Monday, August 1, 2016

Going through mom's belongings...

Going through mom's belongings ... and I found this letter, never sent.  It was one of the things I found in an envelope tucked into a corner of her purse.  The envelope is practically worn out, and many of the documents have obviously been folded and unfolded many times.  Several of the items in this envelope are either complete mysteries to me – mementos of some aspect of my mom's life that I don't know about – or they're big surprises.  Some of those surprises I don't think I'll be sharing publicly :)  Some I will probably do so at some point.  This particular letter was so worn out that I had to tape together before I could scan it. 
A letter to my children and grandchildren

April 27,1998

Tomorrow is the big "O" day [TD: "O" presumably means "Operation"], I go in to have surgery to give me two new knees and hopefully a new lease on a better life.

This letter is just in case something goes wrong and I do not live through this procedure. I fully expect to, but just in case I wanted to say a few things to you.

The most precious moments have been with family - husband, children and grandchildren. The joyful times we had camping stand out in my memory. Some of the candlelight dinners with Dad stand out in my memory.  The first summer I took all four granddaughters up to camp is one of my most favorite memories. They are so beautiful and they got along so wonderful. Seeing the enjoyment Tami, Amber and Marci gave to the old folks at the nursing home in Lincoln has got to be on the list.  Watching the little girls grow into young adulthood is almost frightening. It seemed to happen a lot faster than it did with our own children and that happened fast enough.

Watching all four of our children grow and flourish and each give to this world something wonderful. We don't have to look too far to know how special you all are and how lucky we are to have had you.

You all share what I feel is the best of both of us parents. Passing that on to friends and children will maybe do a little bit to make this earth a mite more wonderful.

You are all precious to me - you have all given wonderful meaning to my life. I love you all. I will always be with you in little ways. Hug each other - much better than fighting. Hold on to the things that are 'right' to hold onto. Don't give in or up when life seems to turn the wrong way. Always do to others the things you would like to have done to you. Always love and look out for family and friends.

When you are in Maine, play a game of cards with me in mind. Enjoy the camp as much as you are able. Enjoy your siblings and your children each and everyday.  Hug each other every chance you get - hard.

Remember the good times we have had and forgive me the bad times - please. I love you all so much.

I don't know why she signed it with an “86”.  I had no idea this letter existed.  Finding it pretty much stopped me in my tracks for today...

Update 8/3/2016: my brother Scott knew what the “86” was all about.  It seems my mom's friend (Joyce) liked to call herself “Agent 99” after a character in an old television show, and my mom called herself “Agent 86”, or just “86” for short.

Giving her stuff away...

Giving her stuff away...  Before my mom left Virginia, she gave away many of her belongings (or arranged for them to be given away when she was gone).  One of the things she gave away was her painting supplies.  For quite a few years, mom took lessons and painted (in oil or acrylic, not water paints to my knowledge).  Many of these paintings were gifts; others hung in her home. 

She still had all the supplies until early this year, when she discovered that Hannah D., the young daughter of her neighbor in Virginia, was taking up painting.  Mom gave her a big pile of supplies, including brushes, palettes, and a great collection of paint.  Mom got to see the first painting that Hannah did, but not the second (above).  She'd have loved this one: hummingbirds, penstemon, and lots of bright colors.  And she'd especially have loved the fact that Hannah was making good use of her gift.

Thinking of you, mom.  Every day...

On her recent visit with us...

On her recent visit with us, our Polish friend Jo B. left a sizeable bag of “sweets” with us as a gift: chocolate confections of various kinds, plus some wrapped caramels that were hard and crumbly, rather than soft as we're used to having caramel.  The photo at right shows a couple of examples.  We've really been enjoying these, but now our supply is dwindling.

So I got to wondering whether I could find these delectables on Amazon.  Yes, of course!  I noticed that the word “Wawel” appeared on each piece of candy, and it had the little ® after it (for registered trademark).  I guessed that Wawel was a brand or maker, and searched for it in food.  Voila!  Lots of Wawel products available on Amazon.

Not so very many years ago, a product like this would only have been available through a specialty store (likely in a big city), or through a specialty mail-order catalog (likely one catering to Polish immigrants).  It would have been a real challenge to locate a source, and the price would have been high, too (specialty stores generally have lower turnovers, and therefore must have higher profit margins – and higher prices).  Today all it took was about 30 seconds of brand identification and a few keystrokes on my web browser – and now I know I can order these any time I want them, and at quite a reasonable price, too!

Paradise ponders...

Paradise ponders...  Yesterday I finished assembling the table and chairs that will go on our deck.  These were sold through Amazon by a company called Oakland Living (a furniture wholesaler), but were manufactured in China by some company I can't identify.

You may remember that I nominated the table's assembly instructions as “worst assembly instructions evah!”  Well, the assembly instructions for the chairs were possibly even worse.  In particular, the chair's instructions don't tell you the proper placement of some very important parts – and if you got them wrong, you could easily damage the chair.  I've seen how these “spring rocker” chairs are assembled before, so I figured it out pretty easily.  I can imagine, though, that quite a few people get it wrong and end up either damaging the chair, or even hurting themselves.

I'm guessing that Oakland Living buys from many different manufacturers, so probably the instructions for all their stuff aren't quite so bad.  But if they are ... watch out!

Earlier this morning, while it was still relatively cool out, I geared up to work with my steel-bladed weed whacker.  I then wandered about the west side of our property, taking out teasels wherever I found them.  The timing on these matter – if I were to wait too long, they'd go to seed and I'd have a bazillion more next year.  If I do it too quickly, then the late-sprouting teasels escape my marauding.  Today was just about right: the smallest teasels I found were about 2' high, and easy to spot.  None of them were in seed yet.  They're all on the ground now...

Yesterday I started going through my mom's belongings, doing a first pass on sorting it for trash, stuff to give away, stuff to send to relatives, and stuff to scan or save.  It's a bigger job than I had imagined, mainly because there are so many questions to get answered.  The questions range from “What the heck is this?” to “Did any of our relatives want this?”  I'm leaning on my sister a lot for help with these things. 

Yesterday I came across the jewelry at right.  My sister tells me that these are some of my mom's favorite pieces.  I'm about as far from a connoisseur of jewelry as it's possible to get (remember, I like my women naked, unpainted, and unadorned :), so I have no useful opinion about them.  The women in my life are uninterested in them; they are not the style that appeals to them.  And yet ... they are my mom's favorites.  I'm really torn about what to do with them.  I may just give them away to some of the residents at Williamsburg, where mom stayed happily, but briefly.  Or maybe I'll find a way to display them, as a memento.  My only plan right now is to ponder...