I spent the better part of this past weekend cleaning out my basement. My husband and I want to make a play room for our daughter, and we can’t do that with years and years of our old stuff collecting dust.
I would not consider myself a hoarder by any means, but I am someone who likes to hold onto things and use them to remember different parts of my life. I found year books from USY and junior high and high school. Prom pictures. My sorority pledge book. Old clothes. Many boxes of VHS tapes and cassette tapes. Piles and piles and piles of books.
My keep stash was less than my donate pile, so I considered that a win. I took a break and went back the next day. This time, I tackled the boxes that once belonged to my dad.
My father died in 2014. One day before my daughter’s 1st birthday. He had suffered from dementia for years and had been residing in a nursing home. When we moved him from his house to the nursing home, I took many of his belongings to look through when I was ready.
I was never ready. When he passed, I went through some of his things to find a picture for the obituary. Until recently, that had pretty much been pretty much the extent of it.
But this time, I found something that broke my heart all over again. At one point, in high school, I must have reached out to him during a period of estrangement. I do not remember doing so, but I found a letter dated 1990, which was my sophomore year. It simply said, “Samantha, I thought about getting together with you. At this time, I do not care to do so. Dad”.
Why did I save a hurtful note like that? What good did it do? 27 years after it was written, and it still punched me in the gut.
My dad and I had a rocky relationship. My parents divorced when I was in grade school. I have two younger brothers, and we all struggled with him at one time or another. I was his little girl, his princess, until I started to grow up and had opinions and thoughts of my own. When I wanted to do my own things, he resented it. He wanted us to be with him on the weekends he had visitation and not do anything else. Eventually, there was a nasty custody battle and by the end of it all, I would up with no visitation at all.
Growing up without my father in my life was less than ideal. I felt rejected and abandoned–two things that a teenage girl does not need to feel. Luckily I had plenty of love and affection from my mother and other friends and family, and I was never alone.
My father and I tried to reconnect over the years. This letter I found represents one rejected attempted to do so.
I sat there and turned the letter over in my hand. I felt my eyes well up with tears. As a parent now, I can’t imagine ever shutting my child out. It’s barbaric. I took the letter and I folded it back up. I stuffed it in an old photo album, and there it will stay until the next time I feel nostalgic.
Over time, my dad and I found our way back to each other. He did not walk me down the aisle when I got married, but he did have the chance to meet and hold his granddaughter.
Since his death, I have tried to be positive when I think about him. I tell my daughter about her Pop Pop Jim and how much he would have loved her. But that note that I found, that note that I kept, will keep me from changing history too much. My father was who he was. He was not all bad, but he was not all good, either.
It’s important to me to never forget the past. Those who do are destined to repeat it or change it.
Now, in addition to a new playroom for my daughter, I also have more clarity about the past.