Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Cleaning out my dad's house is an emotional roller coaster. My family is there in the tangibles, but very absent in reality. We've found Weekly Readers, constellation projects, old letters written between my parents, our fragile, falling-apart scrapbooks and theirs.

We've pored over pictures, identifying those we know and wondering about those we don't. We agonize over tossing the ones we can't identify; I've been to too many thrift stores and berated families for giving away their pictorial histories for strangers to go through. But now I understand. We've folded and unfolded sweaters knit by my mom, afghans and shawls made by our relatives. We know we can't keep everything but deciding is difficult.

It's understandable that the pictures and clothing and letters would bring out our deepest emotions, but sometimes grief springs from the oddest places. After a day of cleaning out the hard stuff, we decided to go through my dad's food cabinets, boxing cans for the Food Bank. And in the back of the cabinet, there was this:

It was a grocery bag with eight jars of pimentos, used by my dad to make his famous pimento cheese. He always had a container ready when we came home, extras to send home with my sister and for people who were sick. When he came to visit, bringing oranges and newspaper articles and DVDs of must-see recorded shows, the pimento cheese was always there too, in a Styrofoam cooler.

When my grandmother was ninety-nine years old, she had her pacemaker replaced. And on the day my dad went to the grocery store and bought those eight jars of pimentos, he displayed the same hope for more days of living, more days of sharing his pimento cheese with us. And that, dear friends, is the sort of thing that does me in.


Lisa U said...

I know

Anonymous said...

The thing that does you in will always be there. The degree to which it does you in will change.The sharp pain will migrate to an acceptance, that this will always remind you of the pain of the loss.But it will also give you a time to cherish the memory.

mamie said...

Yes, Lisa, you do know.

Anonymous, I love the line, "The degree to which it does you in will change." There's a lot of hope for me in that thought.

Louisa said...

When my grandmother died, my aunts and uncles had a hard time going through her belongings -- almost like they were being heartless in having to get rid of some stuff and selfish in claiming other things. But one of my aunts wrote a book (The Blue Suitcase), based on my grandmothers' old letters from WWII, and I think this helped the whole family feel like we were honoring her life. Maybe you and/or your family could do a similar project?

kenju said...

Isn't it odd - the things that do us in? I had similar moments when I had to clean out my parent's home after dad died.For example, I found my adoption papers, including the receipt for the hospital costs, which they had paid.

Please don't toss anything without ascertaining the value. Everything is collected by someone - you just have the find the person who collects what you have.

Peggy Payne said...

I hope your grandmother got a lot of good use out of that new pacemaker.