I’m not going to lie–and I’m not sure why I ever thought I should–but cleaning out my mom’s house is really tearing me up, both physically and emotionally. It is just too much. I don’t even have words. Sometimes I have to remind myself that she’s not dead. But she’s definitely not the same person she used to be. I feel that she would want me to have a lot of her (and her mother’s) belongings… and that to not take them would dishonor her. But I have no space and the excess stuff is causing me stress. We are at critical mass.

When I was visiting mom last week, she told another member of the community that “It’s just so hard” having a daughter. The other woman asked her, “What’s so hard about it?” My mom answered something like “watching her grow up.” (Her language is always so convoluted now.) The other woman said, “Yes but you have to let them fly.”

I wondered if this undercurrent of rhetoric has always been what’s brought me back home. And what’s made me feel so guilty about my own… “flight.”

Looking through my mom’s belongings… it’s so interesting what she kept (and what she didn’t), even in the throes of her dementia. She kept many many letters from her students. My God, she was an awesome teacher. Numerous (numerous) students wrote to her from college… about life lessons they learned in her classroom that had served them for years. One student apologized for cheating and said my mom’s comment of “Why??” with a zero at the top of the page had changed her life forever and made her prioritize things like integrity and self-respect.

My grandmother saved some great things too… One was a project I had to complete by interviewing members of my family. My mother wrote a letter to me. She was happy for me. But she “missed what was.” I was destined to regret growing up from a young age.

In all, one thing is for sure… being home has forced me to process a LOT. It is overwhelming. All memories seem tainted by recent events–i.e. the dissolving of our family structure. It is hard to remember that just because some things weren’t forever, that it doesn’t discount their once treasured value.


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