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Old 07-14-2005, 03:36 AM   #1
TinaBina
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What do we leave behind?

I'm cleaning out my parent's house. They both died this year.

My dad, for whatever reason (hoarder, slob, WWII, too sick to clean, rescuerer of tossed treasures) had not thrown away any mail since at least 1997, and had boxes and boxes containing scraps of his life, his families lives, decades' worth, stacked in mostly every room.

A sampling...
My school bag from 25 years ago.
A letter from the IRS to me, from 1996.
Cards from his wife.
His contact lenses, dried out, tiny hard circles... in the same box they came in back in the 1950s.
The molds of his teeth. Three versions.
His mom's W-2 from 1956.
An old dried out Black Walnut fruit from the tree around the block.
A dozen broken pairs of glasses.
A book of poetry (written on file folders stapled together) by my sister in 1979.
Every bottle of insulin that he had taken in the past 8 years.
Every pill bottle from every prescription he every was prescribed since the 1980s.
10 fans. In one room.
Phone memos from his job - from 30 years ago.
Carefully rescued nails and tacks in coffee cans.
Old car parts, in the boxes of their newer counterparts.
Et Cetera
Et Cetera
Et Cetera

Some items he saved are precious and some are sentimental
- and I will cling to those things and save them, too. And thank him for holding onto them...

But some are complete junk.
Some are repulsive garbage.

Yet ALL was rescued, saved, clung to, piled up, protected...

And all these decades of rescuing, saving, fixing, piling, protecting...were met with the instant that I opened the garbage bag. All that effort, worry, thought, all that trouble he took to gather, collect, store... in an instant is gone, and is now in 12 contractor size garbage bags on the curb. And I still have not made a dent in "the treasure".

So when we die, what do we leave behind? What is the point of the stuff we have? The stuff we cling to? What purpose does it serve?

What is truly important is the impression we leave, the people we touch, the memory we instill in others about us, about life.

I didn't know my dad all that well... he was a mystery to me for most of his life, even though he was always just in the next room while I grew up. Is filtering through all this stuff going to bring me a better understanding of him? Will it tell me a story? One that I will understand? One that I want to know?
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Old 07-14-2005, 04:31 AM   #2
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Red face

Yes to all 4.

Your parents generation had a bit of hoarder in them, b/c they either grew up during the depression, or were raised by those who did. It is very hard for them to throw away anything they might later need.

An example:

My grandmother was one of six children, and every year for Christmas, she & her brothers & sisters got, as a treat, one bottle of soda. One bottle. To share among 6 kids. And that was a BIG. DEAL.

To this day, her basement has, at any given time, 15 cases (I am not kidding, 15 cases) of soda. Any flavor you could want. She has cake mixes in the closet that haven't been available in 30 years. (Butter brickle, anyone?) Every time I leave her house, she loads me down with cans of tuna, boxes of cereal or pasta, and the requisite bucket of homemade meatballs & sauce.

I think you will get to know your father a lot better by not only going through his things, but seeing what he decided to keep, as well as what isn't there. Same w/your mother's things. This is a glimpse into them, as people, not just as the people who raised you, which was a part of them, yes. But also who they were as people before the kids came along.

I got a similar glimpse a few years ago, Christmas @ my other grandparents house. The woman I call "Gramma J" has been married to my grandpa since I was 6. All I knew of her when they married was that she was a pretty lady from our church. Fast forward 23 years & I am on their couch and looking at her photo albums from her first marriage and earlier, before she had kids. (She loves pictures, takes them all the time). It was a good insight into her persona, as well as a peek into her psyche.

I wish you well w/this. I hope there are some things in there that are meaningful to you or Izze. *hugs*
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Old 07-14-2005, 04:33 AM   #3
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Wow Tina - I'm very sorry for your loss. Both parents at once.


Your questions make me think of Anne Lamott's "Blue Shoe". I think she tries to explore these questions, among other things, in this book. I really enjoyed it.
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Old 07-14-2005, 08:30 AM   #4
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I'm sorry about that Tina, I can't imagine losing both of my parents in the same year . When my grandmother passed away I found that part of the healing was going through all her stuff, she was a pack rat and it took the family months to clean out her apartment. There were things that she kept that brought back so many memories and I have them all in a box at home. When I miss her alot I open up the box and go through the stuff, it usually brings a smile to my face.
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Old 07-14-2005, 10:33 AM   #5
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Tina...i know what you are going through...my grandparents arent doing well right now...and it looks like we may have to clean out the house soon. im NOT looking forward to it
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Old 07-14-2005, 01:18 PM   #6
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Sorry for your loss, but how neat to go on a familial archelogocial dig.
My dad was raised by parents that lived through the depression. He a packrat. I wasn't looking forward to sifting through all that stuff when the time comes, but your post has changed my mind. It will be interesting to see what was important to him. Your post also reminded me to get to know him before he's gone.
thanks
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Old 07-14-2005, 01:39 PM   #7
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When my father died and we went through his things, we found stuff that we thought to be gone for years. My dad didn't come off as particularly sentimental, but we saw a different side of him from the things he chose to keep. It made up for the mail and junk we had to sift through. I am so sorry for your loss, Tina. I hope that by finding little lost treasures you can find peace and closure. You are in my thoughts.
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Old 07-24-2005, 04:14 AM   #8
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I helped my Nonna clean out her closets today.
  • 10 rolls of Xmas wrapping paper
  • 20 shirt size gift boxes
  • every card my father ever gave her
  • every card my uncle & his first wife ever gave her
  • her senior year yearbook, Class of 1942!
  • her wedding picture, which hung in her den when I was a child
  • every card my father received for his first communion
  • my birth announcement
  • several pictures of me & my family @ various ages
  • a set of encyclopedias for an older (9-11 yra) child, circa 1959
  • a set of encyclopedias for a younger child (5-9), circa 1959
  • 5 ugly picture frames, never been used
  • 3 beautiful picture frames
  • a vinyl bag filled with cucumber melon bubble bath, bath crystals, lotion, etc, never opened
  • a Todd Oldham bathroom set (glass, toothbrush holder, soap dish, lotion dispenser, wastebasket) brand new
  • professionally done sketches of Ligonier, PA where she grew up
  • my father's baby book
  • the guest book & cards & etc from my grandparents' 25th anniversary party (they will be married 58 years in September)
  • 15 vases
  • the 'guest' book, cards & effects from my Uncle Tom's funeral (he has been dead since about 1980)
  • 2 sets of smaller size wine glasses
  • a pair of swim trunks, circa 1988 from my cousin
  • a purse her cousin brought her from Italy
  • an electric shaver, which my grandpa used to cut his sons' hair with
  • 15-20 taper candles, in white red & green
  • a travel alarm clock
  • some supports for her wrists, never used
  • a ceramic clown bank
  • a Holy Water bottle my father made as a child
  • a snow globe someone gave her
  • her good silverware, "you don't want that, you have to polish it every time you use it"
  • an angel Christmas card holder

Last edited by priceyfatprude : 07-24-2005 at 04:17 AM.
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Old 07-24-2005, 04:46 AM   #9
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^^

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Old 07-24-2005, 05:04 AM   #10
priceyfatprude
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I kept some things. But is someone really going to want encyclopedias, circa 1959?

What I kept:
  • her senior year yearbook, Class of 1942!
  • her wedding picture, which hung in her den when I was a child
  • my birth announcement
  • several pictures of me & my family @ various ages
  • 3 beautiful picture frames
  • a vinyl bag filled with cucumber melon bubble bath, bath crystals, lotion, etc, never opened
  • professionally done sketches of Ligonier, PA where she grew up
  • my father's baby book
  • the guest book & cards & etc from my grandparents' 25th anniversary party (they will be married 58 years in September)
  • 4 vases
  • 2 sets of smaller size wine glasses
  • a purse her cousin brought her from Italy
  • a travel alarm clock
  • a ceramic clown bank
  • a Holy Water bottle my father made as a child
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Old 07-24-2005, 12:23 PM   #11
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You're a good granddaughter.
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Old 07-24-2005, 12:44 PM   #12
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My mother called me yesterday. She wants me to make a list of things I would want when she and my father die.
They are feeling their mortality after both of them fell (at separate times) and were unable to get up without assistance.

My first thought was, "there is nothing they have that I want", but after thinking about it, I wouldn't mind having
  • photos
  • yearbooks (highschool and college)
  • my dad baritone horn
  • my mom's plants
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Old 07-24-2005, 03:38 PM   #13
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I forgot the kicker!

She wrote her own obituary already! When I said, "You did what?" She said, "Yeah! When I'm gone, no one's going to know where I was born or where I grew up. Now it's done, when I die, all you have to do is give it to the newspaper."

THEN!!!

Later that day, she tells me she gave her wedding dress to St Vincent de Paul. Again, "You what?" "I gave it to St Vincent de Paul. It's a size 3, who's going to fit into it? J (my father's skinny cousin) came over & tried it on & it didn't even fit her!"

I said, "I'm glad you wrote that obituary, you might need it if I find out you gave anything else away."
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Old 07-24-2005, 06:23 PM   #14
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^^AAACCHooo! You are so good!

Reminds me of moving my Mom out of her 4 bedroom house of 38 years in NY when she was too sick to do it herself. I really regret not having more time for this sentimental task! She is such a good sport about not having some stuff, but it's stuff. My Dad died in '78 after postulating "do not be possessed by your possessions". Easy to say.
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Old 07-25-2005, 01:32 AM   #15
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A few months before my Dad, the hoarder/packrat, died, he started to say, "you can't take it with you." It's a profound thing for me to have heard.

All the gifts i had given my parents over the years, are now turned my way again.

What was I thinking, giving them THINGS, that just accumulated on their bureaus and in their drawers... I wish I had just spent more time talking to them.
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