I’m very close to finishing up with my dad’s room. Today, I finished the closet, except for some shirts. I already donated about 30 pairs of pants, or as my dad would say, trousers. After wrapping several years of receipts and tax records in paper bags and duct tape and lugging them to the trash, I finally went to reach up to the top closet shelf. There were more tax records to wrap, a picture of some general or colonel he must have served under, and finally a large padded envelope. What could it be? Something important, I imagined.
Inside the envelope was a thin red book with the Marine Corps emblem. Opening the book, I discovered it was a folder with my dad’s certificate of retirement after 20 years in the Corps and a photos of him with 17 other retirees in khaki uniforms. My dad was clearly the handsomest. But they made a mistake on the date! The certificate says he retired in 1979. But he retired in June of 1969 right after I finished 6th grade. Oh, well.
I carried the red folder in the chair I keep in my dad’s room, my grief chair, where I go to feeling my feelings, and cried. I’m not sure if it was the significance of the retirement certificate or that I hadn’t cried in a while and have been working intensely on this room for a few days. Then Doodle came in, tail wagging and a concerned look in her big brown eyes. She can be a sweet dog sometimes.
I took a breath and decided to talk to my parents:
“I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you more when you were alive. All the challenges and struggles you went through. Your strength. Your courage. Your faith. Thank you for passing that on to me. If you can, guide me, help me to pass that on to my children, even though they are grown.”
My parents responded:
You’ve done a good job. We are proud of you. Just keep setting a good example. Love them. Don’t be afraid to tell them, “Jesus loves you.” He does love them, and he loves you, too.
Talking to my parents helped. Their message helped. Crying helped.
My father’s retirement must have been a big deal. Definitely a relief, but maybe a little scary. Like my retirement. If I’d gotten a retirement certificate, I would’ve hung it on the wall. Or at least the refrigerator.
My father is the person who told me when I was 12 years old, “Nothing is impossible.” His words made an impression. But now, I realize that his life made even more of an impression. Even after his 20 years of military service, my parents faced and overcame big challenges. They want me to clarify that they couldn’t have done it without Jesus.
I still have a little more of Dad’s desk to clean out. No telling what I’ll find there. He saved everything. There’s a cigar box full of shoe laces. And I will never have to buy paper clips again. Here are some things I’ve found in and around my dad’s desk. You never know when you might need some carbon paper.
Later I spent a couple of hours making a collage from one of Mom’s old angel calendars. It was an intensely fun diversion. I think the hands are interesting.
Tomorrow, I switch gears and get some yellow paint samples for the kitchen!
October 4, 2018 at 12:30 am
A lovely post, JoAnna. I am sure that after you are finished with your parent’s house you will feel a sense of let down and accomplishment. I also think it is therapeutic to cry and even to sort through all that is in the house, It s true that most of us do not Your mom was a strong believer and her belief surely sustained her during her lifetime.,
October 4, 2018 at 8:39 am
Thank you, Yvonne. I’m sure I will have many feelings when this project is completed. I appreciate the heads up and the understanding. It’s interesting how, after all these years, I’m coming to appreciate my parents’ strengths more every day. Another reminder that it’s never too late.
October 4, 2018 at 5:54 am
Did your Dad come from England? (trousers). Maybe the error in the retirement date triggered something. My Dad died on Christmas Day. As the coffin was lowered I noticed the date on the plaque gave 24th December. I asked for it to be corrected. I don’t know if it ever was, but it seemed to matter at the time.
October 4, 2018 at 8:43 am
He was born in Wisconsin and his parents were from Germany and Belgium. Thank you for sharing that experience and insight. I hadn’t thought of that as part of it, but I was/am irritated that they got it wrong. A burial plaque is a bigger deal, so hopefully they corrected it. At least you asked.
October 4, 2018 at 5:57 am
What wonderful gifts! I think Granny had that photo of Jesus. Enjoy the memories not the hard times. 🙂
October 4, 2018 at 8:53 am
Thank you. That’s good advice. I will enjoy the memories. My dad has a lot of those pictures. He used to hand them out to people as well as pamphlets or “tracts” about Jesus.
October 5, 2018 at 6:55 pm
I have my cherished granny’s plate of the Last Supper overlooking our dining table. I learn more about her solid belief in God everyday. I ask her often to hold my hand to help me thru. Hugs. 🙂
October 5, 2018 at 9:46 pm
I love that you ask her to hold your hand. I bet you can feel her love. There’s a large Last Supper tapestry in front of me on the dining room wall. It’s been there for many years.
October 4, 2018 at 4:43 pm
with your beloveds 🙂
October 4, 2018 at 7:02 pm
It was. Spontaneous, too. I feel blessed that they are still available. Thank you for appreciating this with me, David.
October 6, 2018 at 3:15 am
Your conversation really touched my heart. Enjoy your weekend!
October 6, 2018 at 9:15 pm
Thank you for saying so. I will and you enjoy yours, too!
October 6, 2018 at 5:45 pm
Touching. I’m glad you have a chair you go to for feeling your feelings. When my kids were wee, I used to sit them in the miniature rocking chair for a time out. Not only for discipline, but for overwhelm and meltdowns, too. I used to tell them to breathe deeply and recenter themselves. All three of my girls began using that chair on their own, and for years, basically until adolescence. They’d console themselves there and often used it to escape a drama.
Your parents had parents, too, and you have children. Each generation with the same feelings, and much, much love. ❤
October 6, 2018 at 9:27 pm
You are such a good mom. Thank you for that understanding and the powerful insight – each generation with the same feelings and much much love. I’m seeing/feeling that connection. ❤
October 8, 2018 at 10:21 am
Jo Anna, Every Marine knows that the gates of Heaven are guarded by the United States Marines… As your Dad passed through I know his smile was only surpassed by his sense pride. Semper Fi ..
October 8, 2018 at 8:32 pm
Your comment gives me a big smile and a warm glow. Thank you so much! Semper Fi.
October 13, 2018 at 11:47 am
This is a project that sounds like it has more ups and downs than you can count. I remember helping my mom go through grandma’s house after she passed and the memories were thick in every single space. Wishing you peace and strength on this journey. 💛
October 13, 2018 at 8:51 pm
Thank you for your support and understanding. It means a lot.