of several passing seasons until the husband yells down to his wife from the attic. “Honey. What are we doing with this old chair? You want me to haul it off to the dump? It’s in my way up here.”
I was in my Mom and Dad’s attic last weekend. Just checking on what might be left. There wasn’t much. We had the junk guys come in and clean it out. But even they didn’t want the Christmas paper and ribbons from 1965, or the boxes of Tupperware containers with no lids. Tupperware lids are like socks in the dryer. They all eventually disappear.
Last Saturday was the most dreaded move of all. There are a lot of things to dread when it comes to moving stuff. Refrigerators. Sleeper couches. Things that can cripple a man’s back. Objects of gargantuan weight and awkward porportions. For example, a WWII battleship covertly masquerading as a piece of furniture. Like my Mom’s piano.
She wanted my youngest daughter to have it. Mom has been gone for 8 years now, and there has really not been a good place for us to put it. So, it has remained in the living room through two different renters all these years. Until now.
I could see this day coming a long way off. Like looking at the radar of a hurricane winding its way through the Gulf of Mexico. I suppose because I dreaded it, I saved it for last. You walk into the house and it is bare to the bone except for the beast sitting against the wall by the front door. It has been smirking at me every time I’ve been in that house in the last few weeks.
“Come get me, boy! Grab hold of these chops, old man!”
Last year I met this guy, Travis, through a neighbor of ours up there. He asked me about taking his two boys deer hunting on our farm. I was glad to share the place. Seeing two young boys in camo, getting their first good taste of the woods and the thrill of the hunt.
Travis was so grateful that he almost fell over himself always thanking me. He must have said a hundred times, “If there’s ever anything I can do for you, you just let me know and I’ll be there for you.”
I remembered Travis on piano moving day. I sent him a text him a couple weeks ago. “You remember that offer to help me out if ever I needed something. Well, I’m asking.”
“What you got, Mr. Chappell?”
“I need help loading up a piano.” There was a brief silence followed by a groan and timid reply.
“Yes sir. I’ll round up some help.”
Having enough help is always the key to a good move. We moved my son up to Atlanta years ago. He was starting a new job. A new apartment. I had a truck and trailer. And away we went.
Have you ever seen one of those ancient Tibetan Temples sitting way up on a mountain somewhere? Almost unreachable by human effort. A bazillion stairs winding up a steep mountain pass, nearly into the clouds. That was Marshall’s third floor apartment.
From the get-go, there were steps to navigate up from the parking lot that wound through the Pines. Then, a staircase that had more switch backs than the Appalachian Approach Trail leaving Amicolola Falls. You step inside the front door and navigate two more series of stairs into the loft apartment. A kitchen chair could barely make the turn.
My back and legs still feel that move. My son-n-law and I have a standing joke about stairs because of it. Faced with some daunting chore, one of us will say, “Remember the stairs.” We could’a used a lot more help that day.
So, last weekend I reserved a U-Haul trailer. Enclosed in case of rain. Emily and I had help lined up on both ends of the trip. I put the back end of the trailer up against the front porch. Sweated over how we were going to handle the piano. And before I knew it three or four young bucks had that beast of wood and metal on the trailer.
I’ll have to give it to Travis. He came through. And he showed up right after the piano was on the trailer. The young men present had strong names like Bruce, and Kevin, and Mike. Biceps and Quads fit for Bowflex. And my two closest neighbors, about my age or older, showed up to help supervise with advice about where to grab and when to pull. It went smooth as silk.
I have gotten to the point where I have hired men and trucks who know what they are doing to move stuff. What they can do with shrink wrap and straps is amazing. They smile and have lighthearted conversations while they pick up tanks and lift steam locomotives on one shoulder. I grimace and contemplate about when and where to take my next step with a box of towels.
I was very clear with my daughter about the piano move. I would provide truck and trailer and get it from point A to point B. That was my job. And I am still alive to tell the story.
The bad news is this. We moved it to a storage unit. Which means that on some other day it will be moved again. No one knows the day nor the hour. But that day will come. And when it does come, I’ll be speed dialing Bruce and Kevin and Mike and Blake and any other set of biceps I can find.
Old men are not useless. We just know how to get stuff moved.