Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Last Shreds of Duty

When my dad passed away almost a decade ago, as an executor to his estate, there was a lot of things that I needed to do. Ends to tie up, last debts to clear, paperwork to finalize.
Dad was a pretty organized guy, so it wasn't nearly as messy as it could have been during what was a really painful time for us.

Some months later, I was contacted by a law firm in Chicago. They had represented him in a criminal matter years earlier (Savings and Loan case), and upon hearing of his death, wanted instructions on what to do with the files they had been keeping for him.

Might as well send them to me, I thought. So they did.

All 15 cases of them.

I never opened them, and they've been sitting in a corner in my basement for almost 10 years.

This week, with the spring break/spring cleaning fever coming over me, I decided to get rid of them.

It's time.

But what could I do with them? I can't take them to the dump. There's a lot of personal information in them about a lot of different people.

We have a woodstove that heats our home. I decided to shred them all and make firestarters out of them.

It's spring break, and the guys can help me. Easy peasy, you would think. Or at least I did.

I didn't count on having to actually touch the papers much. Except then I realized I couldn't shred them with all the paper and binder clips on them.

Then I started finding personal notes from my dad, written in his distinctive handwriting and voice. Some of these were missives from a dad I didn't know---a man who was in trouble---not the confident and enthusiastic dad of my memories.

So I've been a little--ok, a LOT wigged out these past couple of days.

I'm torn. On one hand, it's like hearing a voice I've desperately missed over the years and never thought I'd hear again. On the other hand, it feels like I'm peeking in Dad's underwear drawer.

Hubby has offered to do the job, but I don't think Dad would want him peeking in his underwear drawer either.



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Nikki said...

I can somewhat relate.

My dad wrote me a letter when I was a wee little thing....he died a few years later.

I love reading that letter - chauvanistic as it is - reminds me of him.

100 Words said...

You know, you write damn well for someone who's so wigged out. Nevertheless, the oddness of this all is not wasted on me

Stinkypaw said...

I soooo know what you mean - it's not easy, but those papers are not your dad and getting rid of them won't affect the loving and fun memories you have of your dad. So you're dad had "an underweare drawer"? We all do! ;-)

Mel said...

I still have a big box of papers from when my dad moved that I haven't had the time to dispose of properly. In that box are letters to my mother from people I never knew; photos of kids whose names I don't know, and whose names are not written on the backs; old art projects of mine and of my brothers; oncology bills and insurance claim forms from when Mom got sick; and funeral home bills from after her death. I keep saying I'm going to do it, I'm going to sort through that stuff and get rid of it, but I get shaky and weird when I set out to do it.
I understand completely.

Anonymous said...

eeeek...went through the same thing with my dad's stuff. It's hard to do...but I think my curiosity got the better of me.

Beth said...

I realize this would be (is) a tough job - so hard to do.
But you know what? I'm envious. I would love to come across something my Dad had written - to "hear that voice" again. And I know there isn't any "shred" of paper out there. It's been too long.
Keep the personal notes. It's a link.

Grim Reality Girl said...

I know what you mean on "hearing that voice" again. I treasure anything handwritten by my mother.... it is a connection. A small connection, but a connection. Keep what brings you comfort, shred what matters not.

I'm sorry for your loss.

mcewen said...

Without wanting to be morbid [although I'm going to anyway] it makes me think of what would happen if I dropped down dead tomorrow, all the stuff I'd leave, essentially for someone else to plough through and deal with. I suppose it's because we all sort of feel that we're immortal [for the time being] that we give no thought to such things.
There again, I heard of the radio today that one in three people will have [die of] cancer and that number are only due to increase. So will that person be me, or my two close pals?
Clearly there are some benefits to 'living in the moment.'
Best wishes

Mamma said...

I'm sorry it's so difficult. Do you think he'd prefer it to be you rather than anyone else? He did trust you as his executor. That's a big act of faith.

I'll be thinking of you.

Brenda said...

Just do what your heart tells you to do. You were so lucky to have a father who loved you so much.

Miss Litzi said...

Hi Attila,
Wow, I can sympathize with you completely. My Dad died 2½ years ago, and my Mom is currently in a Hospice recuperating from hip replacement surgery and a broken arm. While I’ve been watering house plants, collecting her mail, etc., I’ve been poking (that sounds better than snooping) around in drawers and cabinets. I’m discovering all sorts of things that I never imagined I’d see and am beginning to realize that my parents were actually people with a life! This in itself has been a revelation.

If you destroy/shred everything, you may regret it in the future. If it’s too painful or upsetting to read now, why not pack it away for another 10 years and see how you feel about the personal papers at that time.

Annie Drogynous said...

I think I'd be wigged out, too. No harm sticking them back in that corner for another 10 years, is there?!

DutchBitch said...

Wow. I can imagine that would be hard. Still, now that you know what it involves I think it would feel best if you did this yourself. However hard it may be. I am sure that will feel best...

Undercover Angel said...

My dad passed away in May of 2000, and I've had his business records at my house for the past 7 years because Revenue Canada says you have to hold on to business records for 7 years. We've only just started shredding it, albeit a month premature.

I have mixed feelings. I wish I could keep everything, because it's a part of my father. At the same time I want to let it go so I can move ahead in life...

yerdoingitwrong said...

Oh girl. That would be hard!! I truly empathize. I find myself agreeing with Miss Litzi's comment. Maybe tackle that later so you don't have regrets.

Take it easy, okay?

phlegmfatale said...

wow, the situation with your dad's papers is a really odd dilemma. Can you not just get a shredder that can handle the staples and paperclips? I think I'd go to the trouble, if it spared me some grief. I feel for you.

Attila The Mom said...

Thanks for all your encouraging words!

Everything in the boxes are multiple copies of legal briefs, dozens of depositions, case laws, articles from magazines and newspapers of (at the time) similar cases, and motions. None of it is personal in any way to my dad, but since much of it contains personal information about other people (tax returns, etc), I can't just toss it.

Here and there I've found notes from my Dad---but it's like 3 notes per 2000 sheets of other crap. LOL