"There are more around here somewhere," Mom said. "There's a whole box of stuff."At the same time, Dad was looking for his father's pocket watch to give to me. Since I was the only one really interested in the family's history, and I was named after him, he felt I should have it. Plus, he was suffering from liver problems (despite never being a drinker) and waiting for a transplant, so he felt it was the time to pass it to me. We didn't find the watch and didn't find the box. I talked to Dad almost every day, sometimes about his family, but most of the time about work and cooking and stuff.
Dad called me on December 22nd at one o'clock in the morning. "I got a liver! I'm going to the hospital to get ready for the transplant!" I was excited and worried, but he said there was something like a 95% success rate. The surgery went fine for the most part, with a minor heart "event," but when the anesthesia wore off, he was awake and joking and we were all so excited. He wanted us to open presents on Christmas Eve without him, but he called us from the hospital, probably sad that he was missing it. For the next week, his stay at the intensive care unit kept being prolonged. Then they stuck a tube down his throat and put him under. After 50 days in the ICU, my dad died with my mom and my brothers and I holding his hands. I'm still not over it and am having a hard time writing this.
I started writing all I could remember about him and asked my kids to do so too. To me, the only way he could live on is if it was written down. All of the stories and experiences and knowledge and love that he had were gone. Why didn't I write anything down before? Because he wasn't supposed to die yet.
My mom has been clearing stuff out of her house since. Our whole family chose a few things that were meaningful to us. I took Dad’s barbecue, old oil can, some of his clothes, and a wooden tool box that was my great-uncle's. I didn't want to throw anything away. Bit by bit, mom has organized the house and become more aware of what is there. She came up to my house to spend some time with my kids two weeks ago when I wasn't home. She called me when she was leaving and said "I left a box of stuff for you.
When I opened it, I saw that it had some genealogy stuff, so I closed it up and dropped it off. I found Eddie’s pocket watch too." "What's in the box?" I asked. "I don't know," she said, "I just saw what it was and figured you could go through it."When I finally got home, I immediately went to my study to take a look. It literally took my breath away. Hundreds of photos, documents, and cards had been tossed in there. Here is some of the most interesting stuff:
- A complex diagram with an accompanying notebook listing over one hundred names of my relatives.
- My great grandmother's half-brother had created it and sent it to her.
- My grandfather's report cards, school reports (including an autobiography), and photos
- A huge wall descendant tree chart from a family reunion
- Personal photos of a German soldier that was taken from his pocket by one of my grandfathers
- A copy of a lengthy family history from one branch of my family I knew nothing about
- My first photographs of many ancestors
Now I have so much stuff that I almost don't know where to start. I've gone from a couple three-ring binders less than a year ago to portable file boxes and now I've filled up most of a huge four-drawer filing cabinet. Time to organize!