Kurt's mom Dot died three years ago this month. She was about to turn 97. (That's her, the blonde on the far right in the fabulous teal ensemble, enjoying drinks with the girls*. Please click for best big-hair viewing.)
After she died, there was the usual, exhausting grief-filled process of emptying her apartment and deciding where everything should go. Much of it went to charity, some we sold, the well-loved pictures and knick-knacks went to Kurt's brother and niece and to us. And her dear cat Dynamo came to live with us, may he also now rest in peace. The remaining boxes filled a small storage unit nearby until we could figure out where to put it all.
Time has a funny way of flying and now, three years later, we are finally unloading that storage space to sort through those remaining boxes and make some final final decisions. To do that we had to also clear out a ton of stuff from our own garage storage area and man, that was satisfying. We hadn't cleared out old bills, papers, household stuff since before Harper was born. I ended up taking 170 pounds of documents to my favorite shredding place.
Kurt has done a heroic job of reorganizing our garage storage. He's been unloading his mom's stuff in stages and the first part was mostly old files of her own. We kept the tax stuff and shredded the rest, keeping only a small box of things that relate to Kurt and his brother - grades, certificates, clippings, older family stuff. There were boxes of vinyl records and CDs, all classical or jazz. We have a turntable so we may keep some of it, but most of that will go to charity or maybe we sell to Amoeba records.
The hardest part of it all is the photos. There are photo albums galore, many of them are Dot's, some are her sister's (all three are long dead now as Dot was the youngest) some are her parent's. There are also boxes of loose photos. But what to do with them all?
Dot took a trip to Yugoslavia in 1979 when she was 61. There is a whole photo album for it. It's heartbreaking to look at because it means nothing to us, not even Kurt as he doesn't know anything about who is in the photos and wasn't part of the trip. What is the point of keeping it? It's kind of historic, but really, who would ever look at it again?
Yugoslavia doesn't exist.
It's so sad to think that the entirety of your life gets distilled down to a few dusty boxes of pictures no one cares about. Okay, maybe that's a bit dark, but it's not far off.
Of course your life can also be continued in your children and their children, and that is wonderful. There are stories to relay and some of the photos to look at. But Harper won't remember Gamma Dot. Later it might be fun for her to look at pictures of Kurt and his brother as kids, but that's maybe one or two photo albums out of twenty. Do we simply throw the other photos away? It seems brutal to do that. We have become the recipients of all this history as we are the youngest children of the youngest children in the Frey family. Many of Kurt's cousins have died and there aren't a lot of kids in any of those families.
It's strange to be the caretaker of a family history that nobody is around to appreciate. It's a trip to a place that doesn't exist.
We'll probably keep most of it for a few more years, then move on.
*Who the girls are, what year this is and what the event was, we will never know