My mother died in March of 1998 and today I finally sorted and shredded the last of a box that held some of my own files plus a few of hers–one of those boxes that floats about in an attic or a garage or some hidden corner. I also have been copying pictures of her ancestors that I am fortunate to have and several pages of what she remembered about family history.
The papers in the box included her death certificate, copies of pharmacy bills, income (mostly outgo), some of the assisted living bills (a couple with terse notes of refusal from me to give permission to release certain information), her prepaid cremation bills, etc.
I also have some letters of hers that she wrote to her parents when she had two little boys and I was on the way. The mixture of reading does strange things to both head and heart and it takes some willpower to remind myself to be living my own life while, at the same time, honoring hers. To pay close attention to the now.
Seeing her life as a young woman, at least as she portrayed it through her letters and through some others of her writing, makes me wish I’d paid more attention to what she used to tell us but we are kind of self-fixated in our teens and then busy with our own lives and families later. Maybe it takes a certain ripening time to have that curiosity about our parents come to the surface. Of course this brings back memories from, as she would have said, “long ago and far away”–the times and activities that I do remember growing up and even knowing her as an adult, although by the time I was less busy with my own family she had suffered a stroke and communication was more difficult.
There must be some really strong genetic force going on from one generation to the next through her side of the family to be compelled to write. My siblings and I are all quite verbal as well as writers and some of this has extended to the next generation after us. For me writing helps me keep track of my life and who I am. This “who I am” does a lot of changing over the years and looking back I sometimes find myself thinking, “Oh, that was an interesting chapter”.
We had a celebration of life for her here and, in these same files, I came across photos that a former sister-in-law, and others, had taken. We weren’t a family that had reunions, and get-togethers seemed to occur only at weddings and deaths. My former in-laws had gatherings several times a year for all those who could attend, a good lesson for me in the value of family gatherings, and one that I think my children will be more inclined to continue. My eldest brother showed some of our mother’s slides, photos of when we were still living at home, accompanied by classical music. I played my accordion and my youngest brother and his wife danced a polka. It was a good party. Our mother would have enjoyed it.