Monday, October 15, 2012

Cross Post from Lisa Mac's Musings

When mom moved to a nursing home, I was able to go out of town for a day without panic. We went to the CNE for the first time in a few years. Here's what happened when I found my brave and took the Kid on a ride.
Finding my brave at the CNE.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Stuff that memories are made of.

I've been AWOL for the last while, because I was frantically trying to deal with the contents of my mother's apartment, which had to be emptied by September 30.  Some things were sold. Some things have a new place in my home, and some things were donated. All the remnants of my life with my parents have now been dealt with. I'm not going to lie. It was emotionally draining, and in some cases, heart-breaking. My mom felt terribly guilty for leaving me with the task, which I dealt with by myself. I needed to have time to grieve the loss as I packed up the memories of my parent's life with me.

I knew when I started dismantling mom's apartment that I was only going to be able to keep a few key pieces. I wanted to keep the oak bookcase that I can still picture mom stripping by hand in the garage when I came home from grade school. I wanted to keep the marble-top chest that always held the pumpkin my dad would make at Halloween that had olives for eyes, green pepper eyebrows and a carrot nose. We wanted to use the chest and dresser from my parents' bedroom set because they are solid maple and in better shape than the ones from my husband's parents that we had been using. I wanted to keep some of the artwork, and I wanted to keep the chair that I always sat in at home. Everything else had to go.

Trying to price my mom's furniture needed the wisdom of Solomon. I researched comparable items on sites like Kijiji and priced things accordingly. My mom took scrupulous, meticulous care of her things and they were all solid hardwood and well maintained. I was trying to sell as many of the pieces as I could so I could replenish mom's bank account. I had to drop the price a few times to sell the couch, the kitchen table and chairs, the twin beds, the coffee table and the bedside tables.

A little piece of my life with my parents died with every piece of mom's that I sold. The couch went to a lovely young couple, newly immigrated from India and building a new life in Canada. I wished them a happy life. I wanted to tell them that my dad used to snooze on the couch, just so. Mom spent many hours there in the past few months. And that spot, right there, that's where my cousin Murray sat the last time he was here. The couch had seen a lot of happy family memories and now it's gone off to help a new family make new ones.  The kitchen table and chairs went to a young couple who had just moved here from Ottawa. That spot there, with the faint cigarette burn that mom couldn't quite remove when she refinished the table-that's where my dad used to sit and do his crossword puzzle. We had lots of discussions about politics around that table.

I ended up donating several pieces to the Salvation Army. I was raised to give what I was able to give to those with even less, and I knew that mom would approve. Still, some of the pieces that were donated broke my heart. There was the wicker loveseat that always sat in my bedroom when I was a child and held all my stuffed animals. There was the funny wicker standing magazine rack that held the newspapers and magazines. And there was the old cricket set-the love seat and matching little rocking chair where I sat day after day in recent months. When we drove away after leaving the little rocker, I burst into tears. I simply didn't have space for it, but alot of memories were tied to that little upholstered chair.

It wasn't all horrible. I discovered my father had kept every card I had sent him for his birthday or Father's Day. My dad was not sentimental. My mom, who threw out papers with abandon, had kept all the birthday, Christmas and Mother's Day cards she had received, both from me and from her mother. I found a letter my grandmother wrote to my mother on Mother's Day about how she hoped I would be as good a mother as my mom is. I'm trying Grandma, I'm trying. And then there was the letter.  While sorting through a box of my old children's books that I almost donated without checking, I found a letter from my dad from Father's Day 1973 when he was fundraising in Halifax to build Dalhousie University. He told me in writing that he was proud of me and loved me. Those words were rare as I got older. Were it not for an old box of children's books that I nearly donated without sorting, I would have never found the letter. I certainly don't remember it. It was probably meaningless to a 10 year old girl. To a 49 year old, it's precious.

The china, the crystal and the artwork came home and are in transition to new places in our home.  I emptied as many boxes as I could in the week between the closing date for the apartment and hosting Thanksgiving at our house. My mom was eager to see where all her things had been placed in our house, so we had to have the main things in place. Mom was able to see where some things were, and the rest will be done by Christmas. We used the china at Thanksgiving my dad had purchased for me when I was a teenager. Because I had always left the china at mom's, mom decided I didn't like it and was always instructing me to get rid of it. I don't think we'd used it since just after mom moved to the apartment, so it had been 20 years or more since it had seen the light of day. It's much prettier than I remember.

As a wise friend said to me, at the end of the day, it's just furniture. The pieces I've kept have special meaning and are already being used in our home. The pieces that were sold or otherwise disposed of are now being used in new homes by new people. May they carry with them love, friendship, good conversation, warm hugs and laughter.  I've got pictures and memories. The rest is just stuff.