When my father moved from the house he had lived in for 50 years, my childhood home, to an apartment, my siblings and I took on the task of sorting through and distributing family mementos and household items.
We felt we had been fairly successful at divvying up things among family members without too much animosity. We sold, donated, gave away, and threw out what we didn’t want or couldn’t use. My father made the transition to apartment living nicely and I cowrote a book about the experience: Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.
Several years later, my father moved from that apartment to a smaller place in a senior housing facility. So, as the daughter who lived closest, I once again sorted through family stuff. I thought that I didn’t want to do that again.
But as I looked through my father’s high school and college yearbooks, read family letters from relatives long gone, found my parents’ baptismal certificates, gave some of my mother’s favorite serving dishes to my daughter, and pored over album after album of family photographs, I felt a sense of poignancy, a certain satisfaction, of course, and most of all joy. It was a privilege to be a part of that life, a life my parents shared through 52 years of marriage – a privilege not everyone gets, and one that I was grateful for.
This time I brought home too many things I couldn’t part with and over these last few years have lamented about what to do with them.
My father died in January at the age of 92.
Some of the things my father left to us helped me write his obituary. The file of business letters lists the numerous awards he received for being top salesman. His university pennant and fraternity paddle speak of the pride he felt in his alma mater. His puttees and a photo of him in uniform tell of his patriotism. Notices from charities recount his great generosity. And tributes from church declare his faith and stewardship.
But what my father really left to us didn’t come from the stuff he left behind but rather from who he was. He adored my mother and took great care of her. As my brother said: Of all the jobs he had, being a husband was the one he did best. Whether people knew him a long time or had just met him, they always remarked about how nice he was. “He’s such a nice man” is what his children always heard from people.
And, best of all, I see his intelligence and work ethic, his kindness and sense of humor, in my children. What a legacy he has passed on.
This will be my first Father’s Day without my father. I wish a happy and healthy and joyous day to all the dads out there. Cherish the time with your family.
≈Linda Hetzer is an editor and author of books on home design, crafts, and food, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home.
Filed under: childhood home, death, dividing objects when downsizing the home, downsizing, downsizing the home, emptying the house, enjoying the process, family history, Favorite Downsizing Stories, getting rid of stuff, gratitude, important papers, keeping the memories, mourning, moving, preservation, sentimentality about things, share your stories | Tagged: childhood home, distributing family items, downsizing the family home, downsizing the home, emotional issues in downsizing the home, emptying the house, family, family history, family stories, getting rid of stuff, getting rid of things, gratitude, important papers, share your stories |