Some of you know that I had been my father's caregiver since 2004. His passing in November of last year was not unexpected; although I still thought we probably had another couple years together. I've said many times that I would not trade those nine years for anything. I was glad that I was able to help him out during those years. He had a stroke in October 2012, which made my decision to retire in January 2013 an easy one. I knew where I was needed most. No matter what, family comes first.
The last year of his life was difficult for him. Every minute of every day revolved around some aspect of his health care. My life changed a lot, too. While not having to go to a job every day was a relief, I still had a full time job, even if it just meant being on "stand by" for those times when I was needed. I didn't get out much, other than to get groceries or make about three trips to the pharmacy each week. If I managed to get out for lunch with a friend, my time frame of being away from home was about 90 minutes maximum. I would not have done things any differently.
The six weeks following Dad's death were a whirlwind of activity. Looking back, I still don't know how I managed to do all I did in such a short time. As I had been living with him for quite a while, many of my possessions were already packed in boxes and stored in his basement. I still own my own house, but that's another story! I knew I had some leeway in the amount of time it would take to empty his house, but I went to work right away. I rented an apartment for myself. I bought all new furnishings so I could make a fresh start. The only piece of furniture that came with me was my desk chair!
I had made some progress in sorting my family photos and genealogy documents into plastic file boxes. Since time was of the essence, some of the loose piles of paper got crammed into a box just to fill things up. As I was emptying out Dad's desk I found a gold mine of family history information and artifacts that I had never seen before. There were newspaper clippings, funeral cards, photos, a plastic bag of some of his father's personal items.
The day before I was scheduled to move, I discovered yet another box of items of his mother's - again, something I hadn't seen before, with photo albums, legal papers, certificates, you name it. I had no time to look through them - everything just got added to a box. It was bad enough that there was about 50 years of bank statements Dad kept, but he had also hung on to about 10 years of his mother's bank statements. I finally gave up doing the shredding, moved the boxes of items "to be shredded" and will either take them to a commercial shredding company or wait for one of the "community shredding days" we have during the year.
I admit to having been a collector/hoarder of books, CDs and DVDs. As I began going through my personal boxes I knew it was time to start walking the talk and downsize my own possessions. By the time I was done, 30 boxes of my books, music and movies were left behind to add to the estate sale. I've got most of my music available in the Amazon cloud and my favorite movies can be streamed on either Amazon or Netflix. Books? Well, I'm a Kindle user, so that was a no brainer for me.
My plastic file boxes were pretty well labeled. So much so that one of the moving guys said to me, "So, you do genealogy?" I wish I'd had more time to recruit him to join our local society!
I delayed Dad's memorial service/celebration of life for five weeks - until after I had moved out of his house, and just a few days prior to the estate sale. I'm glad I did because it gave me the time I needed to write my memorial tribute/eulogy, which I posted on this blog last month. I wrote it in one sitting, with just some minor edits a few days later. It's not something I could have written in only a few days after his death. And I wanted his service to be as perfect as I could make it.
|The beginning of my family heritage center|
I have a table top curio cabinet on order so I can display some of the items that belonged to my parents, grandparents and great grandparents. I'll post a photo once I have it in place.
|My parents as teenagers, doing what they loved the most;|
Dad playing baseball and Mom in her riding outfit - horses were her life.
It's been quite a transition. My life is no longer divided up in two hour blocks of time. I can spend time with friends, enjoy long lunches. I'm already planning my trips to state, regional and national conferences throughout 2014.
Because I've moved on does not mean that I love my Dad any less. He had a good, fulfilling life for a long time. Now, a year after my official retirement, I actually begin my retirement life - a life that will be focused on preserving and documenting my family history.