Earlier this month, I joined four of my five siblings in beginning the task of distributing our mother’s belongings. Our baby sister lives in Florida but she kept in touch with texts and phone calls.
Our mother passed away in late November and we put off this project until after the holidays. That made the task no less difficult but the delay allowed us to take care of family holiday concerns first.
Mom was 91 years old when she left us. Considering that we almost lost her when she was only 34 years old and she was in the hospital numerous times since, 91 years was a long life. Not long enough for her children, but a long life nonetheless.
It is amazing what a woman will collect over 91 years. The volume of Mom’s belongings was surprising, especially in light of the fact that she downsized drastically when she and Dad moved from their big four-bedroom, two story house 32 years ago.
Before we began, we each took from the house any items we had given to our parents over the years. That made only a minor dent in the “the inventory.”
At that point we drew numbers to create an order of selection. Mom’s home was modest and there were no great works of art or valuable antiques. What we discovered, however, were items that were treasured by our mother.
Packed away in boxes were thousands of photos, letters, newspaper clippings, greeting cards, handmade cards and gifts and much, much more.
Several scrapbooks were filled with photos of her and our father’s parents, siblings, nephews and nieces, children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Judging from the photos of my two children, Mom apparently saved every photo we ever sent her.
Mom had saved my father’s wallet after he passed in 1992 and my sister insisted I have it. When I went through it a few days later I found family photos as well as two photos of my mother when she was his girlfriend/fiancé. Dad’s last driver’s license was still in the wallet along with several receipts.
In a box of memorabilia my sister found two letters I wrote to my father when he was hospitalized at the VA Hospital in Des Moines in October 1956. I was shocked at how good my third grade penmanship was compared to today’s.
I have been writing a weekly newspaper column for nearly 31 years (with a six-year hiatus in the early 2000s.) My mother asked for copies which I sent each week. I was surprised, however, when my sister showed me the box in which Mom had apparently saved each one.
Over those years I had written a few columns about my mother; all favorable, of course. Our mother was the personification of humility and was uncomfortable with flattery, even when it was sincere and authentic. She never mentioned those columns and I was fine with that. I choked up, however, when I discovered that Mom had laminated one of those columns. It obviously had meant more to her than I realized.
In the kitchen were hundreds of pots, pans, dishes, utensils and other items that had been collected over 73 years of housekeeping.
As the day progressed we found ourselves engaged in rambling conversations about our parents and family. So frequently did this occur our more business-like younger brother had to remind us older brothers several times to remain engaged in the process.
Among all the other things I did that day was prove that it is humanly possible to laugh and shed tears at the same time.
When we were younger and living at home, we were often nasty. How Mom stayed sane raising the six of us remains a mystery. We fought… a lot. In fact we seemed to enjoy pounding the snot out of each other.
With that in mind, our mother would have been proud of us on that Monday. In spite of some gentle teasing — much gentler than six decades ago — we were kind to each other and got along well.
Some time ago I saw a meme on Facebook that read, “A mother’s prayer is that her children will love each after she is gone.”
Message to heaven: “You can relax, Mom. We do!”
Arvid Huisman can be contacted at email@example.com. © 2019 by Huisman Communications.