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Friday, July 8, 2011

More Than Stuff.

We are pulling out of dad's driveway, the back of our van stuffed full.

"Was that hard for you?" J asks and I don't even hesitate.

"No. Not hard."

My dad's moving soon. He's bought a new place actually closer to our end of town and more suburban. He's keeping the other house and he's got family renters moving in once he's out.

He started really going through things weeks, maybe months, ago now. Paperwork and files and closets and cupboards and you don't really know how much stuff you have after 20 plus years in one place.

And he's been on me to get over there and look at things and go through things and I admit that a few weeks back I got a little snappy with him.

"Not on my calendar." I'm pretty sure those were the words I said. {In my defense, my dad's doesn't really plan things like this in advance.}

I'd stopped by one day back in May and dug out some more hostas to add to our yard and my younger sister and I were instructed to look through mom's hutch.

Some water goblets and wine glasses and her blue bird of happiness.

Some things I'll take for practicallity. A barely used futon. Of course. A twin bed. Why not?

Others because they mean something.

The stuffed Cabbage Patch dolls and their clothes shoved in a ziploc bag that smell of the chest they've been stored in. The red You are Special Today plate I've always loved with an etching on the back to my mom from a good friend. The gifts I've brought back for from Russia and Sweden and England and Greece.

As we go from room to room, "look at this," my dad will say, I wonder what my mom would say standing in the doorway watching us. Here we are determining just what it is we'll keep and what things we want or need maybe for no other purpose than to have a piece of her with us.

I spent yesterday afternoon paging through the family tree book my mom spent hours and hours and hours filling in for our family. Tracing roots all the way to Norway on her side. It's stuffed and overflowing with wedding invitations and obituaries and birth announcements. And I think, did I ever think to thank my mom for keeping track of all of this?

Files are next. Who was invited to my grad party and my credit report from 2000. Medical records from Green Bay from 1983-1988. Letters I'd written her I don't ever remember writing and postcards from Florida or Chicago or wherever else I was.

Through the cleaning out and packing up, we find a video recording of our wedding. Our wedding was video-taped? We had no idea.

My mom's vow renewal dress is cleaned and boxed with markings on the box written by my mom. J looks at me strangely as I carry the awkward box upstairs, down the hall to my already overstuffed closet. I tell him the box fits perfectly.

It's not something we think about while we're busy living life. What will they value when we are gone? Will they laugh as they look at the disorganized bins of school paperwork and t-ball t-shirts and first pairs of shoes?

Will they wonder why we kept so many keepsakes or will they, like me, be thankful for these opportunities to touch and feel and look at things that remind me of my mom?


Blogger Sarah Hansen said...

A few years ago, prior to losing a parent, this story wouldn't have hit me the way it did today. Well said, Samara. This one hits me close to home.

July 8, 2011 at 8:15 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I get this - I just had a conversation recently with my mom about "things" and the things she kept from her parents. She lost her dad over 30 years ago and has a jacket he used to wear that still has grease stains from his hair goop. She doesn't wear it or take it out of it's storage terribly often - but when she misses him - it's there. It's a connection.

Very insightful post.

July 8, 2011 at 8:33 AM  
Anonymous Mel B. said...

I've been there, too. When you lose a parent, you cling to those things that remind you of them. The two-page, hand-written letter my dad wrote after one particular HS basketball game. WHat I did right, what I did wrong. As a teenager, I HATED that he wrote such a thing and laid it on my bed that night to find when I got home. Today, six years since he's been gone, I look at that letter, at his handwriting and I see the love, care, and support only a Dad can give.
Or the CD someone made after his passing of my Dad singing 5 or 6 songs he must've recorded without my ever knowing. They put his picture on the cover and included "Climb Every Mountain" and "You'll NEver Walk Alone" - two of his favorite songs. I listen to his voice and can almost see him standing her singing to me.
I don't have many things from him (Dad's are different...they don't pass on sentimental things like Mom's do) but there is a big empty spot inside ever since he's been gone.
Thank you, Samara, for talking about difficult topics. It's healing and necessary. My thoughts are with you as you help your dad clean out his house. May the two of you make lasting memories of that process together.

July 8, 2011 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Gina said...

What a great post S! Having those things that connect you to your mom are important. Very beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes.

July 8, 2011 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Erin said...

As much as I'm not a "stuff" person, I have to agree with you on this. It's crazy how specific items (and songs) can hold so much meaning.

July 8, 2011 at 10:48 AM  

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