My grandfather stashed his cash in the trash, and then his kids carted that trash to the garbage dump

Tracey Folly

Grandpa never met a piece of trash or a dollar bill he didn’t like

My grandfather loved trash.

He loved trash so much, in fact, that he made frequent trips to the garbage dump to bring trash home. To him, trash was a treasure. Sometimes, I’m sure that was true.

My grandmother indulged his love of garbage. She often accompanied him to the garbage dump in search of quilts or towels that she could make her own. It didn't matter how threadbare or stained something was if it was free, and nothing was freer than someone else's trash.

He once brought home an unclothed stained plastic baby doll and presented it to me as if he’d bought it at Macy’s. It had dirt and detritus deeply embedded in its grooves and creases. Fake eyelashes were heavily caked with dried mud. Spaces between fingers and toes were filled with a greasy brown substance that could have been anything.

My mother frowned when she saw that doll. She was typically indulgent, but I could tell something about my new doll bothered her. 

I watched as she washed it and scrubbed it clean of its garbage dump past. Then she took me to the toy store where I picked out an outfit that cost, as my mother complained, more than buying a brand new doll that was already clothed.

That doll wasn’t the only thing my grandfather salvaged from the town dump. There were prints and paintings and religious icons galore, a surprising number of religious icons. To this day, I wonder why.

He brought home old and broken toys, carts and wagons that were a wheel short, sewing machines that didn’t sew, toasters that didn’t toast, and once a refrigerator that didn’t refrigerate.

It didn’t matter if it didn’t work for its intended purpose because everything was good enough for his purpose. 

My grandfather liked to stash his cash in trash.

He filled plastic jugs and broken pottery with coins. He stuffed money behind old paintings and slipped it into picture frames that held photographs of people he’d never met. 

He shoved handfuls of bills into battered sofa cushions, and stuck wads of cash in the innards of a pedal sewing machine whose pedal had long gone missing.

There was money under the carpet and hidden in walls, folded into stacks of torn quilts, and rolled into coffee cups on the top shelf of the kitchen cabinets. My grandfather kept his money anywhere and everywhere except the bank.

He didn’t trust banks, but he did trust the pages of discarded books and the sleeves of vinyl record albums by Elvis and the Beach Boys. My grandfather lived nearly a hundred years, and he picked trash since he was a boy. He had accumulated a lot of hiding spots before he died.

After my grandparents passed away, their daughters set upon the house where they lived and began throwing away the flotsam and jetsam of their life with a vengeance. Not one of them wanted cracked teapots or torn toaster cozies shaped like quilted chickens.

They heaved unwanted things into thick black garbage bags and were halfway to the sidewalk with the heavy pedal sewing machine when my father caught them. “What are you doing?” he asked.

They all knew about my grandfather’s penchant for trash, but only my father knew how he’d stashed cash in that trash.

“Bringing the rest of this garbage to the dump,” my aunt replied.

As it turned out, most of the trash was already gone. They got some of it back, but not all of it. There’s no telling how much of their father’s hard-earned cash they lost to his favorite stomping grounds.

I like to think my grandfather wouldn’t really mind. He loved the garbage dump, and I can’t think of a more fitting place for his garbage. Or his life savings.

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Writing about relationships online since 2009.

Boston, MA
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