Last month I read an interview with Alan Arkin in which he recalled observing a fellow actor synapticly filing away a bad emotional experience for future use. “I had done it myself many times and it was one of the things I found horrible. I don’t do it any more. Until my late forties acting was my reason for existence. Now it’s a reflection of my existence”* The bit came to mind last week as I began to clean out my office and prepare for something new.** It dawned on me that if Plan B was to be an acting career I had just hit the material mother lode.
My father and grandfather were previous occupants of the office and my mother had been just down the hall. The first thing I noticed when I started though the secure storage was the sheer scale of their work product. Those people worked hard and long. I felt guilty as I began to shred. Had to call upon Dr Brother for support. “Hey man, I’ve moved twelve times, get over it, it’ll be good for you”.
Then I began to find stuff. Oldest document, so far, was deed to a farm in Texas dated 1909 next to which was related correspondence with farmer. I remember hearing about my great grandparents taking a month long trip down there leaving my sixteen year old grandmother in charge of the farm here and her five siblings. Then found a file regarding mineral rights and thought of Dad’s zeal in related self education. Farm was sold in mid sixties.
My father’s settled estate is still in a cabinet in my office and so I’ve frequently touched it in the years since his death. In the safe are documents related to seven others. Two grandparents, four great grandparents, and my brother. Middle brother’s been gone since a week before 9/11 and I hadn’t looked through that box since receipt of the AOK from the IRS.
I kept everything. Medical bills, receipts from a trip to Oregon to box up his affairs, emails I’d printed out from Dr Brother explaining the inexorable, the will I vividly recall drawing out near the end. Emotions rose with such force I was nearly overwhelmed and had to shut the door. It was as if I’d gone back in time. I realized fully what Arkin was talking about. The idea of summoning all that forth to repurpose is sort of terrifying. What if you couldn’t shake it?
On another shelf I found an accordion file filled with documents and correspondence. Dad’s report cards from elementary school, letters from his parents to him in college, a epistolary exchange between his father and brothers, a letter to him from my mother’s father, several from his soon to be brother-in- law in preparation for the wedding.
Not all somber and purposeful though. There are several Valentine’s from my mother to him. The one you see above was postmarked February 14, 1952. I was born four months later. Glad to know I had that goin’ for me! They were younger then than any of their grandchildren are now. Wow.
**Which is why my posts have been a bit irregular. If you’ve missed them, thanks and sorry