Last week, we finally went to my mum’s storage unit to sort it out. And then again yesterday. Year after year, the rent would increase and now it’s close to $300 a month. Ridiculous, since I knew that what was in there was mainly junk. Yet because of how my mum packed 13 years ago (yes, it’s been that long) I knew I had to go through every box because she had just thrown things in there in a chaotic fashion. Her mind was not functioning right and it showed. She packed the mailbox, a rusty ironing board, cheap vases, dollar store Christmas decorations, brass goblets from Value Village, every piece of crap I ever made her in art class, every paperback book I had ever read, it just went on and on. We stayed about 2 1/2 hrs and got through many boxes but we had many more to go through and several suitcases. I pulled out photo albums and pictures and even some important documents. I found a copy of my grandfather’s deed of property from Barbados. It was sold to him for a dollar from a plantation owner. Lots of artwork, a lot of the stuff was mine from when I was obsessed with Peggy Hopper prints. I would stop and show my husband my old black and white headshots from my early days in acting, scripts and my high school diplomas. Even a cup I won for public speaking in grade 8! The puca shell necklace I used to wear was still hanging from it. I saw a black and white photo of my mum all dressed up, ala Grace Kelly, young and happy. In fact, there was dozens of headshots of her. There were many good memories but wading through all of chaotic and worthless junk my mum decided to move across country. It was both painful and heart wrenching. Carefully wrapped glasses and random mugs from her cupboard. Old address books with notes of significant things that happened to her. Divorce papers, small court papers involving a window installer, a copy of a ticket for careless driving. I had to decide what to keep and what to let go of. One more visit and we should be done and then I’ll call a junk hauler and get rid of most of it. I can’t keep it all. I don’t have the room, we live on the top floor of a house and our storage is a padlocked wooden garage outside.
Guilt; I hadn’t been there for her. I did not know she was displaying signs of mental confusion. The times I had visited her she was well versed on hiding her memory deficits. She wrote down everything, constantly made notes. But my mum was always making notes. My mum had been writing me notes since I was a kid. She was always squirreling things away for Christmas and the forgetting where things were. (Frig, I do that!) And by the time I found out she was having TIA’s (trans ischemic attacks (I was pressing her to move to Vancouver. I had accompanied her to neurologist’s appointments and she was still passing all the tests and he wasn’t telling me she had Alzheimer’s or dementia. No doctor took me aside and warned me.
Anger; my eldest sister and her family lived about 15 minutes away from her. It was obvious they didn’t do anything to help her. Box after box, suitcase after suitcase… it looked liked she just shovelled things in there. All well packed and papered, but so much worthless stuff. It costs thousands to ship. I opened a box of her music books, sheets, tapes, sheafs of papers with lyrics written down. I finally broke down and sobbed. My husband pulled me into his arms. Her music was everything to her. Everything. I could not just put it in the discard pile. I just couldn’t. She was an artist.
For most of my life, I thought I was nothing like her. I felt like I had been dropped into the wrong family. And yet, as I looked at a poster of a production she was in, the dozens of headshots, the music books, it was clear she was an artist. She had many art pieces, oil paintings, abstract pieces, and yes even my old framed Peggy Hopper prints. She had worked in a cereal factory for years and I know she was desperately unhappy. But when she sang, all decked out in sequins and rhinestones and the microphone in her hand, she came alive.
More boxes to go through, some furniture, and yes a piano. 7 years dealing with infertility, 5 years of Boo’s life and finally I have the strength to do this task.