You’ve been gone just over five months but it seems like, not to be too cliche, last week that you were here. I spent the bulk of my summer cleaning out your house in preparation to make it my own. I know that makes you happy. You often spoke about how this place would be our inheritance, albeit with that wry shit eating grin of yours inferring you were proud yet hoped there would be more.
As I began the task of clearing out 40+ years of accumulation, I had not idea what I would find, or what I would learn; but mostly I didn’t realize how much I now couldn’t learn. You were the self appointed family historian which meant I found pictures, slides, movies and bits of family history documents EVERYWHERE. Honestly for someone who literally forced my to organize my shit what was up with having all those pictures in different places?! Sheesh, just when I had cleaned out a drawer or closet and thought I was done with family memorabilia I’d move on to the next task and BOOM more pictures! This naturally meant TONS of duplicates. Among the family artifacts I did find some gems, love letters for example. At first I thought the box of letters I found was full of those you had written to Mama, turned out the letters were correspondence between her parents prior to their marriage; imagine my surprise. I wanted to devour those letters, but I had more house to clean.
While sifting through the relics of your life I did eventually come across your letters to Mama which like Grandpa Van’s letters I wanted to immediately read, but knew I’d never finish the house if I started. I also found a few of your fathers diaries, and yours; it will be a while before I can read that. While I did have a modicum of control over what I could choose to delve into there were a couple of things I could not avoid which I wish I could purge from my memory. Really? Naked pictures? I shouldn’t have been too surprised, you walked around naked a lot in the back yard and did yard work in the front in a Speedo.
It was interesting to learn that you were bit of a collector. I knew you had a keepsake drawer and was aware of some of the things it held because it was one of places I’d scrounge for arcade/movie money growing up. Among other things were three boxes which I found intriguing. The first one looks like this:
And had these inside:
As I dug further, I found more:
Shouldn’t have been surprised. The next box looked like this:
And had these inside:
“Cool, wonder what’s in the next one….”
Ah, more keys. Which reminded me of what I made for you when I was like 10 in Cub Scouts, or Webeloes:
I wanted to ask about the keys. Where they came from, what they were to, why you kept them; I’ll just have to wonder. I also wanted to ask why so many pens?
The more meaningful finds included a large manila envelope on which you wrote, “People who Cared” which contained cards and letters from the time Kevin had all that trouble, and this:
I paused when I found this, took a breath, and opened it.
And true to my nature, there was even a rough draft:
Of all the things to keep, why these?
I totally remember running away. Didn’t go too far, just to a local park until I got hungry, then I went over to my best friend Jimmy’s house and had pancakes then hung out the rest of the day. Jimmy’s house was about four down from mine on the opposite side. Across from him was my brothers best friend Ron. Later in the afternoon I was out front of Jimmy’s house playing with him, Kevin was outside playing with Ron, saw me and said, “Wow you ran away real far..STOOPID!”
A bit later you stepped outside and yelled your signature, “Kevin, Mike! Kommst du hier!” which was not at all annoying or embarrassing, then I walked home for dinner. I believe it was that evening that you told me how much you and Mama loved me, that the two of you could not have your own children so you adopted Kevin and myself to complete your family. I wish I knew the story behind the other note but obviously I did not like being called stupid.
Other gems I found were pictures of Mama and Grandpa Van that I had never seen before, which of course begs the question, why not?
That one of them on the beach is now one of my favorite family pictures.
Thank you for leaving these treasures for me to find, I couldn’t have asked or hoped for more.
(Found another one)