When my Grandmother had a massive stroke we drove to Houston to say our goodbyes. In the days we were there, my Dad asked me to look through the house for a will or any important documents. It was so difficult for me. This was the grandmother that baked challah and chocolate cake from scratch with me. I still bake when I miss her and want to feel close to her. I remember the many times I wanted to sleep in and Dad would wake us and she would remind him it was her house and her rules. She had a piano that I never heard. She didn’t play and we weren’t allowed to play on it.
Going through my Grandmother’s home uncovered a person I never knew. I saw the awards she got for her yard and understood the love put into her garden. Later I found out it was the flower bed near her bedside window she had my younger cousin cultivate with roses and flowers. I was home in Los Angeles, pulling weeds and getting dirt under my nails as I planted herbs and vegetables, and that was a passion close to her heart as well. I didn’t know that my love of all things growing came from her. I love books and I was shocked that there was only one book in her home that wasn’t a bible and it was The Young Housekeeper’s Friend by Mrs. Cornelius dated in 1859. She didn’t have much jewelry or bottles of perfume. I finally got to check out the piano, and in the bench were songs written by her. A lot of them were worship songs and I wish I could’ve heard her. I love to sing, but I can’t remember ever hearing her sing. She had a certificate from a bible college but I’m not certain if she finished high school. I saw a work ID from a utility company and my Dad had no idea she did anything other than clean houses. She was surrounded by pictures of me and all of her children and grandchildren. She had kept every single card and envelope I had sent to her throughout my life. She kept everything all of us sent to her. Her bed was in front of the television and I could tell she spent a lot of time on the shopping network by all of the cooking gadgets throughout the kitchen that overflowed to her den. She would watch an infomercial and look for easy ways to make healthy meals as she was bedridden toward the end and in her helplessness, she was still able to shop.
When my husband’s uncle passed, my father in law asked me to help his brother’s friends clean out his home. My husband and his sister weren’t interested. Even in death, some wounds continue to fester. He was a collector of all things Hollywood and television memorabilia. He was also a hoarder. Getting through his home meant meandering through a maze of the many things he bartered, found on the street or bought. There was a stack of picture frames from Ikea that stacked flat and touched the ceiling. He had several toys still in original packaging. There were toy cars, movie stills, and puppets. Most of what he had was donated, and there’s an online archive somewhere that his friends painstakingly put together with small children and full time jobs. My specific task was to go through and find any family heirlooms. It was so hard to figure that out, not ever seeing any of the stuff before hand or ever meeting my husband’s grandmother that it came from. What was touching was after her death, he had his mother’s thesis and all of her work documents. He had her letter of appreciation signed by the late Mayor Bradley. The toys they played with as children were in a display case and the last thing he saw before falling asleep.
I have a file folder on my desktop titled, “If I Die.” It seems morbid but it was my gift. More than once I had the honor of going through the belongings of a family member after they had passed. I call it an honor, because it is. It’s also painful and humbling and impossible to not hurt other people. The hardest thing was digging through things to find an identity. It’s a file where I’ve compiled my bio and accomplishments. It’s a place where you can see my favorite flowers are California Poppies, but anything in shades of green would be appropriate. I have my favorite songs listed with specific instructions for jewelry. I also made it clear that my funeral is not to be an altar call. If I didn’t sway you to my faith in life, I won’t do it with guilt in death. There are letters I’ve written to loved ones as well. I used to update this file each Christmas, but I didn’t this year, and it’s time I did. The first year I started the folder was hard. Not too hard. I was emo before the word was a trend, but it was difficult to get through all I wanted to say. I ended up making a few calls to say what was in my letters and had to start over. Why wait to tell someone how important they are to you?
Today I talked to both my Dad and my husband’s Dad. I told both of them that I am filing for divorce as soon as I get a hold of my attorney and get her fee sorted out. I told my Dad I got married on my own, it makes sense I’d divorce on my own and do the big girl thing. My Dad is my Dad and he said all of the things my Dad is supposed to. My father in law proved to me that he is also my Dad and he gave me love and support and I will be visiting with him tomorrow. He called the new girlfriend a “troll” and that really made the blow of him meeting her that much easier. Tomorrow will be a year since my husband told me our marriage is over, and I thought about a long and extensive post to go over what this year has been, but he’s not worth the carpal tunnel.