After mom’s funeral, I stayed on another month, expressly to help sort through the myriad of papers and things. It took that long because there was so much to look through, and also because I looked at each thing. Some things documented a memory of my mom & dad’s. But many also documented one of my own memories – each of which I relived as I uncovered something new. In the end, the task was completed. What was left was no small pile of boxes of papers that needed to be shredded. I googled “mobile shredding service” and found one that would come to a residence with a shredding truck and shred all documents right then and there in the presence of the customer. We had enough to fill a 100 gallon bin, and it cost around $130. Not bad.
Now that I am home I, too, feel a need to purge the boxes of records documenting the last 30+ years of my own life. And so, I’ve begun. I started with the oldest first. And, I think perhaps that was not the most expedient approach, because I find my progress slowed by the recall of long buried memories as I looked through each item I’ve saved:
- Transcripts from college documenting the high and low points of my academic journey.
- College medical bills for stress induced stomatitis, birth control pills (ironically), mono, painful dental work and… the mumps, no less.
- Plane ticket receipts for every back and forth leg of my life’s path, so far.
- Student loans and paystubs from jobs to help me barely get by.
- Car repair invoices for the junkers that got me from one place to the next until I could afford a real car.
- Applications to graduate schools; knowing now, but having no idea back then, what the profound impact that choice would make on the direction of my life.
- Phone bills showing in detail each and every call I made home….every couple of days…some for just a few minutes, some for a half hour or more. Records that bear witness to my committment to keep a close relationship with my family over the years. This especially touched me because when I came across the annual Christmas letters my mom sent out after I had gone off for college, in the blurb where she wrote about what I was doing, she would always add her wish that I would be moving back to be near the family. Which I never did. And that still makes a part of me sad.
- Graduation documents, job interview letters and interview trips. Job offer letters from some prospective employers. The letter of the job offer I eventually decided to accept, which took me even farther from home, and further wove the fabric of my future.
- Bank statements from a variety of banks, different ones as I moved from one place to the next – one showing all the money that I had to my name (unpaid student loans not withstanding) on my first day of work of my professional career: $1067. I must confess that seeing that got the tears rolling for me. I was simply overwhelmed at how far I have come from that day, and the staggering amount of hard work it has taken to live my American dream. I had forgotten. It also reminded me of how my father and my mom’s father immigrated to this country on their own life journies, each with a hundred or so dollars in his pocket, to live out their American dreams.
I’ve gone on too long. But I guess the point is that they don’t call it a “purge” for nothing. The process of purging those papers from your past can end up being an emotional purge as well. So, if you’re up for it, join in, grab some kleenex, and find a mobile shredding service near you.