Saturday, October 28, 2006

State of Independence

This week was interesting since I received a box from my Uncle in Maine – filled with items from my Nana’s apartment. My Nana is 99, bless her soul, and after being independent since the death of her husband in 1957, she finally resigned to the reality that it was time to move into an assisted care facility on the island. The location is good, since many of her friends are there and my Uncle already volunteers there weekly, visiting to play the piano for the residents. So now Nana can enjoy her son’s performance with her friends.

So – cleaning out her apartment has been quite the chore – she’s lived on her own for almost 50 years and in this apartment for a good couple decades. Uncle Jack lead the project and his kids (the youngest is 30) pitched in to distribute her furniture to the various grandchildren etc.

I received a side half-table that my father had made in shop class as a teenager. It’s been with my Nana ever since. Additionally, Jack sent me my father’s life scrapbook that his mother kept since his birth.

As an only child who had to bury his father back in 1993, I don’t have the strongest family network anymore. My mother and her family love me very much – but I don’t really keep in contact with them much. So flipping through this book – busting at the seams with memories – and reading handwritten notes my father wrote his mother (my Nana) back when he was 5 is quite unusual.

Items like the card that marked his basket where he laid after being born at Pennsylvania Hospital on April 13, 1939. A card to my dad for his first Christmas from his 'Pop-Pop'. In one envelope I found the curls of hair from the very first haircut my dad had back in 1941 when he was 2.

Strange emotions came over me – as if I was peeking into a drawer I wasn’t allowed to see. I was reading notes from my dad to his dad – and realizing that both men were dead.

I learned things that I never knew - for example, I was holding the kerchief that my dad wore in Boy Scouts and, with amazement, reading just how detailed he was in his studies by scanning his report cards and notes from school, including clippings from the paper of his participation in school events.

I felt both the comfort in knowing and reliving my family roots first hand by exploring this book – and at the same time realizing that it’s all history for me. It isn’t current. The players are just part of my past.

I rely on my friends for the bond that others get from family, and since I don’t really have too many open friendships, I wind up dealing with life, solo.

In many ways, I have become just as independent as my Nana.

No comments: