Those of you who have read Joe’s blog for a long time will know that he has written many times about his struggle to hold on to items he inherited from his parents, even when he didn’t have the space in his apartment to keep all of them. He had to let a few things go in periodic clean outs, and it was difficult for him each time. This is on my mind today, because my family is struggling with a similar issue of losing family stuff, and it is a heartbreaker. We thought some items were safe at a family member’s house and it turns out that they were not.
The items are from my mother, who passed away, and my stepfather, who is still alive but has a lot of health issues. One item in particular was a stuffed leopard that my sisters and I had as children, that our mom kept and then it went with our stepfather when he moved after she passed. After one of my sisters asked about it this week, another sister found out that at some point it was thrown out after something got spilled on it. The other stuff was important too, but this is the item I really cared about and it is gone. I really wish that we had taken it the last time we were all there together a few years ago, but it didn’t seem polite at the time. I ached about the loss for a few minutes, and then thought, okay, there is nothing we can do about it now.
An added complication is that, due to certain circumstances, when our stepfather does pass away, all of his stuff might be lost, and there might not be any items from him that we inherit to remember him by. Does this possible loss matter? Just how much do we need family heirlooms as reminders after loved ones are gone?
I do cherish the items I have from people who are no longer with me. It is nice to look up on my bookcase and see a scarf from one of my grandmothers, the statue that reminds me of my other grandmother, my copy of the spiritual book that my mother gave to each of her daughters while she was still alive. These items sit among the ones I have from people who are still with me, like the pictures of my nephews and niece growing up, the candle my mother-in-law gave me, and something from a dear friend who is like a sister to me. I like the memories and the reminders of my loved ones. My life is richer because of all the people in it. But I also know that I don’t lose that if I lose the mementos.
If I don’t end up with my stepfather’s pocket knife, I still remember him using it. I still remember him cooking meals and joking with my mom in their kitchen filled with knickknacks, cutting the lawn on his sitting mower, pointing to his picture of a ship he crewed on and telling me about his experiences on it, sitting at his computer, fixing the latest of his parade of vehicles, and trying to figure out his latest electronic gizmo. My stepfather was a force of nature once upon a time.
I don’t think of my stepfather like that much anymore, and maybe I do need reminders. Maybe other family members will have to do that for me instead of his stuff. And that is okay. And maybe I will end up with an item of his to spark my memories. That would be good too.
Joe will be back with a blog entry next Wednesday. Until then, take care, have a great week, and happy reading.