Okay, dramatic title, but it has been one hell of a week. I’m late coming to this post, and honestly, I’m not really mad about it. Here’s what’s up.
First, my three aunts on my mom’s side all came to my Dad’s on Saturday to help clean out my mom’s closet. They wanted to go through old clothes to see if there was anything they wanted. That’s all cool, and I planned to drop in to just make sure things went okay.
The Thursday before, we scheduled a realtor to come to my Dad’s house to check it out and let us know what things needed to be done to sell it, and how much it might actually be worth. I had to leave work early to make it over in time, which was super stressful because my work bill’s by hour – which means every minute of my day is accounted for. So I actually had to make up the time for that day if I didn’t want to spend my very precious PTO on it. Also, it was the first time I’d asked to leave early and it was fairly last minute, which is frowned upon because in a project-oriented software company, your week is planned out to the literal hour and sudden changes like that can screw over some other people.
Anyway, I get a text from my dad at like 11 on Thursday. My grandparents have sold their house to the neighbors out of the blue and told them to just take whatever they wanted out of the house.
Now, to review – my grandparents were both in the hospital the week my mom was. They both only fairly recently have made it into assisted living (or a nursing home in my grandpa’s case) and are being pretty damn erratic through all the changes (obviously). But my dad and his brother, my uncle Steve, who lives down there, have both been talking to them for months about getting an independent realtor out to assess and sell the house for what it’s actually worth.
Obviously that plan has gone to shit.
After the realtor visit on Thursday, my dad has a panic attack because it’s been a little over two months and good god, he’s not even close to ready to get rid of the house that he shared with my mother for almost two decades and watched my brother and I grow up in.
On Saturday, he’s just blithely labeling jewelry to give away to friends and family and I can’t believe it. Decades worth of nice jewelry he gave to my mother. Like he can’t be thinking this through because I don’t know if it was me if I could do it. I know it’s meaningful to him to be able to do that, and it’s wonderfully nice that he wants to gift something so precious to the people he cares about. But it just killed me to see him give it so soon, because I can’t imagine how hard it must be. And he keeps pointing out that it’s all created this or that and it’s not worth that much, but that’s just bullshit. It is. First of all, it’s still jewels. Second – it was my mom’s. And he gave it to her. And that means a hell of a lot. And you know how I know? Because my mom cried every time she got jewelry from my dad. Every time. Bar none.
What I didn’t expect to happen was that my aunt’s put everything they found in that closet away in bags and started the process of giving it all away. Let’s be clear here for a second and say there’s an amazing amount of stuff. I counted at least six bags worth of clothing and purses and shoes, and that’s after they took at least two of them away. But guys – my brother is halfway around the world, doing his best to enjoy a rather bizarre experience in South Korea, and he hasn’t had a chance to go through hardly anything since my mother died. He left about a week after she passed away – just like I started my job. It’s all so fast and no one is thinking this through. I stopped it and stowed the bags in my childhood closet for now, but it’s so much. It’s so hard.
Like clothes are one of the few things I have from my mother to begin with that she really put time and effort into buying me. In recent years I have started to ask her specifically for clothing because her taste was so on point. And I just loved it. I actually sent her and Hannah to re-do my wardrobe back in mid-college before Hannah and I had even started dating. Clothes were just my mom’s thing. They’re so strangely meaningful. I know just about every sweater in my closet now that she got me. Sometimes it’s hard to wear them because I’m terrified I’m just going to wear them out and won’t have them anymore. But I try to wear them too so they don’t just go unused. I don’t really know what I’m going to tell my children about them. They won’t hold anywhere near the meaning. They represent so much of my transformation into who I am today, and how behind me my mother was through that process. It’s just incredible really.
Anyway, on Sunday I went with my dad to his parent’s house and just about every man on that side of the family was there, plus my aunt Teri. That was weird. It was already just about bare because my grandparents took quite a bit with them to their new living places (which I’m actually quite glad of). But there was so much left. I can’t believe what that must have been like for my dad. I know it was really hard on my uncle Steve, who’s your classic stoic man but just about cried when I talked to him. My grandparents have been in that house for more than four decades.
What was cool for me was that I found a bunch of old family photos of my extended family. Like I have one from 1918 of my great grandfather at 16 years old, having just returned from World War I (which he enlisted in when he was 14).
I have a picture now of my grandmother when she was a baby in 1932. And I have a bunch of amazing cross stitches that she did too. Just so many precious things. What I have to return for is their grandfather clock. It’s another item I’m not sure what the hell I’m going to do with, but of all the things on all sides of my family, the grandfather clock from the Kiefers is one of the few items I really have always loved and associated with family. I’m not sure why, but I have.
It’s so odd that we’re going through their stuff and they’re still here, but my mom isn’t. It feels like we should’ve been doing it in worse circumstances like we have been and will continue to have to do for my mom. Obviously, that’s not how it works. But it’s odd. Everything nowadays seems to be, really. I have so much furniture I shouldn’t have. I have so many items I didn’t know existed and I have nowhere to put any of it because I thought I’d have at least another five years to inherit any of it.
That’s all I was really asking for I guess. Five, maybe ten years. A decent long time, but not too crazy really. It seems really reasonable that family at our age would stay stable at least that long, or somewhat close too. But that’s not what happened. Like my dad said, the most stable thing in our entire family right now is Hannah and I. And damn that’s a sore foundation for anything. We’re hardly making it along as it is. Although, we do make it through.
It’s strange. It’s all so overwhelming but I find that every day I can make myself put one foot in front of the other okay. A lot of it is just I keep pushing forward because I have an intense, insatiable need for things to be okay. But I don’t know, I’m proud of myself for it.