Love stories

Mom’s settling into the nursing home and my sisters have started the long haul of cleaning out the house.  Sorting, stacking, settling, packing, throwing, reading, crying.  60+ years of living in the home Mom shared with Dad, the same home he grew up in.

I’m not there, I’m thousands of miles away, and the guilt is palpable.  But, so is reality.  I could stop what I’m doing and take a week off and dig in too, and guess what, a week is not enough. They work too, so they’re fitting this in as they can.  One sister gets it, the other grumbles, and I understand and appreciate both.  Again, the guilt …

There are the books, the pots, the pans, the dishes, the china, the crystal, the photographs, the note pads, the junk drawer, the sock drawer, the paper drawer, the plastic drawer.  The Christmas ornaments, the treasures, the junk, the furniture, the appliances, the you-name-its. No, a week would hardly be enough.

But, as my sissy has said more than once, the journey has brought moments of awe – a trunk we never knew about, tucked away in a spot we’d long forgotten, filled with our baby outfits – in pristine condition.  Shorts, caps and vests for my brothers, yellow and peach dresses for my sisters, and this frothy pink confection for me:

baby MJ in this pink dress. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

baby MJ in the pink dress. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

I don’t own pink, haven’t in years.  But seeing this photo again let’s me see myself through their eyes.

They also found letters – from Dad to Mom. She had been away visiting a sister and he missed her is all, and “Scout” the dog wasn’t much of a companion.  He used words like “my darling,” words I don’t remember hearing him say.   I expect he was about this age, or younger, when he wrote to her.  And the love and longing in his words transcends time and miles for all of us.

Dad riding

Dad wrangling a horse in spring. An Emjayandthem (C) photo.

So when I think of them, I think of their date nights, his taking her hand on the dance floor, holding the door and her giggle as she stepped through.  I think about the farmer and the teacher who met on a blind date, fell in love, and built a life and family together.

Mom and Dad with one of their winning horses - and a date night. An Emjayandthem(C) photo

Mom and Dad with one of their winning horses – and a date night. An Emjayandthem(C) photo


Mom & Dad dancing (and singing) at our wedding

Mom & Dad dancing (and singing) at our wedding, an Emjayandthem(C) photo

Dad’s been gone 11 years; Mom’s carried on and accepted this new phase in her life.  There were many great times, and some that weren’t.  But their love stories – those are the keepsakes that remain with me.

 * * * *

“As long as you remember the person who loved you, and whom you still love, then you’re making love endure.”  ― Guillaume Musso 

 * * * *

Have you been far, far away as major life changes took place?  What keepsakes are worth keeping?

Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Faith, Family, Grief, Growth, Love, Men, Personal, Relationships, Romance, Seasons, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

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25 thoughts on “Love stories

  1. Oh, MJ…another sweet, poignant post. I know it’s so difficult for you to be far away as your sisters undertake this necessary, but difficult task. And there’s no way to avoid it. All those tangible things are part of life….collected and treasured. And I’m sure the most special ones will remain in your family. Thinking of you, my friend.

    • Thank you, Dianna. It has served as an impetus for all of us to clean stuff out! I look around and “why did I keep this?”

  2. Diane Helminiak

    I sure hope there are a lot of giggles in the mix with all the other emotions. The giggles of all the clothes that were kept through the years. My mom was a collector and it was funny to see our grade school 70s clothes. She kept them like we were going to wear them again or something. My mom never threw anything out. They grew up in an age where nothing was disposable. Now I can’t stand clutter, but I do have my treasures too. Some day our children will have to do that too. Hopefully there’s some mysteries they learn from all the treasures.

    • Oh yes, there were some 70s dresses that were beyond description. And a little jumper dress that Mom sewed for us, we each wore it at Christmas at least once. She’s a child of the depression and everything could be reused and was — but sometimes – maybe not. Thank you for weighing in! MJ

  3. It’s a tough transitional time of life for sure. As my parents declined, it was me who took on the lion’s share of the heavy lifting, even though I’m completely across country. But when it came to emptying out the house after mom (the last parent) died, I was able to spend a week helping. My younger brother was able to have 3 weeks off, and we busted our butts and emptied the house so it could be sold. We each took some things, some more shifted to a co-owned summer cottage, a few pieces were auctioned, and tons went to Goodwill. I wish I had been able to go through things more slowly, to be able to reminisce. But then I probably would have wanted to keep more, and my own house is already too cluttered. I’m glad your family is able to do things in stages, to empty out the house while your mom is still here. Having to deal with funeral things and heavy grieving at the same time really stinks. No matter what things are held onto or given away, you always have your memories.

    • You make a very excellent point — this isn’t being done while grieving, and that’s a blessing. My sisters are sorting as they can and donating a lot. I have the very best part of Mom – memories of our adventures together! No item on a shelf can ever come close 🙂 MJ

  4. Precious thoughts from your heart…I hear you.

  5. Reminds of when I cleaned my mother’s house out after she passed. There was so much and so many decisions that I didn’t have time to let the memories flow. After giving or donating or disposing, there were boxes of things that I took to my house. Later I went through and let the old times overwhelm me. It’s such a part of grieving. My mom died in 1986 and at this point I have one dress of hers. It’s a blue velvet that I never remember her wearing. I think it was from before I was born. Unfortunately my mother and I had completely different builds so I could never wear it but I still like to feel it. Oh yes, I still have the coffee mug she used every day.

    • I love that you saved her blue Velvet dress; I’m sure the feel of it is just divine.

      My sister has a few treasures set aside for me but when you’re looking at what fits in a suitcase or carry on, it helps whittle down the list! MJ

  6. Moved. Wonderful post MJ

  7. Shirley Matthews Dunn

    What a lovely love story your parents had. I know it’s hard on you not being there to help your sisters, but sometimes things don’t work out like we would like. Please don’t beat yourself up about it. What treasurers are being found that will bring old memories and make new ones. I love the baby picture of you! Wonderful post!

    • Thank you for your kindness and sweet words; sissy set a side a few treasures for me. I have the very best part of Mom – memories of all of our conversations, laughs and adventures together 🙂 MJ

  8. I wasn’t able to go back home for the “sorting out,” either. My two oldest brothers were retired, so they and their wives took care of it. It’s just as well, I don’t think it would have been a good thing to be there, for me, anyway. There was some animosity among the rest of the family when all was said and done, but I think those bridges have been mended, for the most part. There are a lot of emotions to deal with, and each person is different.

    • You’re right – there’s a lot more to sort out than just stuff – there’s memories, emotions, roles, grievances, joys, you name it.

      I’ve said my good-byes to my childhood home and done it years ago, MJ

  9. You have me laughing and crying with this one MJ! What a beautiful baby you were (and now too) and your so alive and in love parents shine through this whole post. Don’t let guilt move in. You can only do what you can do so many miles away. I know about guilt… and worry. Neither one of them helps much.

  10. It’s interesting to read about such a familiar situation from another’s perspective. None of my siblings or I moved far from where we grew up, and all have lived close to our parents since we moved out. When Mom and Dad made their move to the town house earlier this year, it was my sister and I who did the lion’s share of the sorting and packing of their home of 26 years. We may have resented the lack of help from other siblings at times, especially because it was NOT distance that kept them away. But now we can see that it was our privilege to revisit so many great memories in the process. We kept so many things that might seem inconsequential to anyone else, but held places in our hearts for one reason or another.

    • I understand. The few small things I’ve asked Sissy for have no monetary value but mean something to me — as for the rest of it, I can’t miss what I don’t remember or know about. MJ

  11. Hey, I understand perfectly! My dad is gone, my mom is still in the home I grew up in, and she is surrounded by the stuff of her/their life together. We work on sorting a bit when I visit, but the real work can’t begin until she’s gone…it would be too hard on her to give it all up. Blessings to you and your family as you go through this transition with your mom! Love your sweet memories of her and your dad. You always do such a wonderful job of honoring and loving your mom through your posts! ~Sheila

    • One of my sisters was mad that I didn’t “sort out things” when I was home for the family wedding in August — Mom wouldn’t hear of it. Her comment still stands “why the heck would I have you fly in from another country to sort through my junk? Let’s visit.”
      BAm! there she is 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words; I love their love story and am very grateful to have witnessed it. MJ

  12. It’s difficult to arrange to meet up for these kinds of things even when living in the same county. If you took the time off, you’d expect them to be there all day as well, and then that might be inconvenient too. Do what you can and let the rest go. It’s a trying time any way you look at it. I’ll be keeping a good thought for you and your family.

    • You got it — even if I took the time off, several of them wouldn’t be available for more than a day. It’s a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t” situation. I’m grateful that Mom is in a good place and seems to be adjusting to it the best she can. The rest of it is just stuff. Thanks Renee, ❤ MJ

  13. Pingback: ‘Till next time | Emjayandthem's Blog

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