I’m not even sure anymore who follows this blog, but this will probably be one (if not the most) very personal entry. I don’t keep a paper journal, and it’s for these types of things that I wish I did. Perhaps I will start one.
But I’m mostly writing this for posterity’s sake. I feel some intense need to mark this day as important.
Let’s start at the beginning…or perhaps the end, depending on how you look at it.
My grandmother died on February 4th, 2012. Yes, it was 5 months ago. I didn’t post anything about it to facebook - hell, I have avoided the subject as much as possible. It’s not that I’m trying to pretend it didn’t happen, I just don’t like talking about it.
My grandmother wasn’t what most people would call a warm person. She cared very deeply about myself and my brother (her only grandchildren) but was never one of those warm, cuddly grandmothers who baked you cookies and stuff. I’m not really sure what grandmothers do these days anyway.
My grandmother, Mama, was a very astute woman. She ran the computer room at the Harvard Coop back in the day when most women were secretaries - running a room-sized computer was way ahead of her time. She went to college with Betty Friedan. She didn’t like Betty Friedan.
She lived in a house on Cape Cod. A house her father built. On land his father’s father or something bought. As of February 5, 2012 that house no longer belonged to my family.
My grandmother’s will was, for all intents and purposes, unfinished. It was a full and legally binding document, but she never got around to some specifics. The gist of it is that EVERYTHING goes into a trust. That means the house, the money and the value of the contents of the house in their entirety. In March the bank (who owns the trust) sent an appraiser into the house to appraise anything and everything. He was very thorough. We were presented with a 36 page document listing pretty much everything in the house and their appraised auction price (based on a buyer with no personal connection). This was very hard to grapple with. We aren’t the Astors, Vanderbilts or Kardashians by any stretch of the imagination. There was nothing in the house that would knock the socks off of anyone on Antiques Roadshow. In fact, the most valuable thing on the appraisal was her car: a 2005 Saturn Vue, beige interior with heavy black lab fur accents - but having every article, memento, family artifact be so scrutinized and diminished to dollars and coins is hard.
So why is today important? Today is/was the last day I will probably ever see that house. My brother and I had to go down this weekend to essentially “buy” any heirlooms, mementos or tokens we wanted to keep from the estate. I use the word “buy” because anything we took was deducted from the value of the trust - because, remember, EVERYTHING in the house was incorporated into the trust. My mother and uncle have already gone through, so all that remained was for my brother and I to take what we wanted.
Everything that remains (and there is quite a bit) will either be auctioned off or sold en masse to a glorified flea market dealer. Both of whom will take a hefty percentage of the selling value.
It’s been extremely frustrating throughout this whole ordeal because there’s nothing we can do about it. My grandmother (either by choice or not, we will never know) essentially made it our job to decide how our story ends. It became our responsibility to go through literally generations of family history and keep what we could “afford”.
So today was that day. The end of our story there. I realize everything comes to an end. But I never thought it would fall (whole or in part) on my shoulders. I found a photo album of my great-grandfather building the house and I couldn’t help but wonder what will happen now? Will I drive by it with my children and tell them the stories of that house, just like my mom and grandmother told me the stories about the center house in Harwich (another family house that I had no personal connection to, but a cousin of my mother sold it and it’s been a source of contention in the family). It feels good to have a connection to a place - to have a history. To have that history have to end with you due to forces out of your control creates a panoply of emotions in me that I’ve been having a really hard time grappling with. My father asked me how it was, going to the cape to gather these tangible memories. I told him I didn’t want to talk about it. Not because I didn’t want to talk about it, but because I didn’t know how.
I honestly don’t expect anyone to read this whole thing, and if you do - congratulations, I guess. Like I said earlier, I think I just need to somehow acknowledge this day.