Despite the tax checks I write each year, I always feel a sense of relief when April 15 arrives and the city, state, and federal folks get their cut. As is the case with many accountings in life, there’s a sense of closure when such matters are put to bed, whether it’s wrapping up a school year, wrapping that final Christmas present or sending tax returns and checks in.
Of course, as many of you when it comes to the latter, I do take some issue with this whole tax thing for the simplest of reasons, which is I’m sometimes not all that crazy about how my tax dollars are spent.
I was pretty amazed that this year, unlike when I was younger with a pretty full head of hair and there wasn’t much to my tax material, I received a booklet expertly done by Dan Clifford of ES Evans, that was 43 pages long. How has life gotten so complicated?
When I finished perusing the return and went up to my office to file the booklet in the deep drawer with past years’ returns, I noticed that this time the drawer wouldn’t shut. Hmm, it seems I exceeded that old advice about keeping seven years’ worth of returns in case the Feds come nosing around.
So, I decided I better make some use of my small shredder to thin the contents of the drawer, at least enough to get the drawer shut. Throwing the material in the trash would never do, what with all those identity thieves out there.
As for how far past seven years’ worth I procrastinated in eliminating, well, I’m embarrassed to admit that the first one on the far left of the drawer was in a green-and-white stripped bag from Maxfield’s Pharmacy, which hasn’t been open for years, a bag that displayed a phone number which didn’t require an area code. The bag contained the 1980 return material.
Of course, as I started shredding the few pieces of paper in the bag, my next thought was how impossibly quickly time goes. What seems like a crawl when you’re a kid as you wait for summer vacation or the day you take your driver’s test becomes an absolute sprint the older you get. All who have some age realize we should regret every time we’ve ever said, “I can’t wait until. …”
When shredding a part of your life, it certainly takes time. At this stage I’m up to 1987. Feeding documents and canceled checks is irksome enough that I only can force myself to do it periodically. After all, were I better at ridding myself of my past, I wouldn’t have accumulated 36 years’ worth of returns and receipts and such.
Part of the time-consuming nature of the job isn’t just how long it takes a piece of paper to run through a low-profile shredder. It’s looking at some of the material before I feed it into the metal teeth. Money amounts, such as my salary, and the cost of goods and services stand out. In 1980, I didn’t quite make $17,000 teaching the good young folks at St. Marys Memorial, young folks now just shy of 55 years old.
When I saw this and wondered how I supported a family of four, I started looking at some of the canceled checks and realized how I did it. There were checks for doctors’ and dentists’ appointments for $15, checks for after-school day care for $10 and a check to Dick Caudill, now deceased but once a valuable member of my personal team who played the role of my mechanic back in a time when cars seemed to break down frequently. The check was written for $58.20, stapled to receipt indicating it was for parts and labor for a rebuilt alternator for my 1978 Chrysler Cordoba.
While I enjoyed the rich Corinthian leather that TV spokesperson Ricardo Montalban used to mention, I think that car spent more time with Dick up on a lift at the American Mall Union 76 Station than it did in my driveway.
My shredding work even prompted a few sentimental tears when I saw a piece of paper with some computations I thought my accountant should have, turned it over and saw it was a spelling test of my little gap-toothed 6-year-old Katie with the words “red,” “blue,” “jump” and “like” correctly spelled. Now Katie has her own two little daughters, one of whom is 6-year-old Caroline, who just recently completed her own “two-front-teeth” evacuation.
Perhaps the reason why I waited so long to keep up with ridding myself of so much of what was once my life isn’t so much procrastination but my own difficulty of letting go.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.