Lately I’ve been going through Tom and my keepsake boxes. These nondescript, plastic bins have been sitting in the cold, damp cellar of the basement for nearly 30 years. Recently, two and half years after Tom died, I figured it was time to be strong, go through the bins and purge. No surprise, the purging was difficult.
Looking through these treasure troves of our past together and apart caused some emotional pain, but also pleasure. So much of it is tangible proof that we had many wonderful, interesting and sometimes crazy years together. We were both sentimental and in the newspaper and writing business for most of our careers, so we saved stacks of newspapers and publications. We also filed away significant magazines and newspapers reporting monumentally historic events — the fall of the Berlin wall, the Detroit Tigers winning the 1984 World Series, which Tom covered for the newspaper we were both working at, the start of the new Millennium, 9/11 and President Obama’s election.
But we saved way more than what I described. We also squirreled away love letters, break up letters, sexually explicit letters, all kinds of photos, award certificates, poignant letters from the kids when they were growing up, notes from our widowed moms (our dads both died young) and dozens of greeting cards — from our wedding, anniversaries, our kid’s births and birthdays, and mother’s and father’s days.
The photos Tom saved are priceless mementos of his young athletic years as a skilled softball player, a runner, a tennis player. The classic black and white team photos portray him as the hunky guy he was when I met him at 24. I put all this back in the bin as I’m sure our kids will treasure it someday. In fact, our son has already seen some of it and deemed it priceless.
I found each of our notebooks from our “engaged encounter” weekend, a requirement for us to get married in the Catholic Church in 1983. We were asked pointed and personal questions about our relationship and had to write the answers in these prim grade school notebooks. Tom’s honest, loving responses about his feelings toward me sent me into hard crying one afternoon, but that was alright. I cried knowing how much he loved me and how fabulous he thought I was. His words were heartfelt and sincere and that reinforced, at least, there was one guy in the world who thought I was terrific. It doesn’t always fill those lonely nights or days, but it sure helps.
So I’m keeping most of this stuff. Yeah, I’m getting rid of a few stacks of our published news stories and the bags of greeting cards. But most of it is staying in the bins back in the basement. The kids will have to weed through it some day and decide what stays and what goes. I can’t do it.