Cleaning Out My Elderly Parents’ Soon-to-be-sold Home



Going Through 70+ Years of Meaningful Moments

Then VP Richard Nixon–campaigning in Medford, Oregon and a vintage photo of boys playing marbles?

It’s tedious. Making decisions–what goes (and to whom); what stays; what we think we can sell, and what gets shredded on the (I think) first-generation shredder in my parents’ home. Tackling the many boxes’ contents can feel like a newbie’s climb up Mt. Everest. I’ve hated and loved every minute.

My grandfather was a fine-looking man, but died when I was in grade school.


Almost Done. The last bank statements from Dad’s business  going back to 1952.

I hated going through the bank statements with cancelled checks–going as far back as 1952. Equally bad, needing to shred every Medicare Summary sheet– social security # prominently displayed at top right. And there were the legal documents–read carefully one last time before going to the shredder.

I wondered about a stranger creating a false identity with a dead person’s once carefully-guarded information. Shred, shred, shred.

Let’s not forget my parents’ passports. Shred, shred….except for the passport I saved belonging to a midget wrestler, Fuzzy Cupid (professional name), who’s in the World Wrestling Hall of Fame. Checked him out on Wikipedia. I know more about him then they. No passport photo in those days–rather “Distinguishing Marks.” Noted is a birthmark (in an unusual place….my secret for now).

Dad was in the hotel business. You’d be surprised at the items left in the hotel’s safety deposit boxes in the old days. Some were saved in Dad’s file cabinet and desk drawer.

I was transported. Childhood memories were clarified by letters with new information and, of course, photos–formal pictures, snapshots, and Polaroids, along with very tiny shapshots from the ’30’s

In silver frames with intricate decorations, family members from the past filled the card table–2 columns separated by lineage, plus one column for my brother’s and my baby and growing-up photos. My grandfather, a handsome man, commanded the largest frame and was unceremoniously placed on the carpeted floor. He would have taken up too much of the card table space. (Click previous photos to enlarge and see him more and a young Richard and Pat Nixon more clearly.)

I’m still sorting the old photos–keeping too many, sending some to friends, throwing away others. Through this exercise our adult selves are able to step back into the past for a brief time. We view things from a different vantage point. And we gain closure.

4 thoughts on “Cleaning Out My Elderly Parents’ Soon-to-be-sold Home

  1. We had to go through the “downsizing” process with my grandmother, my mother and I were inspired to clean out the clutter! We did learn some amazing things about her though, and it was a chance to tell stories and share memories that had otherwise been forgotten. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you, Amie. To corrupt an old quote “Every thorn has its rose.” While many old(er) parents feel duty-bound to spare their children the responsibly of cleaning out or downsizing their things, there is an upside.

    • Thanks for liking it. As laborious and time-consuming as it is, it’s a unique discovery of things past, isn’t it, appreciated through older eyes. Interesting enough, reading through the letters, I could piece together events (from many decades ago) that I knew only a bit about. Suddenly the whole story was there.

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