Memories Are Best Kept In My Heart, Not in Drawers and Boxes All Over the House

I’ve learned something from going through all of the clutter at my Dad’s house. I don’t want anyone to ever have to sort through drawer after box after closet of my crap.

So, what am I going to do with all mine?

I have a lot. I’ve saved movie stubs and birthday cards and love notes and locks of hair. I’ve saved t-shirts and brochures and Playbills and candy bar wrappers.

And it’s not organized. There’s some here, and some there. Every once in awhile I’ll take a bunch of it and put it in a box or drawer. These things never go into scrapbooks or anything that would be able to be enjoyed by someone else. But really, who would anyway?

Then there’s my planners. I had saved my daily planners for about ten years, figuring it would be kind of cool to look back in later years and see what I’d done, where I’d been. Yesterday when we were cleaning out the garage I saw them and started thinking about them. Who is going to care that I had a doctor’s appointment on March 28, 2001? Really. I tossed them.

So I got the thought into my head to just get rid of all of the loose memorabilia, the random junk that will mean nothing to anyone but me. I may save a very few things that are very special to me, but they won’t be random pieces of paper or tickets to my 10th Styx concert. Those memories are best kept in my heart.

But not my photos. I’m not going to get rid of my photos.

But they did get me thinking some more. At my Dad’s house there is a closet and a large part of the garage that hold photo albums and scrapbooks and other memorabilia from my stepmother, and her mother, and my grandmother, and any number of older, deceased family members. What does one do with that? My stepmother obviously felt compelled to keep it, but she had no idea what to do with it all either, besides throw it in a closet. No one really wants it, but no one wants to toss it, either. I’d like my Dad to hold onto the stuff from when we were growing up, and his Mom’s stuff. But no one really wants the other stuff. It’s not my decision to toss it or not, and thank goodness for that.

So of course that got me thinking some more. Who is going to want mine?

I have a son. Boys typically could care less about these types of things. He’s not going to want them. Sure, his future wife will want to see and have pictures and some memorabilia of him growing up, but she’s not going to want mine, or my Dad’s.

So, I’m keeping my photos. And a little bit of my memorabilia. And a lot of his memorabilia. And someday, hopefully many, many years from now, he’ll go through it all and decide what he wants to keep, and what he wants to toss. I won’t mind.

All of the memories will live in my heart, and hopefully in his.

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Love Uncluttered

I spent the past two weeks pretty entrenched in family stuff. My Dad is selling his house and buying a condo on the beach. My sisters were in town, so we’ve been furniture shopping and started to sort through some of the stuff in the house, figuring out what he’ll take with him (15%), what my brothers and sisters and I will take (15%) and what will be sold at the massive garage sale we’ll have (we can all figure out this percentage, I hope).

I’ve talked in the past about the mounds and mounds of clutter and crap my stepmother amassed. My Dad lived in a house full of clutter with her for thirty-five years and never complained. The house was always relatively clean, but there was nary a surface unoccupied. And as each of us moved out of the house she took over our rooms and filled the closets and drawers with little gifts she thought the kids would like, or napkins for a future dinner party, or address books (we’ve found at least twenty, filled with the same addresses over and over and over again). There are hundreds of glasses, every kitchen gizmo and gadget you can think of (and some we still have no clue about), family heirlooms and enough serving dishes to give one to every soldier in Iraq. Well, not really. But a LOT.

Now that she’s not there my Dad’s innate need for order (I am an accountant’s daughter) has resurfaced, and with a vengeance. He cannot tolerate any new mess, any new clutter. Extra food brought into the house for the duration of my sisters’ stay is already out of the house, and my sister doesn’t leave until tomorrow. This after noon he asked us to clean up the kids’ toys, about 1/2 hour before more grandkids were showing up. We explained and he relented, but the mess really bothers him.

His new home will be very different from the one he lives in today. The furniture will be less ornate (his new bedroom and dining room sets are lovely and elegant with very clean lines), there will be surfaces uncluttered, and likely there will be empty drawers. To me a much more relaxing place to be.

But that’s not the point.

What’s so fascinating, so wonderful, so cool, is how he adapted for the woman he loved. She brought him so much joy that he learned to live with the clutter, the shopping bags, and the bills. He didn’t try to control the house or her love of stuff. I don’t think he even noticed that much; not until she was gone.

We all deserve to be loved like that, don’t we?

No Skin Off My Nose

Random acts of kindness are wonderful things.

I remember being a little girl and riding in the back seat of my Mom’s car with my sister. We’d be driving on the Garden State Parkway, AM radio (providing the soundtrack for my early life) turned up loud. Back then tolls were only 25 cents, and my mother, free spirit that she is, would often pay the toll for the person behind us. As we drove away we always looked behind us to see what would happen.

The reactions varied. Some people argued with the toll collector, others would quickly speed off, hoping they could get away cleanly before the “mistake” was discovered. Sometimes people would catch up to us, smiling and waving. Sometimes people drove by without even looking our way. No matter the reaction we were always smiling, laughing, and feeling good about what we had done. And, really, 25 cents was no skin off my Mom’s nose, even as we struggled financially.

Even better than random acts of kindness are the kindnesses we do for the people in our lives. Doing things because they make someone else we love happy, even though they may not mean much to us.

For example, my mother doesn’t just sign a greeting card. She underlines the words and phrases that best represent how she feels. Sometimes there’s one line, sometimes two or even three if she feels really strongly about it. Once I even got a four-liner.

Sure, sweet. But a little annoying, too. I rolled my eyes every time. When I was younger I’d send her cards, but I wouldn’t underline anything. Eventually, after I got over my anger and resentment about her mental illness and just accepted that she really did the best that she could, given what she knew, I started underlining phrases in cards I sent to her. After all, it was no skin off my nose, but it made her happy.

I’ve had this conversation with Husband before, about his mother. A telephone call in the middle of the week, just to say hello, would make her day. A big hug and kiss when he sees her instead of a perfunctory kiss on the cheek would make her swoon. And, really, it’s no skin off his nose to do it. Same with his sister, or his grandmother.

Husband loves it when I look to the right as we cross the train tracks and report on whether or not a train is coming so he can look to the left. When we see a train approach while we’re driving somewhere, Son loves it that I always stop the car so he can watch it go by, even if it means turning around.

No skin off my nose. And it makes them so happy.

Simply acknowledging the people I love in little, thoughtful ways is such a powerful healer, a day brightener, a blues lifter. For the people I’m acknowledging, and for myself.

Funny. Whenever I focus out my in feels better.

Love letters

Today I was at my Dad’s house, looking for his Ketubah (Jewish Marriage Document) from his marriage to my stepmother. She passed away a few months ago after almost 35 years of marriage, and he needs it for some memorial stuff he’s doing for her in Israel.

Anyway, it was too emotional for him to look through the closet where most of the photo albums and memorabilia were stored, so I offered to do it.

Besides the photos of vacations and parties, the newspaper clippings and greeting cards and certificates of accomplishment, besides the handwritten notes of birthday reminders was a box.

A box of love letters.

From men she knew before my Dad. Lots of them.

And from my Dad. Where I’m sure he professed his undying love and devotion, and talked about leaving his wife and two small children to create a life with her.

You’d think I’d read them, and you’d think I’d be angry. That she should have tossed those letters from other men. That my Dad chose to leave us for her.

But I did not, was not.

I sat there with those unread letters on my lap, and I just thought about how very lucky she was.

And then I put them away.

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